A Stirring Fall

August 23, 2009

Why cry about the economy? It won’t help, and a succession of dirges makes for wretched choreography, anyway. America’s dance companies

and presenters aren’t mourning. They’re making the best of it. They’ll trim and adjust a bit this season. But they know that, for every cutback or compromise, the dance world can still put warm bodies in seats to entrance viewers.


So let’s rejoice. Here’s a look at what’s out there this fall, everything from homegrown ballet classics to gritty dance theater companies from England to exuberant Russian folk dance troupes. Get your calendars out.


The Romantic classics maintain their place in the hearts of American audiences, and none moves us as much as that exquisite 19th-century tragedy of redemption, Giselle. After a Sept. 19 gala, the Boston Ballet gets down to business with a revival of Maina Gielgud’s eloquent staging, modeled after Petipa’s Maryinsky version (Oct. 1–11). The Sarasota Ballet produces Giselle with two starry guests from London’s Royal Ballet, Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg, Nov. 27–29. American Ballet Theatre will light up the stage of the Orange County Performing Arts Center for a week of Giselle Nov. 3–8.


If Swan Lake fluffs your feathers, head first to Raleigh, NC, where Carolina Ballet revives artistic director Robert Weiss’ staging of the Petipa-Ivanov version Sept. 17–Oct. 4. Then hop a plane to Columbus, OH, and catch BalletMet’s production, co-created by Gerard Charles, Victoria Morgan, and Devon Carney (Oct. 16–18). It then travels to the Cincinnati Ballet Oct. 23–25. For a radiant Sleeping Beauty, cross the border to Toronto, where the National Ballet of Canada revels in a refurbishment of Nureyev’s elegant version Nov. 13–22. The classic comedy Coppélia launches an extended season at Dennis Nahat’s Ballet San Jose Oct. 3–11.


If Don Quixote tickles your fancy, sample this romantic farce at Colorado Ballet Oct. 16–25. And if you’re yearning for a date with ballet’s most famous lovers, try Jean-Christophe Maillot’s slightly modernized Roméo et Juliette, which opens Pacific Northwest Ballet’s season in Seattle Sept. 24–Oct. 4.


The hunger for more contemporary narratives has not abated. Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet launches its fall fare with the company premiere of Lar Lubovitch’s Othello Oct. 14–25. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet visits Minneapolis’ Northrop Auditorium with the world premiere of Jorden Morris’ Moulin—The Ballet about a painter adrift in Paris during the golden age (Oct. 17). The Atlanta Ballet offers a revival of the Mozart-based Magic Flute (Oct. 15–24). The Grand Rapids Ballet Company greets the Halloween season in Michigan with the premiere of Gordon Peirce Schmidt’s Jack “the Ripper” (Oct. 30–Nov. 1). Salt Lake City’s Ballet West inaugurates its season (Oct. 30–Nov. 7) with Ashton’s enchanting essay on Shakespeare, The Dream.

A number of prominent ballet commissions highlight the fall season. Pennsylvania Ballet’s choreographer-in-residence Matthew Neenan delivers his latest for the company’s opening program Oct. 21–25. San Francisco’s Val Caniparoli travels to PNB for a new setting of Glazunov’s score for The Seasons (Nov. 5–15). Forsythe disciple Helen Pickett will contribute a Japanese-flavored pas de deux to the Boston Ballet’s repertory in tandem with recent works by Viktor Plotnikov and Jorma Elo (Oct. 22–Nov. 1). Canada’s delightful Aszure Barton helms a premiere for the National Ballet of Canada’s mixed bill Nov. 25–29. Dwight Rhoden of Complexions fame joins Sasha Janes and Mark Diamond in contributing dances to North Carolina Dance Theatre’s Innovative Works program (Nov. 5–7; 12–14). Promising dancemaker Jessica Lang will hop all over the map this fall. She’ll be at Kansas City Ballet for an Oct. 15–18 premiere (artistic director William Whitener’s Carmen and Saint-Léon’s The Frescoes share the bill); then she travels to Virginia for the Richmond Ballet’s Studio 1 project (Nov. 3-8).


What’s really new this fall? Well, down in Florida, there’s Sarasota’s Ringling International Arts Festival, a collaboration between New York’s Baryshnikov Arts Center and the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art. Dance artists participating in the Oct. 7–11 festival are Aszure Barton, Annie-B Parson, flamenco diva María Pagés, and Israel’s Deganit Shemy. Speaking of Mikhail Baryshnikov, he and another veteran dancer, Ana Laguna, will travel the land this fall in Three Solos and a Duet, with dances by Ratmansky, Ek, and Millepied. Expect the pair Sept. 4–5 at the Broad Stage, Santa Monica, CA; Sept. 25–27 at the Harris Theater, Chicago; and in Portland, OR, Oct. 1–3.


In Salt Lake City, the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company features new works by Karole Armitage (Sept. 24–26) and new artistic director Charlotte Boye-Christensen (Dec. 17–19).


As usual, the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival promises a slew of novelties. None is more widely anticipated than In-I, a collaboration between actress Juliette Binoche and English choreographer Akram Khan. This is a U.S. premiere, as will be The Forsythe Company’s Decreation. Also on the list: Armitage Gone! Dance, Australia’s Chunky Move, Wally Cardona, and Reggie Wilson’s Fist & Heel Performance Group in its BAM debut.

Tours will enliven the dance scene during the next four months. The San Francisco-based Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, in collaboration with China’s Guangdong Modern Dance Company launches the much anticipated Other Suns trilogy in San Francisco Sept. 24–26. The project then takes to the road, stopping at Montclair State University, NJ (Oct.15–18), Pittsburgh, PA (Oct. 24), College Park, MD (Oct. 29–30), and Riverside, CA (Nov. 4).


England’s DV8 Physical Theatre returns with To Be Straight With You, Lloyd Newson’s blistering multimedia essay on ethnic and sexual intolerance in the United Kingdom, with texts derived from interviews with victims of homophobic violence (see “Dance Matters,” Oct.). The company plays UCLA’s Royce Hall Nov. 6–7 and San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Nov. 12–14.


New to the West Coast will be England’s highly acclaimed Hofesh Shechter Company performing Uprising and In your rooms at UCLA Oct. 16–17 and in Portland Oct. 21. The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will offer the West Coast premiere of the Lincoln-inspired Fondly Do We Hope… Fervently Do We Pray in San Francisco Oct. 1–3. New York’s witty Keigwin + Company will tour to the Kennedy Center Oct. 22–23, preceded by the ever-popular Pilobolus (Oct. 3–4).


The center will welcome New York City Ballet Dec. 9–13 with seven ballets by Balanchine, Robbins, Martins, and Wheeldon. Speaking of Balanchine, the remarkable Kennedy Center–based Suzanne Farrell Ballet will venture to Berkeley’s Cal Performances Oct. 24–25 with two programs of excerpts from such Balanchine rarities as Ivesiana, Meditation, and Clarinade and a bit from Romeo et Juliet by Maurice Béjart, in whose company Farrell danced for a spell.


The world dance scene abounds in attractions this fall. The South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma will be unfamiliar to most Americans. Beautiful Me, his postmodern solo inspired by Akram Khan, Vincent Mantsoe, and Faustin Linyekula, will be showcased at Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco Nov. 5–7. One of the fall’s most provocative prospects is A House in Bali, a dance opera by Evan Ziporyn based on Colin McPhee’s influential book on Balinese culture. The U.S. premiere with choreography by Kadek Dewi Aryani comes to Berkeley Sept. 26–27.


The fall months will also bring back some old friends. None is more welcome than the exuberant Virsky Ukrainian National Dance Company, traveling the length and breadth of the country. The 85-member troupe of dancers and musicians hits San Rafael, CA’s Marin Center, Sept. 25, Minneapolis Oct. 11, the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts Nov. 8, and The Egg in Albany Nov. 11.


This autumn, there will be no reason to sit home alone.


Allan Ulrich is a Dance Magazine Senior Advising Editor and contributes to many arts publications here and abroad.


Photo by Peter Zay, Courtesy NCDT