Review: Flowing Along in Alonzo King’s Current

“Deep River” is in many ways an apt title for a dance work by Alonzo King. He is a choreographer fixated on flow. The lean, lithe dancers of his San Francisco-based company, Lines Ballet, effortlessly turn and twist and stretch, luxuriating in endless-seeming currents of motion.

For that reason, they can sometimes look drugged, King’s choreography working like an opiate on both them and viewers. In “Deep River,” which had its New York debut at the Rose Theater on Thursday, they might be high on a higher power.

The music has been arranged by the jazz pianist Jason Moran, who plays live along with the vocalist Lisa Fischer. In addition to Moran’s own spare contributions, the score samples from several spiritual traditions — not just the spiritual “Deep River” and the anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” but also a Jewish prayer for the dead composed by Ravel; a devotional song by the 18th-century Bengali singer-poet Kamalakanta Bhattacharya; and compositions by Pharoah Sanders, the great spiritual-jazz saxophonist.

The dancers in “Deep River” effortlessly turn and twist and flow.Credit…Richard Termine

For much of the show, Fischer, a powerhouse vocalist best known as a backup singer, sticks to wordless descant, humming and oohing on top of and around the other music. Moran, at the piano, mainly stirs in quiet musings, as recorded tracks add strings, horns, drones and static. No one, it seems, wants to disturb the meditative flow. At some points, we hear the sound of marching, but in the distance. A composition by Fischer is mostly chimes.

The exceptions to this general lull stick out less as contrast than as anomalies, foreign matter floating in the stream. At the start of one section, the dancers say “yes, yes” and “no, no.” It’s the only time they speak. All through a later duet, the two dancers laugh hysterically for no apparent cause.

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