Interviews with LINES dancers

Some members of the LINES company very kindly agreed to chat with me after the perfomance, for which I’m very grateful; they were all so lovely!

Michael Montgomery

Michael Montgomery – RJ Muna

What’s it like working for LINES ballet?

LINES was actually my dream company, and I got asked to join them in my junior year in college. I really think that Alonzo [King]’s philosophies on dance, movement and arts intertwine perfectly with nature and humanity. He has a way of stripping away all that materialistic crap that dance can get self-absorbed in. It’s a lot of hard work physically and spiritually, but it’s really rewarding. It’s a moment where I’m really grateful to be alive and be dancing.

How does Alonzo [King] work?

He’s a madman for the work; he digs and delves really deep into his process. He’s really adamant on honesty, and making sure the piece isn’t this put on, spectacular thing, but that it really comes from a genuine, deep place. This is hard and very rare to find in artists and in people, because those are things we hide… We hide our true self behind this make up, and this outfit, so that we have these barriers of safety. When Alonzo works, he breaks that down, and gets us open and vulnerable, so that we show our truest self. He is a true believer that we are all these luminous beings, and we don’t need all that stuff. We need to just be us, and that’s enough. So working with him is difficult, it’s difficult to release some of those things. You have to ask yourself ‘who am I?’, ‘why do I do this?’, ‘how do I change?’, ‘how do I become better?’, and that’s the work, that’s what he really focuses on.

Can you describe a typical day working with him?

We work from 11am to 6pm. Alonzo will be choreographing and creating a new premiere every season – he creates two new pieces each year. We always start with ballet class, because that is the foundation of our work, and then we get into the creating process where he’ll choreograph and will ask us to participate, and do a little improvisation. He’ll come up with phrases, and we’ll come up with phrases, and from there we watch his mind come to life in the room with us. It’s really beautiful, and we get to be a part of it.

So you participate in the creation of the choreography?

For sure, and that’s definitely something that intrigued me about dance. I don’t like to be stuck in a box, that’s no fun. And simply to be told what to do, we do that our whole life; don’t we want more than that? We want to create and help participate in this [choreography], because it’s our bodies and our minds, and it’s Alonzo’s mind, shouldn’t we collaborate? Otherwise we’re just being used, and that’s boring. So by the end of the day, we’ll have a section of music and choreography that he was a part of, and we were a part of. It’s like this whole family that created this being, this vessel.

At the end of each day, we’ll run through the ballets that we’ll be touring, to keep exploring those, so that everything is always growing. Alonzo always wants more out of everything – because there’s never a platform of perfection, in a world full of infinite possibilities, you can never just stop, you’ve got to keep going. So once you find perfection, which doesn’t exist, you look for more and more and then you surprise yourself.

Can you describe a typical day on tour?

We’ll usually get to the theatre and we’ll run through the ballet, check the lights and the music, then have a quick break, and put on the show. Some days on tour we have rehearsals, to touch up a couple of things and take note of any corrections or anything that hasn’t been working.

Tunji Johnson

Tunji Johnson – RJ Muna

What’s it like being in LINES Ballet and working with Alonzo?

It’s crazy! It’s really amazing. Every day he reminds me that what I think is good, or my best, I can do a thousand times better. He’ll push sometimes, but he spends the day pounding you with questions to ask yourself, and there’s not just one answer to the question. So it makes you really think, and then when you do the step there’s not just one way to do it. There’s the choreographic structure, but there are a thousand ways, and a thousand different emotions to feel during that one step. And he helps to bring that out of you, he helps you to question yourself. It’s really hard!

What do you think about touring?

It’s fun! It’s hard because we love San Francisco [where they are based], and we’re often on very long flights, so we’re all extremely jet-lagged! But there’s something about when you’re really tired and you don’t feel like you have anymore, and you keep pushing because you want to give to the audience; a lot of special stuff comes out, so it pays off. The beginning of touring is hard, the middle is really exciting, because we’re seeing sites and going on bus rides, and then the end is usually really hard again – our bodies are just so exhausted from not getting a rest. But I enjoy touring a lot, I wouldn’t give it up.

Where do you like touring?

We went to Tel Aviv, that was really cool: I love the food, and we got to swim in the Dead Sea, and everyone was really nice there. And I really like Montpellier here in France, because it was my first time performing on an outside stage, and it was really beautiful.

Why did you choose to do contemporary dance?

I started off as a breakdancer and a popper, and I really enjoyed the physical challenge that you had to go through in order to achieve certain movements, but that dance style was very stationary. There’s something about travelling through the space, and feeling the wind and jumping, that really caught me. Also when you’re doing hip hop you really have to hit the beats, and with contemporary ballet there’s a lot more room to feel, I found. I enjoy expressing myself through contemporary ballet a lot more than through hip hop. But on the side I still breakdance, because I love it.

Tara Kayton

LINES’ Company Manager, Tara Kayton, has her own theatre company and has also toured with various performing arts companies all around the world as a producer. She started with LINES last May and has been helping them reconstruct how they think about touring.

‘Most of my job is planning everything in advance’, she said. ‘It’s booking hotels, transportation, accommodation, food… And scheduling all the performances! Everything has to be pre-planned.’

While they’re on the road, if a dancer, or anyone, gets injured, Tara always knows where the nearest hospital, doctor, or dentist is so they can be treated quickly. She explains the job involves a lot of coordinating and logistics, and making it all look effortless, so everyone feels comfortable.

Tara loves her job. ‘It’s definitely a very nomadic lifestyle, and it can be hard because you miss your friends, your family… But it’s amazing because you get to travel, you get to work with artists, you get to see the world and meet lots of interesting people!’

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