One of the leading choreographers in the nation, Alonzo King, will present his fierce, authentic contemporary ballet in Aspen this weekend.

Returning to the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet campus for the first time since its local debut in 2011, Alonzo King LINES Ballet will bring two dances, “Handel” and “Common Ground,” to the stage on Saturday.

“There’s very few people, choreographers, who have changed the course of classical dance,” said Jean-Philippe Malaty, executive director of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. “Alonzo King really was responsible [for] advancing classical ballet into what we call today contemporary ballet.”

Originally created for the Swedish Royal Ballet, “Handel” is King’s exploration of the dramatic elegance of Baroque expression, states Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. “Common Ground” is the result of a much anticipated collaboration with the Kronos Quartet.

When asked what he appreciates most about King’s work, Malaty didn’t miss a beat: “The level of commitment of his dancers.”

“They are very loyal to his vision, his aesthetic, his process … It’s the result of years of collaborating, understanding his philosophy [and] understanding his approach,” he said. “The level of commitment it takes from artists and the devotion, it shows on stage. And you don’t see that with every company.”

Time Out’s Erica Robbie spoke with King ahead of his show Saturday (see factbox for performance details). Below is a glimpse of what the two covered.

Erica Robbie: What is your purpose in choreographing dance?

Alonzo King: I think the purpose is, for me, to continue to create work and to develop and grow as an artist, and to offer work to the world that will stir the heart or the mind. That’s the purpose. Ballets are thought structures. They are novels, they are ideas, so when you’re absorbing them, when you’re taking them in — like any novel or any experience — there’s going to be a result from that experience. The choreographer or author of those thought structures is communicating an idea. How people respond to those ideas, you have no control over. But your aim is that it will also stir thought in those people — whether they are moved, agree, or disagree, their thoughts would have been stirred; their mind would have been kindled.

ER: What is your philosophy around your dancemaking?

AK: There’s nothing that is not dance. Everything in what we call “creation” began with movement and sound. It’s vibration, which is motion, and sound. Music is thought made audible. Dance is thought made visible … Movement is based on the way you think, and the way that we think is how we behave, and so behavior is actually movement.

ER: In thinking about your evolution as a choreographer, are there any instances that stand out to you as particularly inspirational or influential in shaping the way that you choreograph?

AK: My largest influences have been my parents, nature and Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic, “Autobiography of a Yogi.”

ER: Your parents were big civil-rights activists, correct?

AK: My father was, yes.

ER: Did this influence you at all as a dancemaker?

AK: Well, I think [their] influence [on me] was who they were as people. The way that they behaved to the world and the way they treated people was incredibly informative. My father introduced me to yoga at a very young age. He was a practitioner himself, and I admired my parents tremendously.

ER: What do you hope that people will take away from your performance?

AK: I think that it is extraordinary in these stressful times that people actually take showers after work and go out. And so, when someone gives you a couple of hours of uninterrupted concentration, you have to give them your best. And so, after you give them your best, you have no control over what they think about it — but you hope that they would enjoy themselves.

ER: Is there anything you would like to add as it pertains to this conversation?

AK: We’re grateful to be coming and we always enjoy Aspen. I think it’s a beautiful place. I particularly like it in the summer.

Erica Robbie is the arts and entertainment editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at or on Twitter @ericarobbie.