Dancing between lights and shadow

It’s telling that that the Alonzo King LINES ballet now called “Constellations” was originally the named, in a Dali-esque phrase, “The calming effect of shadow dispersing clarity,” as Alonzo King reveals in the pre-curtain talk; he is a poet of words as well as bodies. This ballet is a collaboration with artist Jim Campbell, who worked with LED-lit spheres to create nets and screens that serve as backdrops for the dancers, who also interact with individual spheres during the ballet. It all comes together in a graceful, powerful, surreal ballet: the rawness of the dancers’ bodies in minimalist costumes, the technology elements, the striking soundtrack. The dancers move to ambient and electronic soundscapes, which suddenly give way to Russian Orthodox choral music. In some scenes,  mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani joins the ensembles on stage in a commanding red gown.

I had never seen the LINES company, which falls closer on the spectrum to Jiri Kylian than to the Balanchine lines of the San Francisco Ballet Company. The dancers are constantly moving, an arm changing direction while the torso continues the motion. They seem to be boneless one minute, angular the next. The electronic elements in the ballet never overshadow the dancing, but the interaction is beautiful. At the opening of the ballet, the spheres seem to hang like fireflies over the dark stage. Dancers touch or toss or roll the individual spheres or step through the LED netting. In one scene, a dancer creates fire-dancer-like light trails with the LED spheres he holds, and is eventually backlit by a fire-evoking LED screen that “ignites” out of the darkness behind him, eliciting gasps from the audience.

For me, the most spine-tingling scene in “Constellations” happens when 3 male dancers move in front of a bright LED screen to a soundtrack of swishes and cutting swoops. There is something slightly menacing and martial in this minimalist arrangement. It is not until low-resolution bird silhouettes start sweeping across the LED screen that the sound resolves conclusively into wing beats.


On obsessive photo-taking.

I have a recurring nightmare about my camera. The beginning of the dream varies – I can be in a field full of exotic flora, a dramatically lit beach, a jumbled chimera city, and I suddenly see something particularly striking. As I grab my camera to capture this fleeting moment, something always goes awry: the viewfinder is dark, the camera cracks in my hands. Recently, I dreamt that instead of my camera, I kept farcically pulling random objects out of my bag – a brick cellphone, a hairdryer, a defunct radio. But most frequently, I simply cannot push the shutter button, and the moment gets away from me, changes, vanishes, never to return. This dream is emblematic of my attitude towards photography: I want to bottle up my world up for later, and I get anxious if I miss a shot.

This attitude has shifted in the last month since I acquired an iPhone, the very first smartphone I’ve ever owned. I love its maps and updates and instant bus schedules, but what I love most is its camera, heads above the pixelated shots my old phone produced.  It’s no replacement for my DSLR, but it provides a constant reassurance that should I need an emergency photo, my iPhone is always on hand.  I probably spend more time on Instagram than any other app, fascinated by the little jewel-like squares of life from around the world, while obsessively adding and hashtagging my own photos. I want to be a part of the club. I want to share that city view or this amazing piece of street art or that particularly shapely fall leaf I found. My phone is always with me, so I never stop looking for the next shot.

I wonder if this is healthy. Is this perma-readiness to photograph impeding my experiences, or enhancing them? Am I paying better attention to my surroundings, watching for some detail or geometry worth photographing? Or I am I so driven to photograph that I reduce my world to square and rectangular sections? I like to believe that through my photos, I am telling a story about my life, that it’s a backup of my memories, and that maybe other people will enjoy looking in, as well. And I haven’t had a single nightmare about the iPhone so far.

Instagram shots, @ktuchinskaya.