When the Vail International Dance Festival proposed Alonzo King to choreographer a new work featuring four members of his company in San Francisco, Lines Ballet, and four from New York City Ballet, he knew what he needed: a partner.
“The thing is the music, isn’t it?” He said that. “A composer whose music you love and with whom you worked before and with whom you’re going to work again.”
That had to be jazz pianist Jason Moran for Mr. King. This summer, the pair will be presenting the premiere of their latest collaboration as part of the Vail festival that opens on July 26. It hasn’t got a title so far.
“Naming the baby is difficult for me,” Mr. King explained, “until it’s born.”
Until their debut on Aug. 3, the two must put finishing touches on the project in Colorado. It is the fourth partnership between Mr. King and Mr. Moran, who enjoyed working together from the beginning. Their first musical project, “Refraction,” premiered in 2009, and their second, featuring jazz musician Charles Lloyd, will take place with Lines this autumn. Mr. King said the success of their artistic connection is rooted in how they can create space, allowing a dialog between music and dance to take place.
“Who will lead here?” He said, Mr. King. “Who’s going to be the main instrument here? Is it going to be the dancer, is that the sound? It was only immediately with Jason that he could serve the dance. And he will inevitably make great music.
For Damian Woetzel, Vail’s artistic director, who commissioned the work, the reaction to a Lines performance last summer was part of what influenced it — especially by City Ballet dancers.
“There have been some gobsmacked dancers,” said Mr. Woetzel. “That began a conversation: Wouldn’t Alonzo do a new piece for the festival be amazing? And what if his dancers were with dancers from the City Ballet? Alonzo suggested Jason Moran quickly, and I said,” Oh my God.
“We’re just in this wonderful opportunity,” he added, “for people to learn from each other and to do something at a different level together.”
Mr. King said he enjoyed them when considering collaborations when they appeared to be “tricky or potentially dangerous.”
After all, Mr. King stepped into the first rehearsal recognizing just half of his cast: Adji Cissoko, Madeline DeVries, Shuaib Elhassan, Michael Montgomery of Lines. City Ballet dancers picked by Mr. Woetzel: Miriam Miller, Unity Phelan, Christopher Grant, and Roman Mejia.
“It was cool because it was confidence,” said Mr. King. “I didn’t have to say anything in it, and that was all right with me, and it turned out Damian chose amazing people.”
Perhaps notably, the actors of the City Ballet are accessible and free. Mr. King said he had gone into big companies where a leading dancer might not want to turn away from the comfort. “So when you have dancers ready to do new things,” he said, “and who are not weighed down by a limited concept of ‘I do this’ or ‘I do that,’ but think of themselves as an artist capable of anything, that’s fun.”
It possibly has something to do with why he always says yes when Mr. King asks Mr. Moran to partner on a new job. “In my practice, it’s a challenge I need to have,” Mr. Moran said. “Alonzo is going for a wide range of sounds. And even the pieces I think, Oh, Alonzo’s going to love this, he’s like, ‘ Jason, there’s no room in there. ‘”
The laughter of Mr. Moran. He continued, “I’m not a choreographer.” When I play it, I know only how my body feels. And I hope you don’t look for people in all partnerships who give you what’s on top of your head. We want to dig deeply together, and that’s what this makes possible.
Although Mr. Moran has never trained as a dancer to his regret, he profoundly influenced by the movement—including his own. “While I’m playing, I don’t move,” he said, “I know the music is bad. Which means which something’s stuck.”
Mr. Moran said he had to make sure he didn’t dream of noise like he did while making the note, but that “it’s still going in the air and crashing into the bodies of people,” he said. “I guess you’re always able to see it or what it does while working with Alonzo and dancers.”
The music of the new work is brief and beautiful, moving towards a dynamic climax that the dancers move to at once. Here, Mr. King begins to discuss a theme at the heart of his new ballet sequence.
“Community peace and unspoken agreements is this idea,” he said. “There is something in chemistry and energy control and how it Seems to positioned. You’re building architecture and based on the dancers ‘ building materials. You’re making something out of which they were living and created, and what ideas are in the house.