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By Nancy Wozny
The fall season’s bittersweet tone contains beginnings, endings, and, as always, anniversary celebrations. Classics and new works populate the dancescape, along with a strong showing of international troupes.
The Merce Cunningham Dance Company wraps up its legacy tour with stops in Seattle, Oct. 27–29; at Stanford Lively Arts, Nov. 1; the University of Notre Dame, Nov. 11–12; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Nov. 15; the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, Nov. 18–19; the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Dec. 2–3; and Brooklyn Academy of Music, Dec. 7–10. The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis goes all out with “A Merce Cunningham Celebration,” Oct. 28–Nov. 6, a 10-day festival of talks and exhibits culminating in performances Nov. 2–6. The final farewell takes place at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City, Dec. 29–31.
More good-byes are in order for Richmond Ballet as they honor the retiring Igor Antonov with a program of his career highlights, including Balanchine’s Who Cares? and an excerpt from Apollo, Sept. 8–18, followed by Balanchine’s romantic ballet for four couples, Liebeslieder Walzer, Nov. 10–20.
Anniversary celebrations pick up the mood. The Suzanne Farrell Ballet celebrates its 10th with Diamonds, which Balanchine created for Farrell, Oct. 12–16, at Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater in a special collaboration with Sarasota Ballet. Right after that, her company heads to New York for its Joyce debut, Oct. 19–23. It’s been a decade for Mikko Nissinen at the helm of Boston Ballet, which launches its season with Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet, Nov. 3–13. For their 40th, Eiko & Koma return to their seminal works White Dance (1976) and Night Tide (1984), presented along with a new piece, at the MCA Stage in Chicago, Sept. 22–24.
Nothing says autumn like a classic story ballet, always a safe but solid season opener. For romantic tragedy, Swan Queens lurk at Colorado Ballet for their Swan Lake, Oct. 7–23. Audiences never tire of the charming girl with a heart condition, so Giselle-mania arrives at the Cincinnati Ballet, Oct. 28–30; Houston Ballet, in a new Russian-inspired staging by Ai-Gul Gaisina, Sept. 22–Oct. 2; and Texas Ballet Theater in Ben Stevenson’s version, Oct. 21–23. San Francisco Ballet presents Helgi Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet, at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, Sept. 30–Oct. 2.
On the brighter side, the glamorous optimism of Ronald Hynd’s Merry Widow is just right for Tulsa Ballet’s season opener, Sept. 23–25. Ballet Arizona finds a perfect opener in Ib Andersen’s Cinderella, Oct. 20–23, as does Nashville Ballet with artistic director Paul Vasterling’s Cinderella, Oct. 28–30.
Miami City Ballet pairs Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun and Balanchine’s Square Dance with more contemporary work by Wheeldon and Tharp, performing in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, Oct. 21–Dec. 11. Pacific Northwest Ballet goes a step farther with an all-Wheeldon program, Sept. 23–Oct. 2, followed by an evening of “Love Stories,” including works by Balanchine, Robbins, Hynd, and others, Nov. 4–13.
Postmodern dance is old enough to have classics now. The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company returns to early works with “Classics Revived” at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, Sept. 29–Oct. 1, while Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival revives the serene Necessary Weather (1994), a collaboration by Dana Reitz, Sara Rudner, and lighting guru Jennifer Tipton, at Baryshnikov Arts Center, Oct. 27–29.
The month of October brings out the zomberinas in full force with a quartet of Dracula ballets scattered across the country. Milwaukee Ballet opens with artistic director Michael Pink’s Dracula, Oct. 27–30, while Ballet West takes Ben Stevenson’s campy but fun Dracula out of the crypt, Oct. 21–Nov. 1. Carolina Ballet turns to Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s Dracula and Robert Weiss’ The Masque of the Red Death, Oct. 14–30. And Sacramento Ballet perform’s Ron Cunningham’s Dracula Oct. 22–28. Vampires can party too, during Robert Hill’s Vampire’s Ball for Orlando Ballet, Oct. 21–23.
Choreographers turn to literature this fall. F. Scott Fitzgerald inspired Septime Webre’s The Great Gatsby for The Washington Ballet, which will be reprised at The Kennedy Center with live music by Billy Novick’s Blue Syncopators, Nov. 2–6. Shakespeare’s Henry V is the source for postmodern icon David Gordon’s Dancing Henry Five at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, Oct. 13–15. We will never know what Mark Twain thinks about a ballet based on his work, but Kansas City Ballet fans will see Twain’s treasured novel in motion during William Whitener’s premiere of Tom Sawyer, Oct. 14–23. Big Dance Theater looks to Euripides’ Alcestis in Supernatural Wife, at Walker Art Center, Nov. 17–19 and BAM, Nov. 29–Dec. 3. Morphoses, forging ahead without Christopher Wheeldon, also falls under an ancient Greek spell with Bacchae, resident artistic director Luca Veggetti’s world premiere based on Euripides’ play at the Joyce, Oct. 25–30. Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Alfred Uhry collaborates with dance-theater visionary Martha Clarke in Angel Reapers, also at the Joyce, Nov. 29–Dec. 11.
American Ballet Theatre goes modern dance when it returns to NY City Center Nov. 8–13. Looking deep into its repertoire, it has pulled works by Merce Cunningham (Duets), Paul Taylor (Black Tuesday), and Martha Clarke (The Garden of Villandry) to revive. It also presents Tharp’s exhilarating In the Upper Room and a premiere by Stuttgart Ballet’s newest choreographer, corps member Demis Volpi.
Favorite story ballets are getting new versions this fall. Alexei Ratmansky’s new Romeo & Juliet at the National Ballet of Canada is sure to generate a buzz, Nov. 16–27. Oregon Ballet Theatre pairs Nicolo Fonte’s all-new Petrouchka with Christopher Stowell’s Carmen, Oct. 8–15.
Some view the fall season as a chance to present fresh work. Cincinnati Ballet boasts world premieres by Heather Britt, Adam Hougland, and Johanna Wilt, along with a new piece by James Kudelka, Sept. 8–18. Ballet Austin’s director Stephen Mills takes on the great composer in The Mozart Project, Sept. 30–Oct. 2. North Carolina Dance Theatre premieres a new work by NCDT’s dancer and rehearsal director Sasha Janes as part of Director’s Choice, on Oct. 13–15. The company also promises a program of “Innovative Works” by choreographers Mark Diamond, David Ingram, and Sasha Janes, Nov. 3–19.
There are more firsts: Houston Ballet making its first Manhattan appearance as a full company since 1985, performing Jorma Elo’s characteristically zany ONE/end/ONE at the Joyce, Oct. 11–16. UCLA Live presents the U.S. premiere of Hofesh Shechter’s first full-length work, Political Mother, Oct. 19–20. BalletMet gives the power to the people with its first go at BalletMet OnDemand, where a voting process determines the bill, Sept. 23–Oct. 8.
Mark Morris makes his Bay Area conducting debut with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale during Mark Morris Dance Group’s performance of Dido and Aeneas at Cal Performances, Sept. 16–18. Cal Performances closes the year’s dance offerings with Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s Cuban-inspired Danzon, Dec. 2–3.
There’s more international action at BAM with Beijing Dance Theater making its U.S. debut Oct. 19–22 before heading to the Kennedy Center on Oct. 26–27. Belgium’s Compagnie Thor also makes its BAM debut with To the Ones I Love, by company founder Thierry Smits, Sept. 29–Oct. 1. The Forsythe Company returns to BAM with the NY premiere of I don’t believe in outer space, a darkly comic ballet, Oct. 26–29. Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan performs founder Lin Hwai-min’s Water Stains on the Wall there on Oct. 12–15. The group also tours to Chapel Hill, Ann Arbor, Chicago, and San Antonio.
More international action continues with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Belgium-based Eastman (see “Vital Signs,” p. 14) in Montreal, Sept. 29–Oct. 1; Quebec, Oct. 3; Ottawa, Oct. 5–6; Chapel Hill, Oct. 9–10; Irvine, Oct. 15; and Santa Barbara, Oct. 16. Australian renegade Chunky Move is on the move this fall with stops at White Bird in Portland, OR, Oct. 20–22; Duke University in Raleigh, NC, Oct. 28; the Joyce, Nov. 2–6; Purdue Convocations, West Lafayette, IN, Nov. 10; Terre Haute, IN, Nov. 12; and Zellerbach Theatre in Philadelphia, Nov. 17–19. Fellow Aussies Lucy Guerin Inc stop at the Walker Art Center with Structure and Sadness, Oct. 6–8, and at the Edison Ovations series in St. Louis, Sept. 30–Oct. 1.
The Scottish Ballet sets sail, making its Los Angeles Music Center debut at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, performing MacMillan’s The Song of the Earth and a work by Jorma Elo, Oct. 14–16, with further tour dates at Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in Davis, CA, Oct. 19, and at the Northrop Festival at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, Oct. 22.
In addition to a trip to the Guanajuato, Mexico, Festival International Cervantino, Oct. 27–29, the Paul Taylor Dance Company travels the country with stops in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York State, New Jersey, and Iowa. Aszure Barton & Artists stops at DANCECleveland, Oct. 29, before making their Boston debut as part of the Celebrity Series, Nov. 4–5.
If you can’t make a live show, fear not, ballet on the big HD screen continues this fall with several Ballet in Cinema showings, including Bolshoi Ballet’s Esmeralda, Oct. 9, and The Sleeping Beauty, Nov. 20, followed by The Royal Ballet’s Beauty, Dec. 15, starring Lauren Cuthbertson and Sergei Polunin.
Whatever sadness we share about the loss of the Cunningham company will surely be comforted by the sheer abundance of promising performances on the nation’s stages.
Nancy Wozny writes about the arts and health from Houston.
From top: Rashaun Mitchell in Merce Cunningham’s Antic Meet. Photo by Yi-Chun Wu, Courtesy MCDC; Natalia Magnicaballi and Momchil Mladenov of Suzanne Farrell Ballet in Balanchine’s Diamonds. Photo by Carol Pratt, Courtesy Farrell Ballet; Sacramento Ballet in Ron Cunningham’s Dracula. Photo by Jay Mather, Courtesy SacBallet; Frances Chiaverini of Morphoses in Luca Veggetti’s Bacchae. Photo by Kyle Froman, Courtesy Morphoses; Beijing Dance Theater in Haze. Photo by Li Huimin, Courtesy Beijing; Eran Bugge and Jeffrey Smith in Paul Taylor’s Company B. Photo by Paul B. Goode, Courtesy PTDC.