Photo by Kathryn Rummel for Pointe.

Photographed by Kathryn Rummel for Pointe.

Courtney Henry knew she wanted to dance for Alonzo King LINES Ballet while she was still a student in the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program. “I saw LINES perform at The Joyce Theater, and I was blown away, particularly by the women," she remembers. “They were commanding and strong, even scary in how powerful they were. I was like, 'I want to dance like that.' "

She did a 2009 summer program with LINES in San Francisco, then auditioned in 2011. In Henry, King saw an ideal artist for his contemporary ballet company. A lithe six feet tall, the 27-year-old dancer brings the intense physicality and sky-high extensions that King's abstract choreography requires, but also the musicality and technical mastery that make his ballets so mesmerizing.

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2013 Princess Grace Statue Award winner Tiler Peck with Amar Ramasar in Balanchine's Allegro Brillante. Courtesy NYCB.

A few years ago, Isabella Boylston told Pointe there's an elite club at American Ballet Theatre: "The Princesses." It's corps member Blaine Hoven's nickname for the dancers like David Hallberg and Gillian Murphy who've been awarded a prestigious Princess Grace Award.

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Photo by RJ Muna, Courtesy Mona Baroudi.


This week, the ballet world and the animal kingdom will collide for the premiere of Alonzo King LINES Ballet's Biophony. The new work, made by King in collaboration with soundscape artist Bernie Krause and composer Richard Blackford, features the choreographer's raw, virtuosic movement set amidst the sounds of roaring lions, buzzing bees and other creatures. For our bi-weekly newsletter, Pointe spoke with LINES dancer Courtney Henry before the premiere, Apr. 3-12.

How would you describe the movement?

It's really varied. We've been recording some of the rehearsals and I got to see a little clip. There are some sections with a lot of flocking, when we all move at once, and I thought, Wow, we're going so fast! There's a lot of surprise and action, but at the same time, there are moments that just feel really good on the body. A lot of Alonzo's work comes from an internal place, so it's never this "putting on" or "doing of the steps."

 

What's been the most challenging part of the piece for you?

Matching the intensity of the music at times. These are wild animals that we're listening to, and while we're not always expected to necessarily match them in movement, I think we're playing off of it. When there is a lion roaring, clearly there needs to be some type of fire. I've been trying to work on that without going too far into left field.

 

Will the audience be able to recognize certain animal sounds?

There are obvious ones, like birds, and we have this really awesome section with bees buzzing. But for some of the sounds, we were definitely fooled. For one, I thought, Oh, that's a lion. But it was actually a wild pig.

 

Based on your experience with the company, what advice would you offer to dancers who are getting ready to launch their professional careers?

Stay true to yourself. I think growing up, whether it's in dance or anything, there's always this pressure to conform. But the older I get, the more I realize that the things that make you different are the highlights. Ultimately, I think that's what choreographers are looking for.

 

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