Season Preview: The Most Intriguing Shows of the 2019–20 Season
The 2019–20 season is here, and with it more performances than any one person could reasonably catch. But fear not: We polled our writers and editors and selected the 31 most promising tickets, adding up to one endlessly intriguing year of dance.
Right Men, Wrong Man
Mark Roberts, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet
Hamilton cohorts Thomas Kail and Alex Lacamoire are at it again. This time, the director and orchestrator are collaborating on a new off-Broadway musical riffing off of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." The Wrong Man tells the story of Duran, who didn't shoot "a man in Reno just to watch him die," but was blamed for a murder he says he didn't commit.
The book, music and lyrics were developed by Ross Golan, whose chart-topping songwriting credits span from Flo Rida to Ariana Grande to Lady Antebellum. Travis Wall's choreography completes the production's promising pop-culture mashup. Previews start Sept. 18. Opens Oct. 7 at MCC Theater New York City. mcctheater.org. —Madeline Schrock
Swan Lake Gets Twisted
Michael Keegan-Dolan's Loch na hEala
Marie-Laure Briane, Courtesy BAM
There's never been a Swan Lake quite like this. In Michael Keegan-Dolan's Loch na hEala, a Catholic priest, caught sexually abusing one of his gifted young charges, turns the girls into "swans" wearing convent frocks. The prince? Unemployed, living with his mother and toting a shotgun. The beautifully bleak work finds moments of reprieve in comic vignettes and exquisite movement gleaned from Irish and modern idioms.
Created for Keegan-Dolan's Teaċ Daṁsa (House of Dance) in 2016, Loch na hEala is an Irish folk tale with contemporary relevance. The piece receives its U.S. premiere at Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival Oct. 15–20, then travels to Minneapolis, Ottawa, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor and Chapel Hill this fall. teacdamsa.com. —Camille LeFevre
John Heginbotham Takes Washington
Janelle Jones, Courtesy TWB
John Heginbotham breathed new life into Oklahoma!'s famous "dream ballet" during last season's Broadway revival, turning it into an eerie and innovative contemporary solo in sparkles. One can only hope that his newest ballet, presented as part of The Washington Ballet's NEXTsteps program Oct. 23–27, will be half as refreshing. Known for his quirky, athletic and very human work, Heginbotham is an unusual and compelling choice, an example of artistic director Julie Kent's ongoing mission to diversify TWB's repertoire. The contemporary choreographer's company debut will share a program with premieres by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Jessica Lang. washingtonballet.org. —Chava Lansky
65,000 Years of Tradition
Bangarra Dance Theatre in Stephen Page's Nyapanyapa
Vishal Pandey, Courtesy Harris Theater
Australia's Bangarra Dance Theatre, which has been bringing indigenous stories to the concert dance stage for 30 years, celebrates its anniversary with the company's Chicago debut and first major Canadian tour. Bangarra will perform artistic director Stephen Page's work Spirit, a compilation of company repertoire derived from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legends representing cultural traditions spanning 65,000 years. Before a finale at Chicago's Harris Theater, the tour makes stops in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario, where they'll engage in a cross-cultural residency at Six Nations of the Grand River—the only territory in North America where members of all six Iroquois nations live together. Oct. 25–Nov. 23. bangarra.com.au. —Lauren Warnecke
Ballets Russes and Beyond
The 110th anniversary of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes brings two distinct programs celebrating the company that forever changed how ballets were made. Ballet West's Balanchine's Ballets Russes, Oct. 25, 26, 31 and Nov. 2 in Salt Lake City, highlights the choreographic icon's early works, including Apollo, Prodigal Son and a new reconstruction of his first ballet, The Song of the Nightingale (Le Chant du Rossignol). Milwaukee Ballet offers up contemporary takes on Fokine and Nijinsky classics in Ballet Russe Reimagined, Feb. 13–16. Included are the premieres of resident choreographers Timothy O'Donnell's The Rite of Spring and Petr Zahradníček's Petrushka, alongside the debut of company leading artist Nicole Teague-Howell's character-driven reimagining of The Firebird. balletwest.org and milwaukeeballet.org. —Steve Sucato
Bharatanatyam Takes Flight
Alanna Morris-Van Tassel, Ashwini Ramaswamy and Berit Ahlgren
In Let the Crows Come, Ashwini Ramaswamy revivifies the ancient dance form bharatanatyam by filtering it through the bodies of dancers from wildly diverse traditions. Beginning with a solo for herself, she then riffs on it with solos for two remarkable performers: Her collaboration with Alanna Morris-Van Tassel amplifies the intricate gestural language into full-bodied movement, while Ramaswamy and the Gaga-trained Berit Ahlgren take inspiration from a slow-motion video of the original solo played in reverse. Commissioned by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music series, the work premieres Nov. 8–9 at The Lab Theater, Minneapolis. liquidmusic.org. —Linda Shapiro
Kyle Marshall’s BAM Debut
Oluwadamilare "Dare" Ayorinde and Myssi Robinson in Kyle Marshall's Colored
David Gonsier, Courtesy BAM
Kyle Marshall has been thinking a lot about Christianity lately. What is the residue of a religious experience? How does it live in the body? For A.D., he is considering the Bible and "thinking about how I'm connected to it as someone who grew up going to church," he says, "but don't necessarily believe in those things now." Marshall is, in part, inspired by the writings of Malcolm X and how we are shaped by the images we see—namely, that God is a white man. "We all have spirit, we all have a soul, we all have good," he says. "I'm very interested in trying to embody these things in a different way." The premiere of A.D. is part of Marshall's debut at Brooklyn Academy of Music during the Next Wave Festival, and will be performed alongside his evocative, intimate Colored. Dec. 4–7. bam.org. —Gia Kourlas
An “Ironic” Hit Arrives on Broadway
The A.R.T. production of Jagged Little Pill
Evgenia Eliseeva, Courtesy A.R.T.
Yet another high-powered package of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll comes to Broadway Nov. 3, when Jagged Little Pill starts previews. The show repurposes the harsh, hard-rocking songs of Alanis Morissette's 1995 best-seller to propel a Diablo Cody story of teen angst and suburban blight. The musical, about a seemingly happy family forced to face a multitude of racial, chemical and psychological problems, was a smash last year at Harvard's American Repertory Theater. Tony-winning director Diane Paulus enlisted Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to do the choreography—and one critic has already suggested that Cherkaoui should be writing a Tony acceptance speech. Others in the running could be music supervisor Tom Kitt, who already won for Next to Normal; Cody, already in possession of an Oscar; and the Grammy-winning Morissette and co-composer Glen Ballard. The official opening is set for Dec. 5 at the Broadhurst Theatre. jaggedlittlepill.com. —Sylviane Gold
Rocío Molina Falls to Earth
Rocío Molina in her Caída del Cielo
Pablo Guidali, Courtesy Molina
Caída del Cielo is not flamenco for the faint of heart. Rocío Molina disassembles the hypersexualized stereotypes surrounding the style, stripping away all artifice and reaching a new level of freedom. Tumbling in a white flamenco dress, the train of ruffles spirals and arches around her as she slithers, snakelike, across the stage. In other moments, dressed like a boxer ready to give the knockout blow, her opponent is the floor, which her feet strike with precision and supple musicality. The show will make its U.S. premiere March 25 at Pittsburgh's Byham Theater before heading to New York City Center's Flamenco Festival, March 27, and Vancouver's DanceHouse, April 1–4. trustarts.org, nycitycenter.org and dancehouse.ca. —Alice Blumenfeld
The Britney Musical
Keone and Mari Madrid
Gabe Galedo, Courtesy Vivacity Media Group
In broad outline, Once Upon a One More Time sounds like a particularly surreal game of Mad Libs: It's a musical featuring the songs of Britney Spears. It centers on a book club of fairy-tale princesses. They're introduced to the work of feminist writer Betty Friedan.
But take a closer look, and you'll notice signs of brilliance—especially from a dance perspective. Few can harness the helium-balloon buoyancy of Spears' song catalogue as well as choreography duo Keone and Mari Madrid, who'll be bringing their thoughtful pop sensibility to the show. Add even a couple of the exceptional dancers who've been performing with Spears during her various Vegas residencies to this mix, and…could Once Upon a One More Time be a work of Dadaesque genius? Head to Chicago's James M. Nederlander Theatre this spring (previews begin April 14) to find out. broadwayinchicago.com. —Margaret Fuhrer
Palermo Palermo Heads Stateside
Pina Bausch's Palermo Palermo
Evangelos Rodoulis, Courtesy Harris Theater
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch returns stateside this spring, bringing Bausch's 1989 masterpiece Palermo Palermo. This outrageous, cacophonous, customarily absurd dance theater work leaves a veritable trash heap onstage as the dancers navigate an imagined reality set in post–World War II Italy. Considered quintessential among Bausch's body of work, it's the first chance American audiences have had to see Palermo Palermo since the choreographer's death in 2009. The U.S. tour makes stops in Los Angeles, Berkeley and, for the first time, Chicago. April 17–May 3. musiccenter.org, calperformances.org and harristheaterchicago.org. —Lauren Warnecke
The Royal Ballet Enters the Inferno
Andrej Uspenski, Courtesy ROH
For better or worse, the projects Wayne McGregor chooses are never not ambitious—and his next full-length for The Royal Ballet is no exception. For The Dante Project, set to original music by renowned contemporary composer Thomas Adès (co-commissioned by the LA Philharmonic), he takes Dante Alighieri's allegorical Divine Comedy as inspiration. While McGregor's signature hyperphysical movement vocabulary seems a natural fit for the tortured denizens of Inferno (featured in the first act, which debuted this summer in Los Angeles), and perhaps even the penitent pilgrims of Purgatorio, can he achieve the transcendent vision of Paradiso? We'll find out when the complete ballet premieres in London. May 6–June 1. roh.org.uk. —Courtney Escoyne
Four Choreographers Making a Splash
While these dancemakers aren't new to the game, this season their dance cards are overflowing.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Chris Hardy, Courtesy Lopez Ochoa
In addition to revivals at companies across the country, versatile Colombian-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa is creating five new works.
- The Washington Ballet, world premiere of Delusional Beauty, Oct. 23–27. washingtonballet.org.
- BalletMet, world premiere, Oct. 25–Nov. 2. balletmet.org.
- Nashville Ballet, American company premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire, Nov. 1–3. nashvilleballet.com.
- Ballet Hispánico, world premiere, Nov. 22–23. ballethispanico.org.
- Dutch National Ballet, world premiere of Frida, Feb. 6–25. operaballet.nl.
- Whim W'Him, world premiere, May 29–30; June 5–6. whimwhim.org.
Cathy Marston rehearsing her Jane Eyre at ABT
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT
Better known in the UK for her literary story ballets, Cathy Marston got a spotlight stateside this summer when American Ballet Theatre performed her Jane Eyre. Now she has even more chances to showcase her talents on both sides of the pond.
Ye Momz House, Inc., Courtesy A.I.M
- New York City Center's Fall for Dance, world premiere solo for Misty Copeland, Oct. 1–13. nycitycenter.org.
- A.I.M at The Joyce Theater, world premiere solo, Oct. 15–20. joyce.org.
- Paul Taylor Dance Company, world premiere, Oct. 30. ptamd.org.
- Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, world premiere, Nov. 7–10. hubbardstreetdance.com.
- A.I.M at Houston's Society for the Performing Arts, world premiere of full-length An Untitled Love, June 4–5. spahouston.org.
Pam Tanowitz in rehearsal at NYCB
Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB
Postmodern choreographer Pam Tanowitz is breaking into the uptown world after years of creating for smaller companies and her own troupe.
- The Royal Ballet, world premiere as part of the Merce Cunningham Centennial Celebration, Oct. 10–11. roh.org.uk.
- Paul Taylor Dance Company, revival of this year's all at once, Nov. 6, 15 and 17. ptamd.org.
- Pam Tanowitz Dance at The Joyce Theater, New York City premiere of New Work for Goldberg Variations, Dec. 10–15. joyce.org.
- New York City Ballet, world premiere, April 24–25; May 3 and 5. nycballet.org. —Chava Lansky
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Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.