Alonzo King LINES Ballet presents the premiere of a work called Figures of Speech that considers the many languages of the world that are in the process of disappearing. Inspired by the work of poet and scholar Bob Holman, the musical score includes field recordings of speech in languages that are now all but extinct. The performances run from tonight through May 14th at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

There’s more information about the performance at the LINES Ballet website.

“There are some languages where 147 people are remaining speaking them, there’s one language where it’s just one last person who’s speaking it. A lot of it is because of the encroachment of what we call civilization.” Alonzo King says using that as a starting point  naturally led him to the full piece Figures of Speech. “The fascination was with the idea of lost languages, which brings up everything. You know, where does language begin, when did it begin, what does loss really mean, and is there anything really lost?”  There are many layers of communication involved in the dance: the music, the movement, and the examples of languages captured by those hoping to preserve them. King says our ability to convey meaning through language is a much more complex process than we might ordinarily think. “When I’m saying a word to you, if I say ‘flower,’ when I say that word, there is a thought in my head, I visualize it, I imbue it into physicalization with sound and vibration. And in that sound and vibration, there’s planted in it intelligence to communicate.”

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