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12 Dance Shows We're Already Talking About Ahead of the 2017–18 Season
On the cusp of a new performance season, our calendars are chock full with shows we're dying to see. But it can be hard to know where to start with a season filled to bursting with promising premieres, tours and revivals. We've picked 12 shows that should definitely be on your radar.
A Striking Living Sculpture is Invading the U.S.
Like a murder of crows or a conspiracy of ravens, 20 multigenerational women dressed in black rhythmically yip, bay and caw with primal, ritualistic intensity, the front ties of their white head kerchiefs pecking up and down like beaks. Moroccan choreographer Bouchra Ouizguen created Corbeaux ("Ravens") as a one-off performance at the Marrakesh train station during the 2014 Biennale of Contemporary Art. (She may have had the invisibility of Muslim women in mind while making it.) But the controlled animalism and intentionality of the work have, in three short years, found resonance with audiences around the world. Presented in nontheatrical spaces by a combined cast of local performers and members of Ouizguen's Compagnie O, Corbeaux rivets viewers with the power of its nonverbal, unison percussive quality. It conveys the urgency of female experience en masse, while tapping into the ferocity that drives all attempts at greater individual agency. Time-Based Art Festival, Portland, Sept. 9–10. Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, Sept. 16–17. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Sept. 23–24. French Institute Alliance Française, New York City, Oct. 1. bouchraouizguen.com. —Camille LeFevre
Two Iconic Pina Bausch Works Are Headed to BAM, and We Cannot Contain Our Excitement
Reprising the company's historic New York City debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1984, Tanztheater Wuppertal returns to the Howard Gilman Opera House as part of BAM's Next Wave Festival with two of Pina Bausch's most iconic works: Café Müller and The Rite of Spring. Café Müller, Bausch's autobiographical masterwork, takes us inside an abandoned café where a sleepwalking woman (originally danced by Bausch herself) staggers about as a series of characters play out a troubled, turbulent and occasionally whimsical narrative, all set to Henry Purcell's poignant arias. Bausch's Rite explodes with raw, sensual power as 32 dancers fiercely inhabit a dirt-covered stage, matching the blazing intensity of Stravinsky's revolutionary score. Sept. 14–17, 19–20, 22–24. bam.org. —Nancy Wozny
Ananya Dance Theatre Adds Its Voice to #theresistance
Ananya Dance Theatre in Ananya Chatterjea's Horidraa: Golden Healing. Photo by V. Paul Virtucio, Courtesy Ananya Dance Theatre.
To create Shyamali: Sprouting Words, Ananya Dance Theatre worked with women in diverse communities throughout the world to elicit their stories of resistance and resilience. The dancers also participated in social justice protests, forged school partnerships focusing on girls of color and led workshops with women refugees and immigrants. The resulting production grips viewers with an articulate, harrowing and ultimately uplifting choreographic conversation about the multidimensional ways in which women's dissent ultimately contributes to the world's life force. Following the St. Paul, Minnesota, premiere Sept. 15–16, the work travels to Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, Pittsburgh; University of Utah, Salt Lake City; Maui Arts & Cultural Center, Kahului, Hawaii; Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles; and Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia. ananyadancetheatre.org. —Camille LeFevre
Matthew Bourne Brought the Most Iconic Ballet Movie Ever Made to Life, and It's Touring to the U.S.
In the iconic dance movie The Red Shoes, Victoria Page wavers between the man she adores and her consuming passion for ballet, a conflict encapsulated by a pair of red satin pointe shoes that propel her to her fate. British choreographer/director Matthew Bourne has reimagined the lush 1948 film and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale as pure, rapturous dance. The four-city U.S. tour opens in Los Angeles, Sept. 15–Oct. 1, with stops in Washington, DC, Oct. 10–15, and Charlotte, Oct. 17–22, before closing Oct. 26–Nov. 5 in New York City, where New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns guests in the lead role, alternating with New Adventures' Ashley Shaw. American Ballet Theatre's Marcelo Gomes joins the cast as a guest star for the tour. new-adventures.net. —Lisa Traiger
Bill T. Jones is Directing a New Opera
Bill T. Jones during a workshop for We Shall Not Be Moved. Photo by Dave DiRentis, Courtesy Opera Philadelphia.
Five teenage runaways take refuge in an abandoned house, where they encounter ghosts of an earlier resistance movement: That's the premise for We Shall Not Be Moved, a multidisciplinary work recalling a time when the city of Philadelphia faced off with black activist group MOVE—with deadly consequences. The piece puts Bill T. Jones at the helm as director, dramaturge and choreographer, alongside spoken-word artist Mark Bamuthi Joseph, violin-wielding composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, and assistant choreographer Raphael Xavier. Weaving a narrative for the four dancers and six singers, the collaborators fuse varied music traditions (including classical, R&B and jazz singing) with spoken word, video projections and a dance vocabulary that ranges from baroque forms to hip hop. The goal, Jones says in an online preview, is to "create a new language bridging the world of urban word and opera." Opera Philadelphia, Sept. 16–18, 21, 23–24. Apollo Theater, New York City, Oct. 6–8. Hackney Empire, London, Oct. 13–15, 18, 20–21. operaphila.org. —Rachel F. Elson
Carlos Acosta's New Company is Coming, and We're Crazy Curious About It
Acosta Danza has been a source of curiosity ever since Carlos Acosta founded the company in 2016, but other than tantalizing glimpses on the international scene this summer, the company has performed primarily in its native Cuba. British and American audiences will finally get the chance to see what all the hubbub is about this season when the company makes its official U.K. and U.S. debuts in London and New York City. Fingers crossed that Acosta, expected to perform during the U.K. tour, also finds his way onstage stateside. Sadler's Wells, London, Sept. 27–30. sadlerswells.com. New York City Center, April 25–27, 2018. nycitycenter.org. —Courtney Escoyne
An Alternate Rite of Spring, Featuring Contemporary African Dance
Germaine Acogny. Photo by François Stemmer, Courtesy Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Also presented by the Next Wave Festival, choreographer Olivier Dubois of Ballet du Nord offers a striking contrast to Pina Bausch's large-scale Rite of Spring just a few weeks later. The second installment of Dubois' Sacre series, Mon élue noire is a solo for the 73-year-old mother of contemporary African dance Germaine Acogny of Senegal. Her movement restricted atop a small, elevated platform, the regal Acogny is neither pure virgin nor sacrificial lamb; perhaps she is the caged soul of African history? This fall marks the U.S. premiere of the explosive 2015 solo. BAM Fisher, Oct. 4–7. bam.org. —Jen Peters
A MacMillan Feast for Ballet-Obsessed Anglophiles
The Royal Ballet's Ryoichi Hirano and Edward Watson in MacMillan's Gloria. Photo by Johan Persson, Courtesy ROH.
Sir Kenneth MacMillan is revered in the U.K. as one of the founding fathers of British ballet, and for the first time ever, six of the country's companies will join forces this fall to celebrate him. For the 25th anniversary of his death, the Royal Opera House is set to present eight short works by the master, as well as Wayne Eagling's MacMillan-inspired Jeux. The Royal Ballet will dance Jeux and The Judas Tree, while Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, Scottish Ballet and Yorke Dance Project join in with their own MacMillan productions. Rarities include Le Baiser de la Fée and Sea of Troubles, a 1988 work inspired by Hamlet, as well as a production of Elite Syncopations danced by members of several companies. There is much more to MacMillan than three-act blockbusters like Manon: This two-week season is a unique opportunity to delve into his varied repertoire, stretching over four decades. Royal Opera House, London, Oct. 18–Nov. 1. roh.org.uk. —Laura Cappelle
NYC's Met Museum: Come for the Art, Stay for the Dancing
Gallim Dance at the Temple of Dendur. Photo by Ani Collier, Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has found a sweet spot where dancing meets treasures of the past. When Andrea Miller showed a work in progress inspired by the Egyptian Temple of Dendur last year, the synergy between her visceral, rough-hewn choreography and the stone surfaces of the ancient temple was mesmerizing. The MetLiveArts series has now named Miller artist in residence for the 2017–18 season—the first choreographer to hold this position. Her first goal: to finish the piece started last year, now titled Stone Skipping, to be danced by her company Gallim Dance Oct. 28–29 at the Temple of Dendur. Other dance artists at the Met Museum this season include Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula, who performs in the Met's 16th-century Spanish courtyard Sept. 9–10, the Japanese-American maestra Eiko Otake , who brings her haunting series A Body in Places to three Met locations in November, and Monica Bill Barnes, whose Museum Workout returns for four weekends this fall. metmuseum.org. —Wendy Perron
Charlotte Ballet's Most Incredible Thing. (No, Really, That's the Title)
Perhaps the most incredible thing about Charlotte Ballet performing The Most Incredible Thing is that it hasn't yet been seen in the United States. The award-winning multimedia spectacle created by English synth-pop giants Pet Shop Boys features choreography by Javier de Frutos. Based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale about a king who holds a competition to determine who can do "the most incredible thing," the story ballet is not only a unique family-friendly theatrical experience, but also a lightning bolt illuminating where new artistic director Hope Muir is taking Charlotte Ballet. March 9–18, 2018. charlotteballet.org. —Steve Sucato
Another Lil Buck/Jon Boogz Team-Up? We're Sold.
Lil Buck and Jon Boogz. Photo by George Evan, Courtesy Helene Davis Public Relations.
When Jon Boogz's film Color of Reality went viral last year, it was only partly because of jooker Lil Buck's terrific dancing. It was also an ingenious way to illuminate the harrowing regularity of black youth falling victim to police brutality. The video, a collaboration with the visual artist Alexa Meade, was such a brilliant melding of art consciousness and social consciousness that it made us eager to see what else they would come up with. Love Heals All Wounds, under the banner of MAI (Movement Art Is), is coming to NYU's Skirball Center in New York City April 13–14, 2018. It's one of many intriguing shows planned by Skirball's new director Jay Wegman that demonstrates a bold new direction for its programming. nyuskirball.org. —Wendy Perron
NYCB is Dusting Off a Much-Debated Robbins/Bernstein Classic
Janie Taylor in Robbins' Dybbuk. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.
It was the last collaboration between two geniuses of the theater—Leonard Berstein and Jerome Robbins—and it was called Dybbuk, after S. Ansky's classic play of 1920, a Jewish ghost story about love, death and possession. The ballet was premiered on May 16, 1974, and although American dance writers didn't get it, British critics Richard Buckle and Clive Barnes thought it blazed with brilliance. Not trusting his creation, Robbins edited the hell out of it and Dybbuk disappeared. But in 2005 Helgi Tomasson and the San Francisco Ballet brought it back, and in 2007 it was again performed by the New York City Ballet. Stark, soaring, haunting, ecstatic, magnificent, Dybbuk returns to NYCB's repertoire in spring 2018 (May 4, 5, 8 and 20), part of the "Robbins 100" centennial celebration (May 3–20). See for yourself if those Brits weren't right. nycballet.com. —Laura Jacobs
My dance coach wants my word that I'll keep competing under his school's name for the next year and not audition. I'm 18 years old and already doing lead roles and winning medals. I love his teaching, but shouldn't I be ready to go out and get a job?
—Gil, Las Vegas, NV
How do we make ballet, a traditionally homogeneous art form, relevant to and reflective of an increasingly diverse and globalized era? While established companies are shifting slowly, Richard Siegal/Ballet of Difference, though less than 2 years old, has something of a head start. The guiding force of the company, which is based in Germany, is bringing differences together in the same room and, ultimately, on the same stage.
Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.
She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.
But is the ballet class due for an update? Demands and aesthetics have changed. So should the way dancers train change too?
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
Claude Debussy's only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, emphasizes clarity and subtlety over high-flung drama as a deadly love triangle unfolds. Opera Vlaanderen and Royal Ballet of Flanders are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the composer's death with a new production of the landmark opera that is sure to be anything but traditional: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet are choreographing and directing, while boundary-pushing performance artist Marina Abramović collaborates on the design. Antwerp, Feb. 2–13. Ghent, Feb. 23–March 4. operaballet.be/en.
Black History Month offers a time to reflect on the artists who have shaped the dance field as we know it today. But equally important is celebrating the black artists who represent the next generation. These seven up-and-comers are making waves across all kinds of styles and across the country:
When a new director began transforming Atlanta Ballet a couple of years ago, longtime dancer Alessa Rogers decided to finally explore her dream of dancing in Europe. "I always had this wanderlust," she says. She wasn't set on a particular city or company, but thought learning French would be fun. She began her research that September, making note of repertoire and the number of dancers as well as which companies employed foreign, non–European Union dancers. "I saw that Ballet du Rhin was looking for dancers," says Rogers. "They also had a new director coming in, so I thought it could be an opportunity." After sending a video, Rogers traveled during her layoff week to take company class. She was offered a job on the spot.
Uprooting and moving out of the country, far away from your support system, language and customs, is not something to take lightly. While it can push you as an artist and be an exciting opportunity for personal growth, working as a dancer in a foreign country comes with its challenges. Lots of research and an adventurous spirit are required.
Justin Lynch is surprisingly nonchalant about the struggles of being a full-time lawyer and a professional dancer. "All dancers in New York City are experts at juggling multiple endeavors," he says. "What I'm doing is no different from what any other dancer does—it's just that what I'm juggling is different."
While we agree that freelance dancers are pro multitaskers, we don't really buy Lynch's claim that what he does isn't extraordinary. In fact, we're pretty mind-boggled by the career he's built for himself.
At the annual Gala de Danza in Los Cabos, Mexico, the lineup of performers is usually pretty typical gala fare: You can expect celebrity performers like Lil Buck, reality stars like Ballet West's Beckanne Sisk and "So You Think You Can Dance" finalist Tate McRae, plus principals from top companies like New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck and Daniel Ulbricht.
What's absolutely not typical? The venue.
At 5'10" I felt like an ant in the studio with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. The San Francisco-based company is full of statuesque dancers whose passion is infectious. Every story was told not only through their movement, but through the expression on their faces and their connection to one another.
We talked to artistic director Alonzo King about his love of collaborations and why he thinks politicians need to dance more.