THE BLOG

LINES Ballet's Writing Ground Is Physical Poetry -- Literally

05/06/2015 04:32 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2016

"There are times I will need ropes and ladders and caribiners and helmets just to climb down into myself."

Madeline DeVries shatters into shards, tortured by music and memories. She crumbles as her eyes accuse.

"There is a moment in our lives when love makes us think of death for the very first time."

Laura O'Malley and Babatunji migrate into the light. They limp and fall, limp and fall, stumbling into pain, desire, loss.

"This morning the sun stood right at the end of the road and waited for her. The moment she went towards it, it dipped."

Kara Wilkes wanders into fragility because she has no choice. Her pupils stretch larger and longer as she laughs -- mutely, maniacally.

"She looked as if she had, at last, discovered the right question."

It is rare to find a piece of dance that sends you down the rabbit hole. The world stops for a while, and nothing mundane matters: the milkshake you've been craving all day, the deadline that's causing a hint of a headache, the bruise on your left knee that's swelling ever so slightly. Instead, you tap into the spirituality of the cosmos, surrendering your well-developed persona and propriety for a second of serendipity. You think of the individual who's been hiding in your subconscious, who you want to know and know you want. You think of ephemerality -- daisies in May and how they'll be dead by December. You think of purpose beyond intention and wonder that lies in the illogical. And then, if you slip far enough along the vortex, you stop thinking.

Such is the experience of Alonzo King's Writing Ground, which is making its New York debut at the Joyce Theater this week. Originally commissioned for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, the repertoire nevertheless looks as though it was made for King's own San Francisco-based company, LINES Ballet. Perhaps it is so evocative because it boasts the collaboration of two great minds instead of one -- King and Irish American novelist Colum McCann, whose free verse inspired the choreography (and this review). No matter the reason, Writing Ground is certainly a success, a sickeningly stunning search for sentiment while surroundings crash and cry for mercy.

Set to Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Tibetan Buddhist scores, the ballet testifies to something beyond religion that unites us all. Love and suffering take center stage, along with LINES' dancers and their virtuosity. Indeed, few other ensembles could look so beautiful broken.

I won't share much more, as it would be redundant. The artists have already told their story tonight, and I don't intend to give a Sparknotes version of what is a great new American classic. Courtney Henry and Michael Montgomery write poetry with motion, their bodies morphing into pen, ink, and author. That kind of transience is too visceral and real to type onto a glaring page.

What I will say is "go." Take the train to the Joyce and allow yourself to defy superficiality for a few hours. It's scary to feel, to have a liquid pearl sit on a precipice, ready to roll down your cheek. More frightening still is empathy and connection for my generation that shoves in ear buds to avoid outside contact. But if Wilkes can fumble into feebleness for us, we can find the bravery to watch. And learn. And think. And then not.

It is when we stop thinking that we finally find "the right question," and for once there is no need for answers.