Kick Off the New Decade With These Editor-Approved Performance Picks

January 7, 2020

The ’20s might just be beginning, but the dance world hasn’t lost any momentum. Here are five performances for a roaring start to the decade.

The Air We Breathe

Valencia gestures to the side with her right hand, torso slumped and head turned to the audience, mouth open as though mid-speech. Her left arm tangles in front of her torso. Her left leg is in forced arch, supporting her slouched posture. To the viewer's right is a painting of a vase of flowers.

Mariana Valencia in her Yugoslavia

Ian Douglas, Courtesy Blake Zidell & Associates

In her new evening-length, Mariana Valencia pays homage to the Mexican and Mexican-American pop culture icons whose work she grew up with, such as the comedian Cantinflas and the sitcom characters El Chavo and Don Ramón. In AIR, the Latina choreographer, who took home the Bessie Award for Outstanding Breakout Choreographer in 2018, roots out these unconscious influences on her work through a mixture of poetry, lecture and dance. Jan. 9–11, 16–18. —Courtney Escoyne

Common Time

A shirtless black man balances on one leg, arms making an embracing gesture in the direction his extended left leg is pointing. He calmly gazes in the same direction, past his splayed fingers.
Antoine Hunter

RJ Muna, Courtesy Hunter

Deaf dance pioneer Antoine Hunter and San Francisco Contemporary Music Players are teaming up to pay tribute to Merce Cunningham and John Cage. The work, set to Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra—originally the accompaniment for Cunningham’s Antic Meet—places Hunter onstage among the musicians. He’ll be able to see their movements, but not hear the piece—which features flexible musical phrases, with order and pacing determined largely by the performers in the moment. Hunter won’t be improvising, though: In another nod to Cunningham and Cage, who famously developed their dances and scores independently, he’ll have set his own movement in advance. Jan. 17. —Rachel F. Elson

Why We Build the Wall

Two men in button downs and sneakers jam, eyes downcast, in the foreground. In the background, a trio of women chat in front of a wire fence with a section of colorful yarn dangling above their heads.

Keone Madrid in Beyond Babel

Aidan Gibney, Courtesy The Press Room

Commercial dance darlings Keone and Mari Madrid are bringing their West Coast cool off- Broadway. Co-produced with Brooklyn’s Hideaway Circus, Beyond Babel contemporizes Romeo and Juliet to comment on today’s social issues—in particular, the proposed border wall. London Kaye’s crocheted set elements and the Madrids’ portrayal of the star-crossed lovers combine in the duo’s first evening-length work, which debuted in San Diego in 2018. Previews begin Jan. 21, with an official opening set for Feb. 2. —CE

Step Back

In a spotlight, a toned black woman in brightly colored, traditional pants and a red crop top moves through a deep pliu00e9, her left arm crossing in front of her torso and right arm swinging back as though winding up. A musician is visible upstage, and another woman hinges in a spotlight in the background.
Step Afrika!

Jati Lindsay, Courtesy The New 42nd Street

Step Afrika!’s latest work digs into the genesis of stepping. Inspired by the Stono Rebellion and subsequent Negro Act of 1740, which forbade the use of drums, reading and assembly, Drumfolk honors the origins and resilience of percussive movement forms. In addition to contemporary stepping work and beatboxing, it utilizes the ring shout (rarely seen on U.S. stages) and features the company’s first presentation of masked dances from Nigeria and Benin, illustrating the traditions in which modern stepping is rooted. Jan. 22–24 at Publick Playhouse, with a national tour to follow. —CE

Shades of Bayadère

A man in flowy black bottoms and a golden sweater arches back on a set of broad stone steps. His left forearm rests on the step behind him, head twisted nearly upside down as his right arm seems to push away an unseen force.
Filip Van Roe, Courtesy Royal Ballet of Flanders

Daniel Proietto is taking a big swing with his first full-length. RASA [after La Bayadère] seeks to dig into the classical ballet’s problematic colonialist perspective to find a multicultural approach to spirituality. Debuting at Royal Ballet of Flanders this month, the work draws on the devadasi tradition that inspired the ballet’s original scenario, Gustave Doré’s illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy and the idea of rasa—an elusive concept roughly translated from Sanskrit as “essence” or “flavor,” which carries both spiritual and aesthetic connotations. Jan. 25–Feb. 2 in Antwerp, Feb. 7–12 in Ghent. —CE