A Look Inside Alonzo King’s Professional Workshop with Katharine Hawthorne

From Jan 6-10, 17 selected professional dancers joined Alonzo King for a rigorous exploration into technique, movement exploration, philosophy and approach. We spoke to Bay Area dance artist and workshop participant Katharine Hawthorne about her experience in this unique opportunity. Read on…

Tell us a little about your experiences as a dance artist.

I am a freelance professional dancer and independent choreographer based in San Francisco.  I currently perform with Liss Fain Dance and am a collaborating artist with Holly Johnston/LEDGES AND BONES.  For the past seven years I have created and produced my own choreography notably at venues such as ODC Theater, the Emerging Choreographers’ Project at Springboard Danse Montréal, and through a recent residency in Italy.


Why did you decide to participate in this pro workshop?

This past fall I lived and worked as an artist in residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, NE.  Founded 36 years ago by ceramicist Jun Kaneko, the Bemis provides artists from around the world dedicated time, space, and resources to conduct research and to create new work.  During my eleven-week residency, I lived in a huge live/work dance studio and rehearsed by myself or one-on-one with dancers and actors from the Omaha community.  I thrived on the quiet and isolation, diving deep into my creative work and permitting myself to become more idiosyncratic and expansive in my vision.

Like going underwater or into hibernation, I looked deeply into myself, shed unnecessary habits, and discovered new potentiality.

However, time passes, seasons change, and our artistic needs also shift.  By the end of my time in Omaha, I itched for contact with other dancing bodies and minds and hungered to work in an artistic context larger than my solo practice.

I came into the LINES pro workshop desiring connection with other dancers and creative confrontation with Alonzo as a director and choreographer.  As a freelance dancer and an emerging choreographer, I self-source my artistic inspiration and drive.  Would I be able to fully give myself over to an outside creative eye?

Coming back to the Bay Area after several months away, I felt like a foreigner rediscovering the city and culture.

Alonzo’s work powerfully shapes our artistic community, and as I sought to understand this place through my new lens, I wanted to invite his impact in my own body and practice.

I had only limited interaction with Alonzo previously through the LINES Summer Program 12 years ago.  Working with Alonzo was a way of reacquainting myself with the Bay, while also affirming the new things about myself I discovered while away.

What was one moment or lesson you took away from the workshop that you can apply to your own work/practice?

On the first day of the workshop Alonzo passed out blindfolds and asked us to repeat a pirouette combination without the aid of our eyes.  Blindfolded, I became aware of the volume and intensity of sensations arising from inside my body and the environment around me.

I became deliciously disoriented and also humbled.

Blindness and sight, both as tangible physical realities and as metaphors, continued throughout the workshop.  Alonzo asked us to truly see each other and permit ourselves to be seen.  In learning choreography we dropped affectation and self-consciousness in order to more directly perceive essence.  He asked us to inhabit movement and search for new possibilities inside our own bodies.

Ultimately the workshop offered me a chance to change my perspective.  By changing how we see and perceive, we can change our physical reality.  Alonzo invited us to align our actions with our purpose, to introspect, and see anew.  I felt my capacity as a self-generative artist confirmed – when I closed my eyes, the source inside of me overflowed.

How would you describe the intensive in one sentence?


Learn more about future workshop opportunities: http://dancecenter.linesballet.org/workshops/

Cover photo, workshop photos and film by Katie Wong; photo of Katharine Hawthorne taken at her residency at the Bemis Center