Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Maraca Makes Music in Madison, Again!

by Susan Kepecs
Afrocuban jazz flutist Orland “Maraca” Valle, a Madison favorite, returns to the city after a five-year absence to play Overture’s Capitol Theater on Friday, Oct. 7.  Maraca is best known here as the leader of the eclectic timba / jazz outfit Otra Vision, but this time he brings his international superband, Maraca and his Latin Jazz All Stars.  It’s bound to be one of the heaviest hitting Latin jazz shows to ever come through town.
Dr. Juan de Marcos González, world-renowned expert on Cuban music, organizer of the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon, leader of the Afro-Cuban All Stars (who played Overture Hall exactly one year ago), and last fall’s UW-Madison Arts Institute Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence, calls Maraca “a monster on the flute – a virtuoso, and one of the most important musicians of his generation in the world today.”
The flute, in a way, was an accident of fate.  “I didn’t choose it,” Maraca  tells me via email from Havana.  “They proposed it to me because two of my brothers played saxophone and clarinet, and the flute would be a good option for me to get work playing and to enter the conservatory.  One of my brothers, Osvaldo, also wanted to play flute and we started studying it at the same time.”
As a Cuban flute player Maraca could have gone the classic charanga route, joining an ensemble with the flute, violin, piano, bass and percussion format that emerged from the Afro-French culture entering Cuba from New Orleans and Haiti in the nineteenth century; charangas are the hallmark of the danzón era of the early twentieth century and the 1940s – ‘50s heyday of mambo and cha cha cha.  After the Revolution, charanga became a state-sanctioned sound (musicologist Ned Sublette, author of Cuban Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo [Chicago Review Press 2007] calls charanga “the sonic seal of Cuban nationalism”).  Orquesta Aragon, the apotheosis of Cuban cha, rode the radio waves into Cuban homes all over the island in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and younger players still keep Aragon alive.
But Maraca was born in ’66, on the cusp of a Cuban musical revolution that defied the cultural criteria of Fidel’s fledgling regime.  The sounds of Yankee imperialism were prohibited, but young conservatory players who are legendary today – like Chucho Valdés, Paquito D’Rivera, and Arturo Sandoval – held clandestine radio parties on late-night rooftops, absorbing jazz-rock fusion and other styles coming out of the States. From this illigitimate crack in the iron curtain sprang new, experimental Cuban bands – most prominently Irakere, which Valdés founded in ’73 and which included, at the time, D’Rivera, and Sandoval.  Irakere mostly played highly bailable Afro-Cuban jazz / funk fusions.  But even before Irakere, other Cuban musicians were picking up Big Apple bop where Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo’s Cubop left off.
“I’ve been influenced by a torrent of musicians of all styles and tendencies,” Maraca says.  Early in his professional career (the mid ‘80s) he was snapped up by some of the great creators of new Cuban music.  Among them were New York influenced Afro-Cuban jazz vocalist / trumpeter / pianist Bobby Carcasses, and the similarly innovative, deeply Cuban jazz pianist Emiliano Salvador, who put out some of the tastiest fusions this side of the sky and died too young.
On the heels of those experiences, Maraca joined Irakere in 1988.  By then, though Valdés still led the band, most of its first generation had moved on.  But having worked with Valdés, Carcasses and Salvador was the greatest school, Maraca says. 
That education led Maraca to found Otra Vision, in 1994.  This band’s eclectic approach applied the innovations of the ‘70s and ‘80s to traditional danzón and guaguancó, plus timba – itself an uptempo Afro-Cuban style developed by a new generation of rebellious youth.  Timba flowered during the island’s post-Soviet crisis in the 1990s, which opened the island to tourism and all the outside influences that brought, including hip-hop and the multiethnic, multicultural cross-currents of New York.
Madison became well acquainted with Otra Vision.  Maraca brought his band here in 2000, to play Fiesta Hispana and the Union Terrace.  He came again in April, 2001, to the Orpheum.  The start of the new millenium was a good time for Cuban music in Mad City, but soon the door slammed shut.  After 9/11 the State Department made it nearly impossible for Cuban musicians to get into the US – though Maraca, thanks to the persistence of his French-born wife / manager / producer / tour coordinator and fellow flutist Celine Chauveau, played the 2002 Marquette Waterfront Festival, and, in 2003, a dynamite show at the Barrymore, where, despite the old theater’s funky, bohemian ambience, I almost got bounced by the dance police.
Maraca was here again to headline the 2008 Madison World Music Festival, which occurred smack dab at the kickoff to the Great Recession.  To make it happen, Cardinal Bar owner Ricardo González drove a yellow schoolbus to O’Hare to pick up the band. In 2011, Maraca and Otra Vision returned to play the fête de Marquette.  
Otra Vision no longer exists, Maraca says.  He’s still plying his dance chops – “this year I put together a band called ‘Maraca and Guests,’ and we played salsa and traditional Cuban dance music in Venezuela in April.  And I earned the Cubadisco Grand Prize as a guest of [legendary dance band] Elito Revé and his Charangón.  It was for a tune on which Isaac Delgado [“El Chévere de la Salsa” and lead singer for the original timba outfit NG la Banda, in its early days] sang, too.”
Nevertheless, today at 50, Maraca’s devoting most of his touring time to the Latin Jazz All Stars project.  It’s a great, sophisticated vehicle that lets him display the agility and edge he’s developed over the years without the glam distractions of Otra Vision’s salsa-style shows.
The Latin Jazz All Stars originated in 2008, when Maraca put together in international lineup for the Monterey Jazz Festival.  The players change, of course, but here, courtesy of Chauveau, is an absolutely swingin’ arrangement of Miles Davis’ iconic “All Blues” in in Marciac, France, in 2014, with a Cuba / US lineup featuring Harold López Nussa on piano, Rafael Pasiero on bass, Irvin Acao on sax, Horacio Hernández on drums, and, of course Maraca on flute, plus Milwaukee’s own Brian Lynch on trumpet, SNL trombonist Steve Turre on conch shell, and Nuyorican conga honcho Giovanni Hidalgo.

On Maraca’s current All Stars tour are Lynch and Turre; New Yorker Robby Ameen, whose drums you hear on those Ruben Blades Seis del Solar albums from the ‘90s – he also plays, along with Lynch, on one of my favorite Palmieri recordings, Palmas (Nonesuch 1994); pianist Mario Canonge, from Martinique, French West Indies; Venezuelan congero Orlando Poleo, who’s been working with Maraca for years; and, from Havana, longtime Gonzalo Rubalcaba bassman Felipe Cabrera. 
“I just played concerts in Europe (Vilnius and Paris) and in Aspen and Vail, Colorado, with this particular configuration,” Maraca says.  “These musicians work really well together and the mix of cultures is very interesting.”
Does the Cuban-ness – the tumbao of the orishas – get lost in the globalization process?  “No,” Maraca insists.  “What’s Cuban isn’t lost – it’s universalized.  We play tradional music like danzones, or we play charanga style, and we do some of my own compositions in these formats, plus some versions of jazz standards.
 “I invite everyone to come,” he adds.  “This concert is going to be unique, it’ll never be repeated.  We always change things up, and at every concert the ambience is very different.  We’re happy to be coming back to play for our Madison audience.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Madison Ballet's 2016-17 Season

Shannon Quirk in Balanchine's Elégie,
performed by Madison Ballet in the spring of 2015
© SKepecs
by Susan Kepecs
In February of this year Madison Ballet delivered the first of two repertory evenings set for the spring, plus a cold shock – the cancellation of the rest of the season, which included a second repertory performance plus the return of Smith’s full-length Peter Pan.  To many of us, the future of ballet in this city seemed uncertain. But Madison Ballet is back this fall, with a company of 14 dancers on season contract.  Four are new, and I don’t know anything about them.  But the ten  
Annika Rekiersdorfer sails a grand jete at the Madison
Ballet Studio  © SKepecs 2016
returning dancers are strong and seasoned; among them are reigning company queen Shannon Quirk, young, fast-rising star Annika Reikersdorfer, and the smolderingly sexy Shea Johnson, formerly a principal at Arizona Ballet.
“What’s different about the 2016-17 season,” says artistic director W. Earle Smith, “is that we’re not doing a full-length production in the spring, which we’ve typically done in the past. Full-length ballets are extremely costly to produce, and with the situation we went through last year – having to suspend part of the season – we have to be very careful from a business perspective as to how we get back on track.  But that edge of financial caution also opens up new possibilities.  The really exciting thing about this season is that in addition to The Nutcracker (Dec. 10-26, Overture Hall), which will be as spectacular as ever – it is big, it is grandiose, it’s the perfect production for the holiday season – there are three repertory evenings.
“In the past we’ve done eight works in two repertory shows, but this year there’ll be between twelve and fourteen works, in three performances.  That means we’re bringing in more choreographers this year.  The great thing about doing repertory is that it broadens the artistic scope of both the company and the audience.  It’ll be fun – and challenging – for the dancers.  And it’ll give the public a look at an array of styles and a taste of what ballet can do beyond its traditional formalities.”
The programs aren’t set yet, but the first repertory show, “Black/White” (Oct. 14-15, at the Bartell), features the three themes from Balanchine’s 1946 The Four Temperaments, one of his early, avant-garde, black-and-white ballets, with a score by Paul Hindemith. “Temperaments” refers to the medieval notion of elemental “humors” that determine a person’s character.  The full ballet runs 30 minutes and requires 25 dancers; the three themes Madison Ballet will perform are pas de deux that, if you see the work in its entirety, introduce the “temperament” variations.
This piece, like the other Balanchine works Madison Ballet has performed, is done with performing rights granted by the Balanchine Trust, and is set on the company by Balanchine Trust répétiteur Michelle Gifford. “It’s wonderful to have a relationship with the Trust, and to have the opportunity to do Balanchine ballets – it’s an important part of who we are,” Smith says.
 Also on the “Black/White” bill: a new work by frequent guest choreographer General Hambrick, whose approach mixes neoclassical vocabulary with Aileyisms and spiritual accents.  And Smith is bringing back “Street,” a piece he originally choreographed for a spring repertory concert in 2013.  The score combines Bach and Beethoven with contemporary urban street music, and the choreography’s part straight-up neoclassical, part contemporary / hip hop.  The earlier version ran about 16 minutes; this one, he says, will be roughly ten minutes longer.
The second repertory program, “Bare,” runs Feb. 3-4 (at the Bartell); the third (March 31 – April 1, also at the Bartell) is “Primavera.”  Much of what’s on the programs for these shows is still TBA, but I do know that “Bare” will be an eclectic choreographers’ showcase, featuring a diverse set of guest choreographers including UW-Madison dance professors Jin-Wen Yu and Chris Walker.  And “Primavera,”  Smith says, “will be along romantic lines.  I’m doing a new waltz piece – I think I’m calling it “One Last Waltz” – that’ll pull together a number of waltzes I’ve done over the years.  The women will be in long, white, flowing ballgowns and opera gloves.  I’m also doing a completely new work, “Las Cuatro,” to Astor Piazzolla’s wonderful Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas – it’s very lush, just gorgeous.” 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Get Up Off Your Seat .. and Gimme Some of that Ol' Soul Clapping!

                                                        courtesy of the Jones Family website
by Susan Kepecs
The Jones Family Singers – an old-school gospel outfit out of the tiny town of Markham, Texas, a few miles from Bay City, on the humid subtropical Gulf Coast plain – are no small town sound.  For the last couple of years the Jones Family’s been spreading the good news at university theaters, big city culture palaces, jazz festivals and nightclubs around the world.  The family patriarch, Bishop Fred Jones, Sr., doctor of theology, is the pastor (and founder) of Markham’s Mount Zion Pentecostal Holiness Church; with his two sons and five daughters, including lead singer Alexis Jones, he’s traveled a long road – starting in the ‘80s – to get to this place  The Jones Family Singers bring their bursting-with-backbeat sound to the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Shannon Hall next Friday, April 29.
The Jones family’s something of a throwback to the early ‘60s, when gospel was the soundtrack of the Civil Rights movement – and when rousing, hand-clapping gospel by the Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Dixie Hummingbirds, Sister Rosetteta Tharpe and the Staple Singers played on R n’ B radio stations like WVON in Chicago, where I grew up, right alongside the great soul singers, every last one of them rooted in the sounds of the black church – James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Sam and Dave, Garnett Mimms, Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett – the list goes on. This is flat-out glory music, and the Jones family – say hallelujah! – brings it all back home.
A whole lotta history’s gone down since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated.  There’s a tension today between religious and secular that keeps the spiritual side of black music pretty much segregated in the church.  And there’s a movie about the Jones Family Singers – The Jones Family Will Find a Way, directed by Austin-based indie production company Arts+Labor (it premiered at SXSW in 2014) -- that chronicles the Jones Singers’ long haul to break into the limelight.  Along the way, the movie exposes that tension.  Austin writer Michael Corcoran, who’s passionate about gospel (I’ve never spoken with him, but he’s got a terrific website: http://www.michaelcorcoran.net), put this band on the map.  And in the movie he tells them – over and over again, in different ways – to dial down the Jesus lyrics and treat their music “more like a soul revue.” 
They never do – the Jones family’s unabashedly on a prosletysing mission, though they accepted Corcoran’s attempts to push them out of the church and into the arms of a global secular audience for the wide-open opportunity it gives them to spread the word.  But Corcoran is spot-on.  Whether you’re a believer or you don’t have a religious bone in your body (like me), the Jones Family Singers are sweet inspiration.

I interviewed Bishop Jones on the phone a few weeks ago. 

CulturalOyster: In the movie you say your grandmother was your first inspiration – and in the movie you’re based in Texas.  Is that where it all started, or are your early roots someplace else?

Bishop Jones: My early roots are in Louisiana.  I’m originally from a little town, Oakdale, Louisiana, made famous by a giant prison break.  That’s where I got my inspiration growing up.  Grandma, she wasn’t in the church choir – she was a deaconess, sort of like the leading prayer woman.  Her expertise was in praying.  People would come to her from miles around just to have her lay her hands on them.  The lord dealt with her a lot. 

CulturalOyster:  I have the impression that you write most of your own songs – is that right?

Bishop Jones:  Yes, that’s right.  The whole family pitches in.  If one of us comes up with an idea we get together and work out the music and then I write the verses, I put all of the verses to the song.  They say “dad, can you put a verse to this?”  I take the song and go in the other room and sit back and listen, and being the preacher I am my inspiration comes from the spirit or the scripture, and I sit down and write the verse so it has congruency with the tune.

CulturalOyster:  Your music comes from the heart – there’s nothing academic about it, but does anyone in the family have formal musical training?  And what about influences – who do you listen to, who’s influenced your sound?

Bishop Jones:  For me, I just feel it.  My younger son went to school for a while and worked with the music department in Jackson, Texas, but for the most part what we do is just inspired by the moment.  But yes, we are influenced – Mavis Staples for sure, and the Mighty Clouds of Joy, Shirley Caesar – a lot of the older gospel singers influence us ‘cause that’s the era I came up in.

CulturalOyster:  I watched the movie twice – you fought hard for a long time to get to success, but you just kept on keepin’ on, in the face of a lot of different kinds of adversity. Why do you think was it so hard – why did it take so long – for you to get established? 

Bishop Jones:  Well, I like to tell people it’s because I adhere to a standard.  I don’t want to compromise to please somebody.  I follow what I wholeheartedly believe the bible to say.  Sometimes that’s not popular with a lot of folk.  As a case in point, a gentlemen told me “when you get on the stage leave the messages open for people to make up their own mind.”  And I told him I didn’t come to sing a song, I want it to be clear who I’m talking about, I want it to be explicit, this is where I stand.  I’m not trying to make you be me, but you invited me, you wanted to hear my story, so hear me out.

CulturalOyster:  In the movie you keep trying to break into secular venues and land recording contracts.  You keep getting turned down.  At one point you sound really frustrated, and you say “I can’t reach you if I can’t reach you.” What’s the overarching message you want to reach people with?

Bishop Jones: The first thing I want to say is that I can’t reach you if I can’t get up to you, if you can’t see where I’m coming from you won’t know where I’m coming from.  I have to get up close to you, I have to get in your confidence to share my side of the story, so you have your view and you have mine and you can see which is most advantageous for you.  What I really want to get out to people is that God is really concerned about their wellbeing.  It’s about communication.  I’m His communicator.  The Father wants you to know that you haven’t done bad enough that he doesn’t want anything to do with you, he loves you no matter what and he wants that fellowship with you.

CulturalOyster: In the movie, Michael Corcoran says you play the perfect gospel music for atheists.  And at the end of the movie when you’re at Lincoln Center Outdoors you say you can only do so much within the sacred walls – “if you’re gonna win the world you gotta take that giant step.”  But the movie, over and over again points to the tension between church music and the secular world.  So I’m wondering, now that you’re reaching so many people outside the sacred walls, are your lyrics a little more secular?  Or is that a place you don’t want to go? 

Bishop Jones: I think about Michael’s perspective, very much different from mine – I already knew what road I’m taking, but that’s one of the things we knew at the start.  He has a different mind set, but he’s still precious to God.
Our lyrics are not getting more secular, because we don’t want to lose sight of the objective.  We learn to grow where we’re planted, and we deal with each session with the greatest of care ‘cause we know the mission we’re on.  We don’t lean toward secular, but the door is opening.  It’s not to conform to the other side, but to show the other side that we can come over here and show you a great time, and show you the source of your very existence, and it don’t have to be so dogmatic. 
Young people might not know the Nightingales, or the Dixie Hummingbirds – they may only know Michael Jackson, or the Temptations.  So we take that music sometimes and lay out our own lyrics on top of it and we’ll say “this may sound like something you know, but pay attention to the words,” and we’ll take ‘em right on that journey.  And I say this without hype, they enjoy it.  When it’s all said and done most of the time they won’t let us go out in the crowd after a show, they say we’ll get mobbed.  But I’m a people person, so I get up and go out there.

CulturalOyster: At one point in the movie, before things turn around and start getting good for you, you ask, “am I relevent for today, or am I yesterday’s news?”  Seems to me you have to be relevant today. We haven’t won Dr. King’s battles yet, and in his time there was a lot of secular gospel – the feel, the beat, the inflections, but not the lyrics.  That kind of music brought a lot of people together who aren’t together now.  And we need that.

Bishop Jones:  Everywhere we go, I do sing a song that’s not ours.  I say y’all are looking at the news like I look at it, in the Senate, in the police.  If everybody operated with this one thing I’m about to sing about it would eradicate all this trouble.  That song is “What the World Needs Now is Love,” and I’m calling for all people, if you’re black, white, Plutoinian, or Martian, to feel it.  And when we sing this song I see the message resonate. 

CulturalOyster: What’s coming up for you – travels, recordings – what’s the future? 

Bishop Jones: Well, we’re getting ready to go to Minnesota, and from there to Tel Aviv, we’ll be in the Holy Land for ten days touring throughout various areas, and then we’ll be back in the US, including in Madison – yes, we’ve got to come to Madison and Milwaukee.

CulturalOyster: Is there anything you want to talk about that I didn’t ask you?

Bishop Jones:  Yes.  First I want you to know I like your very interesting questions.  And I want people to know they can get the documentary online, at http://arts-and-labor.com/jfsmovie/
I want people to know we’re just regular people on a mission.  People need to know they can come up and talk to us, hug our neck, bring your camera and take pictures – a lot of times theaters don’t like that, but I say let people do it, they’re here, they want to see us.  We want our message to get out and somebody may see us and get inspired.  But most of all we’re regular people, we need a hug, a handshake, a good ol’ “hey, how you doin’?”



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Dance Review: Alonzo King's LINES Ballet at the Wisconsin Union Theater

O'Malley and Babatunji.     Photo by Quinn B. Wharton 

by Susan Kepecs 
Alonzo King, founder and artistic director of San Francisco-based LINES Ballet, whick took the stage at Wisconsin Union Theater’s Shannon Hall on Friday night, March 11, is one of the great revolutionary artists of our times.  What makes that so is actually quite simple; King takes the speedy, line-lengthened, plotless, “leotard production” breakthroughs of Balanchine’s mid-twentieth century American ballet and strips away virtually all of the artifice – the formalist conventions, rooted in court dancing from the days of Louis XIV and written in stone two hundred-plus years later by Marius Petipa – the curtseys, the tutus, the pointework, the exclusive use of specific, ritualized steps bearing French names.  
People sometimes take King for a “contemporary” dancemaker, but that’s missing the point; there’s a glossy commerciality (like what you see from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago) in what’s commonly called contemporary dance that’s utterly absent in King’s work.  King’s astoundingly elastic, postmodernist, off-kilter choreography sometimes touches more lightly than others on straight-up neoclassical vocabulary, but it’s ballet nonetheless.  LINES dancers, as King often says, are virtuoso musicians who play their bodies as instruments, turning sound into energy.  And his Terpsichorean orchestra is honed to perfection with rigorous ballet technique.  The result brings classical dance into the global, multicultural twenty-first century.
This approach requires over the top boldness, both physical and emotional, from the dancers. The works on the March 11 program were risky in additional ways.  In the hands of a lesser choreographer, creating a new work to Bach’s double violin concerto in D minor – Balanchine used this in his most beloved ballet, “Concerto Barocco” – would be downright dangerous. But structurally and texturally, King’s piece is sparklingly unique. Yet King is acutely aware of what it means to make a dance to this particularly loaded piece of music, sprinkling his ballet throughout with winking references to Balanchine’s work. 
In the first, Vivace movement, Balanchine has a corps of eight women on pointe, dancing in orderly lines with two female soloists representing the violins.  In King’s piece nine LINES dancers fill the space with dynamic patterns, fronted by two women (Kara Wilkes and YuJin Kim, both remarkably fluid), plus the the bouyantly powerful Babatunji.  A smidge of black church glory shines through; where Balanchine’s first movement ends with a courtly bow, King’s company leaps in unison, then spins, arms raised to the heavens.   
The Largo movement picks up the daisy chain motif Balanchine loved to use in his ballets, including “Concerto Barocco” – but in place of “Barocco”’s corps plus pas de deux, King uses Wilkes and Kim with Robb Beresford and Michael Montgomery to create eyepopping moments of harmonious dissonance with two (shifting) pairs of dancers doing different pas simultaneously.  The full company returns for the Allegro, flowing in and out of unison; at one point the dancers are all violins, flying forward one after the other, arms carving through space as the bow strikes the strings.  And King has kicked the complex geometry of the first movement up a notch; you see not just the dancers, but the negative spaces between them, vibrating with movement.  The Allegro demands nothing less – King’s patterns spring from his deconstructivist approach, but Balanchine’s more formal dance has the same vibration.  
The very short “Men’s Quintet,” to a contemporary violin-based concerto by Edgar Meyer with saxophone virtuoso Pharoah Sanders, is an excerpt from a longer work, The Radius of Convergence.  I’d have preferred seeing the Quintet in context, but what I did see was a showcase of male dance prowess.  Soloist Michael Montgomery, a force of nature, moves in counterpoint to a corps of four men (Robb Beresford, Shauaib Elhassan, Jeffrey Van Sciver, Babatunji).  The four often danced in a line behind Montgomery; at one point they stood still, lined up in profile, each with a hand on the next man’s head, like a row of ancient warrior sculptures.  In feel if not entirely in look, “Men’s Quintet” is as modernist, in the sense of Graham or Ailey, as the Violin Concerto is post-Balanchine, postmodern ballet. 
The very idea of dancing to wild sounds is radical – a hair’s breadth or two from dancing to the music of the spheres.  In the 43-minute Biophony King goes there, with a remarkable score by Bernie Krause, who’s spent decades recording natural soundscapes in wild places.  Krause coined the term “biophony,” which refers to “the collective signature produced at one time by all sound-producing organisms in a given habitat.”   
Krause’s score miraculously contains all the myriad nuances of the world’s endangered habitats – the animals, the winds, the rains, even trees creaking.  And LINES’ dancers use this score exactly as they use the Bach, or any other piece of music, riding its waves or moving against, through, or around them.  
Biophany is very balletic — there’s a greater number of (artifice-less) saut de chats, coupe jete turns and pirouettes than usual for a LINES piece.  King talks about ballet’s ultimate roots in nature, and this observation links back to his point.  
Biophany is also a much more organic piece than either the Bach or the Quintet.  It’s not a leotard ballet, but the production values are just a whisper – Axel Morgenthaler’s engaged lighting and Robert Rosenwasser’s gently nature-colored costumes suggest rather than illustrate the ecologies of the score.  You can’t analyze Biophany, you just have to sit back and take in its diaphanous lushness.  Having worked in some wild places myself, I can attest to the fact that King and company have nailed the essences of the places represented in the ballet’s eight segments.  The Borneo rainforest in “Tempestas” breathes with plant and animal life; “Mare Nostrum” captures the furling and unfurling action of the sea on life within; at the Kenyan watering hole (“Still Life at the Equator”) Laura O’Malley and Babatunji as prey and predator are caught in the same breath-catching exchange that sends chills down your spine when the lions go after the antelopes on National Geographic specials.  In the haunting Alaska segment, “Nunaviq,” Courtney Henry, floating through a string loose arabesque turns while wolves howl and birds chirp, isn’t a creature at all, but a quintessential nature spirit.