Arts: Refined LINES

Master choreographer Alonzo King trains Dominican dancers

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The LINES/Dominican BFA program remains the only one of its kind on the West Coast, and represents the only joint BFA dance program in the country led by a master choreographer. Photo by Austin Forbord. ​

By Mina Rios

The illustrious Dominican University campus in central San Rafael has a wealth of year-round live performance offerings for even the most discerning arts enthusiasts. While the summer months are dedicated to Shakespeare at Forest Meadows, come fall, winter and spring, the Angelico Concert Hall stage belongs to dancers of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) program.

Hardly your average dance students, artists of the LINES BFA program are accredited advanced-level dancers, primed for the world stage by master choreographer Alonzo King.

Following the emergence of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater/Fordham University BFA program in New York (1998), the first program partnership of its kind in association with a professional dance company, the San Francisco-based Alonzo King LINES Ballet fathomed a BFA program/degree of its own—one that would merge its professional dance company training with that of a liberal arts education.

Essential to building a new partnership with a four-year university were the conditions that LINES would design the program curriculum and hire the program faculty. Receptive to these terms, by 2006, the LINES and Dominican University partnership became official and the LINES/Dominican BFA program was launched.

To date, the LINES/Dominican BFA program remains the only one of its kind on the West Coast, and represents the only joint BFA dance program in the country led by a master choreographer.

A primary distinction of the LINES BFA, particularly from those of other Bay Area institutions, is the program’s emphasis on ballet. LINES BFA program director Marina Hotchkiss, a former dancer with Deutsche Oper Berlin says, “Alonzo speaks a lot about ballet as a science of movement rather than a style, and that viewpoint informs our curriculum and the way we teach. There’s a high technical demand and rigor, alongside an equally high demand for imagination, creativity and artistic intuition.”

LINES BFA students also benefit from small class sizes to ensure individualized attention, and have access to King’s body of work.

A highly sought-after program among dancers worldwide, LINES has limited space—16 to 18 students are accepted per year. Interested applicants, be advised: “We are looking for students with fairly substantial ballet training already under their belts,” Hotchkiss says. “That said, there are always a few hyper-talented students who may have less training but whom we feel strongly will be able to accelerate. This is especially true for many male dance students, who often start later. Along with technique, we are looking for open-minded, creative students who want to work hard. The dance life is one of devotion.”

Dancers of the LINES BFA program have a rich comprehensive curriculum that includes both ballet and modern technique, music and dance history, GYROTONIC® or GYROKINESIS® classes, as well as master classes and workshops that encompass repertoire, choreography, improvisation and composition. Classes are held at the Marin Ballet studio, located adjacent from the Dominican University campus, as well as at the Alonzo King LINES Dance Center in San Francisco.

It’s encouraging to know that some LINES BFA graduates have fared well in the job market. While some BFA graduates have gone on to dance professionally with such companies as ODC and Smuin Ballet, as well as various other national and international organizations, other graduates are now teaching dance, choreographing or working as personal trainers. According to Hotchkiss, two other graduates have gone on to law school—a subject to which she adds, “The beauty of intensive dance training is that it gives creative problem-solving skills beyond dance, work ethic, dedication and leadership.”

If you’re wondering whether pursuing a LINES BFA gives students any advantage with joining the company, the answer is a firm no—there are no shortcuts. “The program has not been designed as a feeder for the company,” Hotchkiss says. “The company has 12 dancers, and there is not a lot of turnover from year to year. The aim of the BFA program is broader; however two alums are currently in the company, and we hope it will happen now and again.”

After 10 triumphant years, LINES Ballet and Dominican University wish to invite the public to a very special 2016 BFA Fall Showcase on October 28 and 29 at Angelico Hall. The program features original works by faculty members/former LINES Ballet dancers Gregory Dawson and Carmen Rozestraten, and special guests Katie Scherman and Amanda Miller, along with a multi-national cast of BFA program dancers.

2016 LINES BFA Fall Showcase, Friday, October 28, 7pm and Saturday, October 29, 3pm; Angelico Concert Hall, Dominican University; general admission $10; free with a Dominican University ID; bfa.linesballet.org.

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