Hadestown at London's National Theatre. Photo by Helen Maybanks, Courtesy DKC/O&M

3 Concerts, 2 Musicals and 1 Festival You Won't Want to Miss This April

There are more intriguing performances than one person could possibly see this month, so our editors' picks run the gamut. The topics—Greek mythology and systemic racism, the Ballets Russes and secondary incarceration—are as varied as the styles—contemporary, bharatanatyam, aerial. The one through line: They're bound to make you look at the world a little differently.


Stay Woke

Donald Byrd's SHOT

Nate Watters, Courtesy Spectrum Dance Theater

SEATTLE The violence of racism has long been a subject for Donald Byrd, artistic director of Spectrum Dance Theater. His new Wokeness Festival comprises three segments: 2017's SHOT, about the persistence of police brutality toward black men; Dance, Dance, Dance #2, which includes a nod to Merce Cunningham's centennial in the form of his 1960 work Crises and a new Cunningham-inspired work by Byrd; and the premiere of Byrd's Strange Fruit, which reflects his responses to the Jim Crow Era. The festival also includes community dialogue around issues of racism, gender and justice. April 10–28. spectrumdance.org. —Wendy Perron

Only If for a Night

Ashwini Ramaswamy's Nocturne

Sally Cohn, Courtesy Ragamala

ST. PAUL, MN String quartet Brooklyn Rider and acclaimed bharatanatyam troupe Ragamala Dance Company share an evening for the latest Women of Substance event at The O'Shaughnessy. The former opens with their "Healing Modes" and a quintet of commissions from women composers; the latter presents Ashwini Ramaswamy's Nocturne, an homage to the enigma of night. April 12. oshag.stkate.edu. —Courtney Escoyne

Separation, Suspended

Flyaway Productions

RJ Muna, Courtesy John Hill PR

SAN FRANCISCO AND RICHMOND, CA One of the forms of family separation that rarely gets aired in the media is the estrangement between inmates and the women who love them. Jo Kreiter, artistic director of Flyaway Productions, premieres The Wait Room, a site-specific work for six women that explores the emotional toll of these heart-wrenching circumstances. This is a personal piece for Kreiter, who endured "secondary incarceration" for years. Partnering with Oakland-based Essie Justice Group, an organization of women with incarcerated loved ones, Kreiter enlists the help of set designer Sean Riley and composer Pamela Z. San Francisco, April 19–27; Richmond, CA, May 17–18. flyawayproductions.com. —WP

When Ancient Was Avant-Garde

Reid Bartelme in Gwen Welliver's Couple Riding at Works & Process

Robert Altman/Works & Process at the Guggenheim, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations

NEW YORK CITY Dance's favorite design duo, Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, are back at Works & Process at the Guggenheim. This time, they're collaborating with New York University's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World for a costume and dance commission responding to ISAW's exhibition "Hymn to Apollo: The Ancient World and the Ballets Russes" (through June 2), using original costumes and designs from Sergei Diaghilev's company as a leaping-off point. April 28–29. guggenheim.org. —CE

Not Your Usual Song and Dance

Contemporary choreographers take on the Great White Way

Oklahoma!

Oklahoma! at St. Ann's Warehouse

Teddy Wolff, Courtesy DKC/O&M

NEW YORK CITY Will this fresh revival, direct from its run at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn last fall, manage to retain its charming, disarming intimacy as it scales up to Broadway? John Heginbotham's choreography (inspired by Agnes de Mille's) will make the transfer, but we have to wonder whether the cast members will still be sharing bowls of chili with the audience at intermission. Opens April 7. oklahomabroadway.com. —CE

Hadestown

Hadestown at London's National Theatre

Helen Maybanks, Courtesy DKC/O&M

NEW YORK CITY Hades is a factory owner and Persephone is (still) his bitter wife; Eurydice is looking for stability and Orpheus is (still) a talented, if unfor­tu­nate, musician. Greek mythology is scrambled and set to a slinky, soulful score in Hadestown. The David Neumann–choreographed musical opens on Broadway April 17 after its run at London's National Theatre. Whatever you do, don't look back. hadestown.com. —CE

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Courtesy Harlequin

What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance?

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and with it comes a light at the end of a hibernation tunnel for many dance organizations: a chance to perform again. While social distancing and mask-wearing remain essential to gathering safely, the great outdoors has become an often-preferred performance venue.

But, of course, nature likes to throw its curveballs. What does it take to successfully pull off an alfresco show?

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Dwight Rhodens "Ave Maria," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Keeping dancers safe outside requires the same intentional flooring as you have in the studio—but it also needs to be hearty enough to withstand the weather. With so many factors to consider, two ballet companies consulted with Harlequin Floors to find the perfect floor for their unique circumstances.

Last fall, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre invested in a mobile stage that allowed the dancers to perform live for socially distanced audiences. "But we didn't have an outdoor resilient floor, so we quickly realized that if we had any rain, we were going to be in big trouble—it would have rotted," says artistic director Susan Jaffe.

The company purchased the lightweight, waterproof Harlequin's AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and the heavy-duty Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl, which is manufactured with BioCote® Antimicrobial Protection to help with the prevention of bacteria and mold. After an indoor test run while filming Nutcracker ("It felt exactly like our regular floor," says Jaffe), the company will debut the new setup this May in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park during a two-week series of performances shared with other local arts organizations.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Open Air Series last fall. The company plans to roll out their new Harlequin AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl floor for more outdoor performances this spring.

Harris Ferris, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

In addition to the possibility of rain, a range of temperatures also has to be taken into account. When the State Ballet of Rhode Island received a grant from the state to upgrade its 15-year-old stage, executive director Ana Fox chose the Harlequin Cascade vinyl floor in the lighter gray color "so that it would be cooler if it's reflecting sunlight during daytime performances," she says.

However, for the civic ballet company's first performance on its new 24-by-48–foot stage on November 22, heat was less of a concern than the Northeastern cold. Fortunately, Fox says the surface never got icy or too stiff. "It felt warm to the feel," she says. "You could see the dancers didn't hesitate to run or step into arabesque." (The Harlequin Cascade floor is known for providing a good grip.)

"To have a safe floor for dancers not to worry about shin splints or something of that nature, that's everything," she says. "The dancers have to feel secure."

State Ballet of Rhode Island first rolled out their new Harlequin Cascade™ flooring for an outdoor performance last November.

Courtesy of Harlequin

Of course, the elements need to be considered even when dancers aren't actively performing. Although Harlequin's AeroDeck is waterproof, both PBT and SBRI have tarps to cover their stages to keep any water out. SBRI also does damp mopping before performances to get pollen off the surface. Additionally, the company is building a shed to safely store the floor long-term when it's not in use. "Of course, it's heavy, but laying down the floor and putting it away was not an issue at all," says Fox, adding that both were easy to accomplish with a crew of four people.

Since the Harlequin Cascade surface is versatile enough to support a wide range of dance styles—and even opera and theater sets—both PBT and SBRI are partnering with other local arts organizations to put their outdoor stages to use as much as possible. Because audiences are hungry for art right now.

"In September, I made our outdoor performance shorter so we wouldn't have to worry about intermission or bathrooms, but when it was over, they just sat there," says Jaffe, with a laugh. "People were so grateful and so happy to see us perform. We just got an overwhelming response of love and gratitude."

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Susan Jaffes "Carmina Terra," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

February 2021