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Dancing Singers

April 22, 2010

lines.jpegadler.jpegNo one expects opera singers to be able to dance. So when, as a director, you have performers who are capable of using their bodies in expressive ways, you should make the most of them.

A world premiere collaboration between Alonzo King's LINES Ballet and the San Francisco Opera Center's Adler Fellows showed off the dancing skills of opera singers Ryan Belongie, Sara Gartland, Maya Lahyani and Austin Kness. The singers moved with agility and grace and displayed a remarkable technical understanding of intricate movement figures. I found myself wishing that Alonzo King, who choreographed the piece entitled Wheel in the Middle of the Field, had made more use of the singers' dance chops.

The work consists of 14 short movements, each one danced by soloists or small groups of dancers to music sung by one or more of the Adler fellows accompanied by Allen Perriello. What I especially love about Wheel is the relationship between the melodious and well known arias and art songs (which range from Schubert's "Die Mainacht" to an arrangement of the "Pie Jesu" from Faure's Requiem for four voices by Mark Morash) and the angular and discordant movement vocabulary. The dissonance between the lush tonality of the music and atonality of the dance seems to speak fundamentally about the way of the world - yin and yang, beauty and ugliness go hand in hand.

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