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Editors' Picks: Five Must-See Performances This August

Janis Claxton's POP-UP Duets (fragments of love) will appear at Lincoln Center Out of Doors this month. Photo by Roy Campbell-Moore, Courtesy The Corner Shop PR

Summer's end is in sight, and while it might seem like everyone is on layoff (or at Jacob's Pillow or Vail), there's still plenty of dance to see before the fall season starts in earnest. Here are our top five performance picks for August.


Natalia Osipova Bewitches as Isadora Duncan

Natalia Osipova as Isadora Duncan. Photo by Sergei Misenko, Courtesy Segerstrom Center for the Arts

COSTA MESA, CA Isadora Duncan was famously derisive toward ballet, but ballet has long been fascinated by her—both Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan created works for The Royal Ballet inspired by Duncan. International ballet star Natalia Osipova is the latest to be bewitched by the modern dance revolutionary. She's starring in a new ballet titled ISADORA, with choreography by the Mariinsky's Vladimir Varnava to music from Prokofiev's Cinderella. Premieres at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Aug. 10–12. scfta.org. —Courtney Escoyne

A Rom-Com Romp Hits Broadway

Samantha Barks and Steve Kazee in the pre-Broadway run of Pretty Woman: The Musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Courtesy Polk & Company

NEW YORK CITY August isn't the biggest time for Broadway openings, but Pretty Woman: The Musical, based on the beloved 1990 movie, arrives in New York City this month after a Chicago run. Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots), it has music and lyrics by Canadian pop star Bryan Adams and his songwriting partner Jim Vallance. Andy Karl, the trouper who was last seen on Broadway in a knee brace while starring in Groundhog Day, plays the Richard Gere role. Samantha Barks (Les Misérables) has the finesse, the poise and the voice to play Vivian, but can she break out laughing as infectiously as Julia Roberts? Opens Aug. 16. prettywomanthemusical.com. —Wendy Perron

Another Day of Sun at Lincoln Center

Janis Claxton's POP-UP Duets (fragments of love) emerges in public spaces. Photo by Lucas Kao, Courtesy Lincoln Center

NEW YORK CITY Free performances at an iconic New York City campus under the summer sun—is there anything more delightful? Lincoln Center Out of Doors continues its three-week extra-vaganza this month. Dance Theatre of Harlem brings a mix of the old and new to its Aug. 4 performance: resident choreographer Robert Garland's New Bach (1999), which sprinkles balletic formations with boogying; Christopher Wheeldon's dreamlike, sinewy duet, This Bitter Earth (2012); Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven (1993), Ulysses Dove's dramatic requiem to the celestial music of Arvo Pärt; and the jazzy Harlem on My Mind (2018), by Darrell Grand Moultrie. The opening by honey-voiced pop singer ALA.NI, all the rage in Europe, will be a treat. Also try wandering by the Josie Robertson Plaza Aug. 1–5. You just might catch Janis Claxton's POP-UP Duets (fragments of love) (2016), a series of hypnotic, playful dances for two—each clocking in at five minutes—that expose relationships with exquisite sensitivity. lincolncenter.org/out-of-doors. —CE and WP

Familiar Faces Descend on Edinburgh International Festival

Akram Khan's Kadamati. Photo by Kois Miah, Courtesy Edinburgh International Festival

EDINBURGH Strange and spectacular are consistently accurate adjectives for the offerings at Edinburgh International Festival. But this year's dance programs are full of familiar faces: Akram Khan brings his latest (and last) solo Xenos and a companion community-dance piece, Kadamati; Company Wayne McGregor performs his Autobiography; and L-E-V will dance Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar's Love Cycle, comprising OCD Love and the more recent Love Chapter 2. But just as intriguing, if less familiar, is Michèle Anne De May's Cold Blood, a narrative-driven, cinema-dance show featuring choreography just for hands. Aug. 3–27. eif.co.uk. —CE

Royal New Zealand Ballet Celebrates Women's Suffrage

Royal New Zealand Ballet dancers in rehearsal. Photo by Stephen A'Court, Courtesy RNZB

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND Patricia Barker has commissioned four female choreographers to create premieres for a program celebrating the 65th and 125th anniversaries of Royal New Zealand Ballet and women's suffrage in New Zealand, respectively. Strength and Grace features new works by Penny Saunders (choreographer in residence at Barker's former artistic home, Grand Rapids Ballet), Danielle Rowe, Sarah Foster-Sproull and Andrea Schermoly. Aug. 17–18. rnzb.org.nz. —CE

The Conversation
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The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.

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Sponsored by McCallum Theatre
Last year's winner: Manuel Vignoulle's EARTH. Jack Hartin Photography, Courtesy McCallum Theatre

It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.

Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.

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Still of Fonteyn from the 1972 film I Am a Dancer. Photo courtesy DM Archives

On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.

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Dance As Activism
Courtesy #Dance4OurLives

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A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.

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Getty Images

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Unity Phelan in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Photo by Niko Tavernise, Courtesy FRANK PR

"New York City Ballet star appears in a Keanu Reeves action movie" is not a sentence we ever thought we'd write. But moviegoers seeing John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum will be treated to two scenes featuring soloist Unity Phelan dancing choreography by colleague Tiler Peck. The guns-blazing popcorn flick cast Phelan as a ballerina who also happens to be training to become an elite assassin. Opens in theaters May 17.

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Walsh's Moon Fate Sin at Danspace Project. Like Fame Notions, the title was derived from Yvonne Rainer's "No" manifesto. Photo by Ian Douglas, Courtesy Danspace Project

The Brooklyn-based choreographer Gillian Walsh is both obsessed with and deeply conflicted about dance. With her latest work, Fame Notions, May 17–19 at Performance Space New York, she seeks to understand what she calls the "fundamentally pessimistic or alienating pursuit" of being a dancer. Noting that the piece is "quiet and introverted," like much of her other work, she sees Fame Notions as one step in a larger project examining why dancers dance.

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Via YouTube

What does Mikhail Baryshnikov have to say to dancers starting their careers today? On Friday, he gave the keynote speech during the graduation ceremony for the inaugural class of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.

The heart of his message: Be generous.

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