American Ballet Theatre is breaking out of the proscenium.
The company announced earlier today that in addition to the works already scheduled for their two-week fall season at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater (Oct. 18–29), a new work for members of ABT's Studio Company and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School will also take place during select performances. But more surprising than the lateness of the addition is where it will take place: on the theater's promenade during intermission. Entitled Counterpoint for Philip Johnson, the new work will pay homage to the architect of the theater, according to the company's press release. It marks the first time that ABT will perform outside of the traditional proscenium stage at the Koch.
Behind the site-specific work is none other than Benjamin Millepied, who already has a new ballet premiering for the main company during the fall season, and, as his work with L.A. Dance Project attests, is deeply invested in finding new ways to engage audiences with dance.
ABT is hardly the first company to commission a site-specific work for the liminal spaces in its theater: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago opened their 40th-anniversary season with Peter Chu's Space, in Perspective just a couple of weeks ago, while Paris Opéra Ballet is giving James Thierrée use of the public spaces of the Palais Garnier as part of a contemporary program premiering in May 2018.
Hubbard Street dancers in Peter Chu's recent Space, In Perspective, which took over Chicago's Harris Theater. Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Carol Fox & Associates.
And while site-specific work has been an established practice amongst contemporary dance artists for some time, seeing this many major companies taking the plunge is definitely a newer phenomenon, one that speaks to a desire to challenge how their audiences believe dance should be seen. Is anyone else sensing a trend?