The Soul of the American Actor

INTERVIEWS with ARTISTS

PHYLICIA RASHAD

BILLY CRUDUP

CAROL LAWRENCE

ANDRUS NICHOLS

MARTY RAYBON

ALONZO KING

JAKE LANDERS

KERRY GILBERT

YI-MIN CAI

MICHAEL SHANE NEAL

TONYA S. HOLLY

CAROLYN PALMER

Spotlight On
International
Artists

 

“Don’t cast away a flower or even a tree leaf without entering into communion with it and penetrating into its mystery. Listen to the twittering of a bird, watch the thoughtfulness of each small fish in an aquarium; gaze as often as you can at the stars – all this will help in your struggle for spiritual concentration.” 
- Richard Bolaslavsky

 

Hirschfeld

 

 

“To flourish, society depends on a strong cultural heritage as well as innovation. The challenge is to breathe new life into the arts. Creativity is at the heart of every successful nation. It finds expression in great visual art, wonderful music, fabulous performances, stunning writing, gritty new productions and countless other media. Giving form to our innate human creativity is what defines us to ourselves and the world.
This is what the arts have always done. The lasting value and evidence of a civilization are its artistic output and the ingenuity that comes from applying creativity to the whole range of human endeavor. What is education if it doesn't teach our children to think creatively and innovatively? What use is a robust economy unless it is within an innovative country that can attract and stimulate the world? How can good governance exist without a population that is engaged, educated and able to form its own opinions?”  Excerpt from an essay, “Reviving a creative nation,”
 – by Cate Blanchett and Julianne Schultz, April 16, 2008, For the Creative Australia Stream at the 2020 Summit

“Simply think the words.”
— Goethe

“Action is the direct agent of the heart.”
— Delsarte

“The supreme goal of the theatre is truth, the ultimate truth of the soul.”
— Max Reinhardt

“Through the unity of reason and emotion, of spirituality and affection and sensation, the actor will discover his creative genius for the stage – the art of acting.”
— Erwin Piscator

“The artist-actor unveils his inner soul.”
— Eleonora Duse

“Living is a process. Acting is the act of laying oneself bare, of fearing off the mask of daily life, of exteriorizing oneself.  It is a serious and solemn act of revelation. It is like a step towards the summit of the actor’s organism in which are united consciousness and instinct.”
— Jerzy Grotowski

“Let us find our way to the unknown, the intuitive, and perhaps beyond to man’s spirit itself.. “
— Viola Spolin

Alonzo King

Director of the international touring Company, Mr. King’s LINES Ballet is located in San Francisco, with the Alonzo King LINES Ballet BFA at Dominican University of California, and Dance Center. Mr. King’s works are in the repertories of the Swedish Royal Ballet, Frankfurt Ballet, Ballet Bejart, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey, Hong Kong Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. He has worked extensively in opera, television, and film. Among his noted works include Shostakovich, The Steady Heart, Concerto for Two Violins, Figures of Thought, Writing Ground, Wheel in the Middle of the Field, Scheherazade, Refraction, Dust and Light, The Steady Articulation of Perseverance, Rasa, High Sky, Migration, The Moroccan Project, Satoh, Before the Blues, Resin, Rite of Spring, The Patience of Aridity, Heart Song, Syzmanski's Vibraphone Quartet, The Heart's Natural Inclination, Klang, Sacred Text, Handel Pas de Deux, Rock, String, Fallen Angel, Awake in the Dream, Ligeti Variations, Reoccurrence, Prayer, Stealing Light, and Ictus. His collaborations and seminal works include People of the Forest in 2001, choreographed with Baka artists from Central African Republic, and Long River High Sky in 2007, Chinas Shaolin Monks, with actor, Danny Glover, legendary jazz saxophonist, Pharoah Sanders, Hamza al Din, Pawel Szymanski, Jason Moran, Charles Lloyd and tabla master, Zakir Hussain. Mr. King is a former commissioner for the city and county of San Francisco, and a writer and lecturer on the art of dance. Renowned for his skill as a teacher, Mr. King has been guest ballet master for dance companies around the globe. In 2012, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Corps de Ballet International Teacher Conference, and many prestigious awards, including the first ever Barney Choreographic Prize from White Bird Dance, Jacob's Pillow Creativity Award, U.S. Artists award, Bessie Award, the Doris Duke Artist Award, and the Los Angeles Lehman Award. He was named a Master of Choreography by the Kennedy Center, and the Dance Heritage Coalition named Alonzo King an “Irreplaceable Dance Treasure.”

You have called your works: “thought structures” created by the manipulation of energies that exist in matter through laws, which govern the shapes and movement directions of everything that exists.” How do those who dance your work learn this way of working?

All life processes have an underlying mathematical description and possess intelligent self-organization. We look for and study them, in everything that we observe. The manner in which clouds form and dissipate, the patterns on the skins of animals, ferns, leaves, ice crystals, sea shells; similar patterns repeat themselves in exhaustless invention. These patterns are mathematical, symbolic, and index fingers pointing to the Spirit and Nature conundrum, as exemplified in ancient architecture and sacred geometry.

Lines Ballet

Choreography is thought made visible. Literally taking vibratory blue prints from the ideational world and birthing them into form. The dancer has to understand what is being expressed and communicated in choreographed forms. Keen intelligence is not enough. It has to come from an inner knowing by inhabiting the movement forms and listening to what those physical structures are saying. The dancer has to step into the consciousness that emanates from those physical forms and by absorption, become them.

Lines Ballet

“You have to become the horse before you can paint the horse.” To imitate or mimic the horse, or merely draw the horse’s likeness misses the mark. You must inhabit and become the object of your concentration. Two becomes One. The query presented to the dancer is to answer what these shapes mean, and on multiple levels present their exegesis. The dancer answers those questions through their understanding. As the singer interprets and brings life, meaning and understanding to lyrics; the dancer does the same interpretation, singing in the language of movement. 

The way the body works is in coordination with the working principles of how everything works in the world. The knowledge of those mechanics and primordial truths inform the way we work. There is no single force in the universe. We live in a world of duality where joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, sickness and health, attraction and repulsion work together, you can’t have one without the other. Darkness and Light are needed to tell the story. Everything that is put out is returned.  Diversity is a trick. As fascinating as diversity is, particularly when you consider the mind-boggling variety of life beneath the ocean, it’s still a guise.

Science is now in agreement with the ancient rishis of India concurring that all things are born from the same Source, and only appear different because of their different rate of vibration. We study and are aware of the oldest and latest discoveries in science, as well as our own personal observations in nature. The play with gravity, the perennial hide-and-seek, thrust and parry, the tension jack-in-the-box release, the karmic boomerang of cause and effect, salmon returning upstream to give up their lives and regenerate new life. These are movements and contemplations on how life works.   

How instrumental were those you studied with and danced with, in the development of your strengths during your time in New York City before you arrived in San Francisco?

Although I had the privilege of studying with the large name institutions and extraordinary teachers, what catapulted my learning was sharing the room with the high level of artists that were drawn to those centers, more than the centers or teachers themselves. Observing each individual carving out their unique voice and particular strengths, plus the unified striving and focused energy in the room was an instructor. It was that gathering of artists from around the globe who were at the highest levels of the discipline who, for me, were the real transforming presence. “Environment is stronger than will power”.

In LINES each dancer is encouraged “to push past individual comfort zones to find new ways of moving fluidly from the traditional geometric designs associated with classical ballet, into varied non-Western movement disciplines.” Is this an entirely new way of thinking of ballet?

One of the fascinations about movement exploration is this insatiable attitude about discovering endless ways that the body can be manipulated. The geometric designs generally employed through classical ballet are not western. They are universal forms and archetypes that are part of the science, art, folklore, astronomy of all large civilizations and world cultures. They are part of the vast intelligence placed in form that you find globally. The mathematical precision and symbol that you find in pyramids, and at the Cathedral of Chartres, are the same mathematics and symbol that you find in the human body. Straight line and circle encompass all forms. 

What is specifically different at LINES is that the meanings of those symbols, and their origins in nature are taught. The new way of thinking about ballet is approached in several aspects. We think of the body as a field of energy to be manipulated, and the artist as chiseler, sculptor, engineer and architect. The task is to live through transitions and to inhabit moving shapes as living vibratory ideas. The process is akin to condensation and evaporation. The solid form melts like ice in varying degrees, moves into liquid, is evaporated or disintegrated and then congeals back to hard form. This is a process that is musical and based in phrases.

Every step or movement is a pyramid or wave, where there is a genesis, peak, and dissolution – and then a re-birth or new idea. Men and women often share roles. There is an emphasis on complex rhythms, and the dancer is thought of as a poet. When the making and doing that we humans participate in is brought to the highest levels, regardless of the activity, it becomes a kind of poetry. The dancers aim for a living experience. They are dancing treatises, theorems, paintings, songs and stories. As we understand more about what humanity is, and what bodies are – dancing changes.

You also have a most unique collaboration with composers, musicians, and visual artists – including commissioning music from the table master Zakir Mussain for Scheherazade, and Sephardic music with Judeo-Spanish songs by Jorge Savall. How has this kind of music fueled your work?  And are you hoping that we, the audience, open ourselves to a new way of experiencing what’s possible?

We have been fortunate to commission and work with some of the greatest musicians on the planet. Even those who have passed away and their music continues to live. For this I am deeply grateful. Music is another fascination with dance makers because music and dance are the same. Dancers are musicians and great musicians are dancers.  You have to move something to make sound, and when a dancer is moving they are making their own music with the audible music. Vibration is sound and movement. They are inextricably linked.

If you have the choices of masterful composers from around the globe, why would you limit your choice to one genre? I adore the musical masters of all traditions and all cultures. A lament is a lament regardless of its country or culture of origin. The tuning fork vibrating with the harmony of truth is where I want to live and work. Incredible expressions of the heart and mind through music are magnetic and can change our being. 

Another of your collaborative projects was Long River, High Sky exploring the fusion of elements of classical ballet and the movement traditions of Shaolin monks. What led you in that direction and what kinds of discoveries did you make?

Initially the monks refused to touch the women in the company. It was forbidden in their discipline. After rehearsing for a while they realized that it was solely about the communication of ideas and it became okay. What was also fascinating was their ability to jump right into the dance forms. They saw them not as scary unfamiliar propositions, but as other ways of shape making. They were quick and wholly involved. When they made mistakes they didn’t go through ego disappointment, they laughed at themselves and then continued to do the work. It was also a breakthrough into a wider palate for the members of the company to build their warrior power.

You definitely encourage your dancers to understand their history, to learn about art, philosophy, religion… How does this ultimately play a role in the way in which they dance?

The dancer dances their consciousness. You dance who you are, there is no escaping that. Your dancing is your understanding. When the understanding is vast, or expanded there is greater depth in the dancing. It is wisdom that we want to behold. The more wisdom, the more light. The more light, the more perception and clarity for the viewer. 

So many questions we ultimately may never have answers to – yet we must go forward. What gives you your greatest joy in creating new work?

We aren’t here just to be born and die. We must find a deep purpose to our lives and bring effort towards expansion. To watch the people you work with transform themselves into masters is a joy to witness. Everything that exists is trying to expand itself, to enlarge into some form of non-stop existence. Everything is reaching for omnipresence, gems, trees, mountains, shooting stars, volcanos, and human beings.
When you look back on your life, you want to have a view that shows that you have come a long way, that you went far and discovered much, and are changed. Moving forward into new work, is really working on yourself. It is about self-expansion, and when that happens there is a joyous satisfaction.



"It is a law of life that man cannot live for himself alone. Extreme individualism is insanity. The world's problems are also our personal problems. Health is achieved through maintaining our personal truth in a balanced relation of love to the rest of the world. No expression is more emblematic of this relation than the creative act which we call art. No art by its very constitution typifies the social nature of that creative act more than the theatre. The theatre, to be fully understood and appreciated, must be seen as a manifestation of this process of interchange between society and the individual. It must be judged as a continuous development of groups of individuals within society, a development which becomes richer, acquires greater force and value as it grows with the society in which it originates. Only in this way can the theatre nourish us.  - Harold Clurman

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