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35th Anniversary World Premiere with Zakir Hussain

Alonzo King LINES Ballet celebrates 35 years with an original composition and live performance by Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain

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The Collaboration – In Performance

Posted on May 15, 2018 by Alonzo King LINES Ballet

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View an excerpt from the world premiere of SUTRA at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, featuring Alonzo King LINES Ballet and live music by Zakir Hussain and Sabir Khan. 

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The World Premiere

Posted on May 14, 2018 by Alonzo King LINES Ballet

SUTRA had its world premiere April 6-15, 2018 for Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s 35th Anniversary 2018 Spring Season at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) Theater in San Francisco.

SUTRA World Premiere details:
Choreography by Alonzo King
Music Composed by Zakir Hussain
Music Performed by Zakir Hussain and Sabir Khan
Scenic and Lighting Design by Scott Bolman and David Finn
Costume Design by Robert Rosenwasser
Sound Design by Philip Perkins

Following its world premiere, the work was performed at The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, presented and supported by World Music/CRASHarts. Excerpts from reviews are below.

“Live dance and music don’t get better than Alonzo King’s world premiere collaboration with tabla master Zakir Hussain… Hussain, who has contributed music to five previous King ballets, here with Khan offers a commissioned score as surprising as it is alluring, rich not just in tabla drumming and taal vocalizations, but unusual rubbing sounds, with Khan producing effects on his stringed instrument that sound almost like human cries.
– Rachel Howard, San Francisco Chronicle
Hussain on hand for Lines Ballet’s glorious 35th birthday
April 8, 2018

“We are treated to a performance that seems to transcend ballet, and instead becomes more like a fever dream of seamless traditions, music, costuming, and stunning dancing. A dream wired to make us feel the freedom of shedding our material world, both literally and metaphorically.”
– Liam Passmore, 7×7
Alonzo King celebrates 35 years of dance, beauty and truth in the key of San Francisco
Apr 10, 2018

 “A spectacular burst of musical and choreographic creativity, not to mention some of the most virtuosic dancing to hit Boston in some time… The ballet foundation of King’s work has always been richly expanded by his contemporary sensibility, and tabla virtuoso Hussain is one of the undisputed masters of contemporary world music. Together, their aesthetics interweave with compelling organic integrity.”
– Karen Campbell, The Boston Globe
Alonzo King LINES Ballet offers a stunning show
April 21, 2018

Sutra highlights one of the finest most recent collaborations of Eastern music with Western dance, showcasing the innovative melodies of composer Zakir Hussain and contemporary ballet choreographer Alonzo King… King’s choreography is brilliantly suited for Hussain’s music composition, and vice versa. LINES is aptly named: These dancers have limbs that stretch and contort in an almost physically-defying manner, while King’s phrase work proffers movement that is at once linear, sharp, and powerful, as it is supple, curved, and empathetic. This dichotomy is felt also in Hussain’s music, beautifully punctuating the dancers’ bolder movements, while resonating softly in moments of calm.”
– Merli V. Guerra, Fjord Review
Invisible Threads
May 1, 2018

The Collaboration – In Rehearsal

Posted on May 14, 2018 by Alonzo King LINES Ballet
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SUTRA was created by LINES Ballet Artistic Director and choreographer Alonzo King in collaboration with Indian tabla virtuoso and composer Zakir Hussain. This video gives a glimpse of the rehearsal process in the studio.



Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain is drenched in Eastern Classicism, yet looks to Western influences to explore and experiment. Meanwhile, choreographer Alonzo King combines principles of transcendental Eastern thinking with the foundation of Western ballet’s classical forms and techniques.

Over the past two decades, King and Hussain have worked together on multiple artistic collaborations to push the boundaries of creative expression, despite the demands and structure of their respective disciplines.

Their partnership will reach its zenith in a special world premiere collaboration for Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s 35th Anniversary Season: April 6-15, 2018 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) Theater in San Francisco. The project will feature an original composition and live performance by Zakir Hussain.


The intention of King and Hussain’s newest work is to marry dance with vibration in a transformational sense. While music is the vibration of sound, dance is the vibration of form. And both are vehicles for thought; dance is thought made visible and music is thought made audible, which lends to their transformative power.

King’s goal is not to abandon the classical ideal, but to broaden its potentiality for endless possibilities by seeing ballet as a science – founded on universal, geometric principles of energy and evolution – not a style. Similarly, Hussain has focused on bringing new life to classical tabla music, which began as dancing music in Northern Indian courts in the 1700s.

The very heart of Indian music is the raga: the fixed melodic form upon which the musician improvises. Like the classical language of movement upon which King is ever-expanding, the raga provides a framework for endless rhythmic variation and improvisation by Hussain.


The project will serve approximately 5,500 people through eight performances at YBCA. LINES Ballet attracts a diverse audience in terms of age, class, and ethnicity, and is consistently working to expose a wider range of people to the transformative power of dance through works that resonate beyond traditional ballet audiences. The project will reach a broader base through engagement events including lecture/discussions, and rehearsal live streaming and videos, which will share the creative process of the collaborators.

The work will become part of LINES Ballet’s touring repertoire, allowing the company to share its vision for transformative, revelatory dance worldwide. The tour performances will reach up to 40,000 additional people. LINES repertory works are also often taught to LINES Education Program students, expanding the artistic reach of the project.

Project Media

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“Rasa”, featuring an original score by tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, was called “an intriguing wonder” by the New York Times. Rasa is both a continuation of a deep Indian tradition–the interdependence of dance and tabla music as art forms–and an expression of the contemporary global vision of both Hussain and LINES Ballet.

Footage: November 21, 2014 with live tabla music by Zakir Hussain and Kala Ramnath.

Writing Ground
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Commissioned in 2010 by Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, King’s masterful “Writing Ground” draws inspiration from poems by award-winning author Colum McCann. The emotionally searing and lyrical work is set to a collection of sacred early music from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. The work challenges the company to explore new physical territory and emotional depth, and “illustrates the power of Alonzo King’s story-telling at its height” (Huffington Post).

Footage: November 2, 2013.

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“SAND” (2016), Alonzo King’s most recent musical collaboration, was a partnership with generations of jazz masters: tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd and pianist Jason Moran. King was actively involved in the composition process, and the ballet was developed together by all three artists through discussions and the constant sharing of work-in-progress. The San Francisco Chronicle called the work an “instant classic” and found the score to be “effusive, sophisticated and lyrical”.

Footage: April 23, 2016 with live performance by Lloyd and Moran.

Start and End Dates



San Francisco, California

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Last update on May 15, 2018

Project Created By

San Francisco, California
Alonzo King LINES Ballet is a celebrated contemporary ballet company that has been guided since 1982 by the unique artistic vision of Alonzo King. Collaborating with noted composers, musicians, and visual artists from around the world, Alonzo King creates works that draw on a diverse set of deeply rooted cultural traditions, imbuing classical ballet with new expressive potential.…


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