10 Must-See Shows Hitting Stages This April

April 2, 2024

The spring performance season is moving full steam ahead with literary-inspired ballets, a queer reimagining of Carmen, and premieres drawing from everything from the upcoming solar eclipse to contemporary American politics. Here’s what’s grabbing our attention.

A Jazzy Centennial

A black and white archival photo of Max Roach, smiling as he sits at a drumkit.
Max Roach. Photo courtesy Richard Kornberg & Associates.

NEW YORK CITY  As part of the nationwide celebration of iconic jazz drummer and composer Max Roach, Richard Colton curated The Joyce Theater’s Max Roach 100 program, which will feature a new work to Roach’s Percussion Bitter Sweet album by Ronald K. Brown for Malpaso Dance Company and EVIDENCE, A Dance Company; Rennie Harris Puremovement in The Dream/It’s Time; and a solo by tap star Ayodele Casel set to a series of duets by Roach and Cecil Taylor. April 2–7. joyce.org. —Courtney Escoyne


On a dark stage, a dancer slides toward the floor, one hand blurred as it reaches for the ground and the other pulling his head to one side. Four dancers similarly costumed in sweatpants and different shirts are blurs of motion upstage.
NDT in William Forsythe’s 12 N. Photo by Rahi Rezvani, courtesy New York City Center/NDT.

NEW YORK CITY   Nederlands Dans Theater returns to New York City Center for the first time since Emily Molnar took the helm. William Forsythe’s N.N.N.N. is joined by a pair of U.S. premieres: Imre and Marne van Opstal’s The Point Being and Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Jakie. April 3–6. nycitycenter.org. —Courtney Escoyne

Centering Latina Voices

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa demonstrates a pose, one arm raised as the other wraps toward her waist, as a dancer mirrors her, others crowding around watching.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa rehearsing her Broken Wings with San Francisco Ballet. Photo by Lindsay Rallo, courtesy SFB.

SAN FRANCISCO  The Carmen premiering at San Francisco Ballet this month won’t look or sound the same as usual. Choreographer Arielle Smith (a 2022 “25 to Watch” pick) sets the tale in contemporary Cuba—specifically at the family restaurant to which the titular heroine returns with her new husband after the death of her mother—while refocusing the story on Carmen and emphasizing the depth and complexity of the characters with cinematic flair. Escamillo, whom Carmen falls in love with, is recast as a woman, and the new score by Arturo O’Farrill only references the familiar Bizet opera as it layers in Cuban folk music. Joining the new ballet on the Dos Mujeres program is Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Frida Kahlo–inspired Broken Wings (which SFB artistic director Tamara Rojo commissioned and starred in during her English National Ballet tenure). The evening marks the first double bill choreographed by women and the first full program dedicated to Latinx stories at SFB. April 4–14. sfballet.org. —CE

Eclipsing All Else

A dancer stands downstage, shown from the waist up, the top half of their face hidden by a pig mask. Their hair is straight black and loose to their elbows. They wear a backpack. Two dancers are blurry upstage.
the feath3r theory’s The Absolute Future. Photo courtesy the feath3r theory.

NEW YORK CITY  Ahead of the Great North American Eclipse on April 8, the feath3r theory alights at NYU Skirball to premiere a devised dance theater work about a group of friends who team up to watch the celestial event and miss it. Raja Feather Kelly draws on Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death, the popularity of the science fiction concept of the multiverse, and the ways social media exacerbates loneliness and society’s inability to face it for The Absolute Future (or Death, Loneliness, and The Absolute Future of the Multiverse, or How to Cover the Sun with Mud). April 5–6. nyuskirball.org. —CE

Carnival of Politics

Marc Bamuthi Joseph stands against a white backdrop, palms upraised in offering as his arms bend at the elbow. Wendy Whelan is almost invisible behind him, save for her paler arms rising up from behind his shoulders, hands in loose fists.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Wendy Whelan. Photo by Leslie Lyons, courtesy SOZO.

SEATTLE  Choreographed and directed by Francesca Harper and performed by dancer Wendy Whelan and poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Carnival of the Animals reframes the Camille Saint-Saëns classic to consider the animals of a political jungle as it responds to the January 6 insurrection and contemplates the future of democracy. The SOZO-produced work premieres at the Meany Center for the Performing Arts on April 6. sozoartists.com. —CE

Memories of Matriarchs

Artist Jasmine Hearn sitting on a white bench in front of a white wall in a gallery setting. They are wearing a brown blouse and a yellow skirt and tennis shoes. They are leaning back with both arms up and outstretched.
Jasmine Hearn in their Memory Fleet: A Return to Matr. Photo by Jay Warr, courtesy DiverseWorks.

HOUSTON  With three “Bessie” Awards, the Rome Prize, and a sumptuous stage presence, Jasmine Hearn is one of the most acclaimed contemporary dance artists to come out of Houston. But Memory Fleet: A Return to Matr, a performance, installation, and online archive that preserves the memories of eight Black Houston matriarchs, is their first major commission in their hometown. Commissioned by DiverseWorks, the multidisciplinary project includes original sound scores, choreography, and garments, along with guest performances by former Houston Ballet soloist Sandra Organ Solis and additional vocals and performances by local dancers and “Houston Aunties,” as Hearn calls them. The premiere at Houston Met April 6–7 will be followed by tours to Pittsburgh and New York City. diverseworks.org. —Nancy Wozny

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

A massive, foggy stage is lit blue as a laser of light cuts the space from stage left to stage right. Ten dancers are scattered around, facing different directions, wearing neck ruffles and, in some cases, broad skirts. A singular dancer is spotlit, upstage center, facing downstage.
The Royal Ballet in Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works. Photo by Andrej Uspenski, courtesy ABT.

COSTA MESA, CA  American Ballet Theatre presents the North American premiere of Woolf Works, Wayne McGregor’s three-act meditation on the writings of Virginia Woolf, at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Inspired by her novels Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando, and The Waves as well as her letters and diaries, the critically acclaimed ballet eschews narrative adaptation to take a stream of consciousness approach to the modernist writer’s oeuvre. April 11–14. abt.org. —CE

Bill T. Jones at Harlem Stage

Five dancers painted bright colors dance spaced far apart, each holding to a square created by yellow tape on a white floor.
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company in Curriculum II. Photo by Maria Baranova, courtesy Blake Zidell & Associates/New York Live Arts.

NEW YORK CITY  Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company premieres two pièces d’occasion—People, Places and Things, reflecting some of the themes of Jones’ ongoing Curriculum series, and Memory Piece, a solo performed by Jones—as part of Harlem Stage’s E-Moves program’s 40th anniversary. Also on offer is an excerpt of Roderick George’s The Missing Fruit. April 19–20. harlemstage.org. —CE

Editor’s note: This item was updated on April 8, 2024, to reflect programming changes made after this story went to print.

Packed With Premieres

Two dancers pose against a teal backdrop. One extends her upstage leg to 90 degrees, arms in an extended third position. The other is caught midair, one foot tucked behind the opposite knee, arms crossed over her chest as she looks over one shoulder. Both are barefoot and wearing matching trunks and bra tops.
South Chicago Dance Theatre’s Mya Bryant and Kim Davis. Photo by Michelle Reid Photography, courtesy SCDT.

CHICAGO  South Chicago Dance Theatre returns to the Auditorium Theatre for an evening filled to the brim with premieres by Donald Byrd, Joshua Blake Carter, Monique Haley, Tsai Hsi Hung, Terence Marling, and founding executive artistic director Kia Smith. April 27. southchicagodancetheatre.com. —CE

The Weight of a Lie

Cathy Marston smiles widely as she sits in a rolling chair at the front of a sunny, mirrored rehearsal studio. She is barefoot, a notebook sitting at her feet.
Cathy Marston. Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy San Francisco Ballet.

ZURICH  Cathy Marston brings her penchant for literary adaptation to Atonement, her first new work as Ballett Zürich’s director. In Ian McEwan’s novel and Joe Wright’s acclaimed film adaptation, teenage writer Briony Tallis tells a deliberate lie about her older sister’s lover and spends the rest of her life attempting to make up for its unintended consequences. Marston transfers the action to the world of ballet, making Tallis a choreographer while wrestling with the story’s questions about the fallibility of memory and the nature of self-deception and guilt. April 28–June 7. opernhaus.ch. —CE