My review in today’s Chronicle:
In the middle of Lines Ballet’s “The Radius of Convergence,” five men form a line that spins and collapses. Brett Conway, the troupe’s most eloquent male dancer, peels off in rapturous spools of motion, finally laying his body upon the other men’s arms as they spasm.
Perhaps that spinning line represents the ballet’s titular radius. Whatever the case, it provides the only moment when the dancers seem to live within the music. And I don’t think it’s coincidence that it’s danced to an Edgar Meyer violin concerto, the music Artistic Director Alonzo King used when he created it, rather than to the commissioned score he superimposed on this ballet later.
“Radius,” continuing at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Novellus Theater through Sunday, is billed as a world premiere collaboration with famed saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, but precious little convergence of music and movement graces it. Unlike in many of Sanders’ six previous collaborations with Lines – several of them among King’s most beautiful works – the former member of John Coltrane’s ensemble did not actually create the score. Instead, King called in a trio of standby electronic composers – Miguel Frasconi, Leo Hurley and Leslie Stuck – to provide a sort of sonic carpet. Sanders sits onstage improvising – mostly, on Saturday, with feathery low notes.
The result looks like a bland rehash of earlier Lines creations, dressed in the usual Lines way: sleek dresses and leotards by artistic associate Robert Rosenwasser in a dull moss green and space-age lighting by Axel Morgenthaler. The recorded sound offers a by-now-cliche aural assemblage: shattering glass, the hum of street traffic, solemn reverberations of what sounds like a Tibetan prayer gong.
Sanders seems so incidental that you sometimes forget he’s there. The nine Lines dancers do the usual Lines things: twist and twine, cling to one another and pull apart in ways that suggest psychological allegories. In the one section when we hear only Sanders’ improvising, the disconnect between musician and dancers is painful, four women each stepping forward to take solos, their steps tentative, as though the saxophone notes might reprimand them.”
Click here for the rest of the review.