Season Preview: The Most Intriguing Shows of the 2019–20 Season

March 16, 2020

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.

Travis Wall, a white man dressed in plain black clothing that reveals tattoo sleeves, stands behind a white table at the front of a mirrored studio. In the foreground, a male dancer with his back to the camera moves through arabesque.

Travis Wall
Mark Roberts, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Right Men, Wrong Man

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. —Madeline Schrock

A man wearing a windbreaker and a beanie kneels, his chin pressed against the barrel of a shotgun. A blurry woman dressed in white with large wings runs past, looking back at him. Behind her, the stage is covering in a black, trash bagu2013like material. On a raised platform upstage, three barefoot, besuited musicians hold string instruments. Another woman in white with wings leans back against the musician's platform.

Michael Keegan-Dolan’s
Loch na hEala
Marie-Laure Briane, Courtesy BAM

Swan Lake Gets Twisted

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. —Camille LeFevre

John Heginbotham, a white man with fluffy brown hair and beard, demonstrates in a studio, his right arm stretched in front of him, his left curving under so his left wrist touches his right elbow.

John Heginbotham
Janelle Jones, Courtesy TWB

John Heginbotham Takes Washington

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. —Chava Lansky

Eight barefoot dancers, half men and half women, dance barefoot around an older woman in an orange and yellow dress who seems to be mid-song or chant. The dancers wear colorful trousers and skirts and plain tank tops; they all look delighted.

Bangarra Dance Theatre in Stephen Page’s
Vishal Pandey, Courtesy Harris Theater

65,000 Years of Tradition

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. —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. and —Steve Sucato

Three images are spliced into one. On the left, a dark-skinned woman arches upside down from the floor, supported by her right forearm as her left arm curves upward. In the center, a woman of Indian descent, draped in orange and red, reaches one hand forward, thumb and forefinger almost touching, blocking half her face from view. On the right, a white woman hovers on relevu00e9, her left arm draped so it obscures her face as she tips off-balance.

Alanna Morris-Van Tassel, Ashwini Ramaswamy and Berit Ahlgren
Courtesy Ramaswamy

Bharatanatyam Takes Flight

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. —Linda Shapiro

A dark-skinned man and woman lean against an upstage wall with their upper bodies as they pliu00e9 in second position. The man and the wall behind him are bathed in blue light; the woman and her half of the space in red light.

Oluwadamilare “Dare” Ayorinde and Myssi Robinson in Kyle Marshall’s
David Gonsier, Courtesy BAM

Kyle Marshall’s BAM Debut

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. —Gia Kourlas

Performers in street clothes are caught mid-jump over a stage lit in red. Upstage, darkly lit musicians are on a platform.

The A.R.T. production of
Jagged Little Pill
Evgenia Eliseeva, Courtesy A.R.T.

An “Ironic” Hit Arrives on Broadway

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. —Sylviane Gold

A woman drips a puddle of plum-colored paint onto the floor of a clinical white room. Her arms cradle the bundle of her long, drenched skirt as she hunches over a deep second position pliu00e9.

Rocío Molina in her
Caída del Cielo
Pablo Guidali, Courtesy Molina

Rocío Molina Falls to Earth

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., and —Alice Blumenfeld

On a shadowy stage, a man lies on his back, his left arm cradling the neck of the woman behind him. She is balanced on her cocyx and heels and is leaning back toward the man. Her arms curve softly toward her face.

Keone and Mari Madrid
Gabe Galedo, Courtesy Vivacity Media Group

The Britney Musical

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. —Margaret Fuhrer

A barefoot, blonde woman wearing a pink summer dress stands at a 45 degree angle to the ground, supported by a man in light colored slacks and a button-down. Her arms form right angles, chin almost resting on one hand. All that is visible of her face are her red lips.

Pina Bausch’s
Palermo Palermo
Evangelos Rodoulis, Courtesy Harris Theater

Palermo Palermo Heads Stateside

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., and —Lauren Warnecke

A white man with a shaved head and wearing a black tracksuit leans against a barre in profile, one hand raised to his mouth as he stares intently into the studio. In the mirror in the background, a woman looking at papers atop a piano.

Wayne McGregor
Andrej Uspenski, Courtesy ROH

The Royal Ballet Enters the Inferno

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. —Courtney Escoyne

Four Choreographers Making a Splash

While these dancemakers aren’t new to the game, this season their dance cards are overflowing.

Out of focus in the foreground, a male and female dancer are mid-promenade, the woman's back to the camera as the man's hands support her at the waist. Lopez Ochoa, a woman with short hair, watches intently with her hands on her hips.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Chris Hardy, Courtesy Lopez Ochoa

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa

In addition to revivals at companies across the country, versatile Colombian-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa is creating five new works.

In a busy studio, a woman kneels, sitting back on her heels, with one hand resting in her lap and the other arm raised to 90 degrees and bent at the elbow, one finger pointing. Behind her, female dancers in pointe shoes and ballet slippers watch and imitate the gesture, some kneeling like Marston, others standing.

Cathy Marston rehearsing her
Jane Eyre
at ABT
Rosalie O’Connor, Courtesy ABT

Cathy Marston

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.

  • The Joffrey Ballet, Chicago debut of Jane Eyre, Oct. 16–27.
  • The Royal Ballet, world premiere inspired by the cellist Jacqueline du Pré, Feb. 17–March 4.
  • San Francisco Ballet, world premiere, March 24–April 4.

A dark-skinned man sits at the front of the studio, legs stretched out in front of him, back against the mirror. Out of focus in the mirror are dancers in a pause in rehearsal, all dressed in warm-up gear.

Kyle Abraham
Ye Momz House, Inc., Courtesy A.I.M

Kyle Abraham

After his boundary-breaking success at New York City Ballet last year, Kyle Abraham is in higher demand than ever.

  • New York City Center’s Fall for Dance, world premiere solo for Misty Copeland, Oct. 1–13.
  • A.I.M at The Joyce Theater, world premiere solo, Oct. 15–20.
  • Paul Taylor Dance Company, world premiere, Oct. 30.
  • Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, world premiere, Nov. 7–10.
  • A.I.M at Houston’s Society for the Performing Arts, world premiere of full-length An Untitled Love, June 4–5.

A short white woman stands at the front of the studio, legs in a wide second as she grins at a dancer out of frame. In the foreground, out of focus dancers in brightly colored warm-ups.

Pam Tanowitz in rehearsal at NYCB
Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

Pam Tanowitz

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.
  • Paul Taylor Dance Company, revival of this year’s all at once, Nov. 6, 15 and 17.
  • Pam Tanowitz Dance at The Joyce Theater, New York City premiere of New Work for Goldberg Variations, Dec. 10–15.
  • New York City Ballet, world premiere, April 24–25; May 3 and 5. —Chava Lansky