By CINDY SHEARER, program chair of the Department of Writing, Consciousness, and Creative Inquiry
Alonzo King’s essay and photographs are featured in the latest issue of Mission At Tenth, the Institute’s inter-arts journal.
The word triangle made me think about a form with three sides, but in Alonzo’s work, “triangle” seems to be the space where three things meet—literally where movement and sound and set intersect. That intersection invites us to explore our real or imagined “squinches."
I did not know what squinches were—Did Alonzo made up the word?—but when I got home I looked it up—and discovered “squinch”, of course, is a word from architecture. A glossary of medieval art and architecture defines squinch as “The lowest voussoir [wedge-shaped stone] on each side of an arch. It is where the vertical support for the arch terminates and the curve of the arch begins.”
A squinch in Alonzo’s work is as much moment as it is solid form. If a squinch in architectural terms is the where line meets curve, in choreographic terms, it is where expected movement meets unexpected structure or expected structure meets unexpected movement.
John King of the San Francisco Chronicle writes:
“Malleability isn't an obvious architectural virtue. Buildings are supposed to be solid and true, rooted in place, not flexible but firm.
Yet San Francisco architect Christopher Haas has spent six months in pursuit of that trait: structural forms at once supple and strong that define space one moment, then yield to it the next.”
Haas’ “buildings” are first panels of shimmering elastic cords. The dancers pull on them or play them like harpsichords or literally walk across the stage plucking the cords. Second, they are ladders of corrugated boxes with moveable rungs. While some dancers push the ladders or pull them forward and back, others climb up or down. Movement of set or body is dance. Ordinary movement is dance.
Then there is complex movement—another dance. For example, one of the male dancers is on his toes and his whole body for a moment evokes standing on the edge of a precipice. It takes such extraordinary balance to do what he does—and for a moment, I hold my breath in the hope of keeping him still.
The dance throughout speaks to trust of oneself as much as it does about trust of others and how moments out of balance can lead back to balance.
There is what each dancer does and there is the triangle—where force and relationship and intention intersect. In some ways the dancers seem in their own inquiries—what are their relationships to the sound and the structure? But there is also the support they take from the structure created—by the set itself and the dancers who manipulate it.
What does it take to actually move—literally and symbolically, realistically and metaphorically? Alonzo lives in that intersection between the actual and metaphorical. He doesn’t distinguish them. He just invites us in.
"So often people ask me, 'How should I come (to see your dance company)?'” says King, in an an interview with KQED Arts. “I say, 'Always come with receptivity.' People cut off their feelings, and they say (about the performances), 'Well, what does it mean?' And that's a legitimate question. And it should be addressed. But I say, 'Well, why don't you feel it?' You have the answer.”