The Joffrey Ballet's Victoria Jaiani and Alberto Velazquez in Anna Karenina. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy The Joffrey Ballet

6 Shows This Month Worth Braving the Cold to See

Unexpected collaborations, celebrations of culture, literary classics that take a turn for the tragic—it might be freezing outside, but the new season is just heating up. Here are six shows we'd happily brave the winter weather for this month.


Criss-Crossing Culture Zones

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Colin Dunne. Photo by Koen Broos, Courtesy Eastman

RENNES, FRANCE Throw two wondrous dancers from different cultures together, give them a couple of musicians, stir the pot and what do you get? With Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Irish step master Colin Dunne, a whole lot. Both are fascinating performers who have journeyed way outside their comfort zones with humor and generosity. Now they come together at Théâtre National de Bretagne to play with sight, sound and motion in Session. Feb. 1–8. east-man.be. —Wendy Perron

An Excellent Hair Day

NEW YORK CITY When Urban Bush Women premiered Jawole Willa Jo Zollar's HairStories in 2001, the performance was raucous, giddy, culturally revelatory and sheer communal fun. The recent revision and expansion, Hair & Other Stories, with choreography by associate artistic directors Chanon Judson and Samantha Speis, has been touring the country and now comes back to its home in Brooklyn. This dance theater work investigates questions about beauty, identity and race with UBW's signature sass and full-out dancing. Jan. 31–Feb. 2 and Feb. 7–9. bricartsmedia.org. —WP

Out of the Shadows

TORONTO What are we when no one is around to see? In who we are in the dark, seven dancers weather intimacy and betrayal in the wake of shifting identities and relationships. Violinist Sarah Neufeld and drummer Jeremy Gara of indie rock band Arcade Fire join Peggy Baker Dance Projects for its latest work, which premieres at Fall for Dance North Feb. 21–24 before traveling to other Canadian venues. peggybakerdance.com. —Courtney Escoyne

When in Doubt, Go to the Library

Dance's love affair with classic literature continues this month with three stories, each "unhappy in its own way."

Anna Karenina

CHICAGO It seemed inevitable that Yuri Possokhov (and his go-to composer, Ilya Demutsky) would adapt Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina for the stage. The seminal Russian novel is replete with courtly intrigue, aristocratic posturing and illicit romantic entanglements—and that's just Anna's storyline. The Joffrey Ballet will present the doomed heroine's passion-fueled fall from grace Feb. 13–24 before co-producer The Australian Ballet takes it into its repertoire next spring. joffrey.org. —CE

The Great Gatsby

PITTSBURGH Obsession, adultery, vehicular homicide and murder/suicide—just in time for Valentine's Day. Tragic romance ensues amid the shifting mores of the Roaring Twenties in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's latest interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby. Choreographer Jorden Morris crafts his two-act version—with classical ballet vocabulary, period social dances and theatrical elements including (of course) Gatsby's car—to Carl Davis' original score. Feb. 8–17. pbt.org. —Karen Dacko

Hamlet

TEXAS AND NORTH CAROLINA Shakespeare's epic story of revenge and self-doubt gets a new spin with Beijing Dance Theater's otherworldly Hamlet. Artistic director Wang Yuanyuan works in broad and bold strokes, distilling the central characters to the Ghost, the New King, the Queen, the Prince and the Floral Spirit. The ensemble mirrors the intensity of the play's existential questions and psychological dilemmas. Dallas, Feb. 8; Houston, Feb. 22; Wilmington, NC, Feb. 27. attpac.org, spahouston.org and cfcc.edu/capefearstage. —Nancy Wozny

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Matthew Murphy, Courtesy DKC/O&M

MJ The Musical Casts Its Michael

MJ The Musical has found its Michael Jackson: Ephraim Sykes.

If there's anyone who's up to the task, it's easily Sykes. The Tony-nominated triple threat has proved his mettle time and again in six Broadway shows. No stranger to the soul and pop genres, he was in the casts of Memphis and Motown The Musical, and is currently starring as David Ruffin in Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations.

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Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

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:

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Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

Dance Magazine Award Honoree: Sara Mearns

Sara Mearns is a force. There is a monumentality to her dancing that was apparent even as a young corps member of 19, cast in her first Swan Lake with New York City Ballet. She threw herself into the role heart and soul, stretching each shape to the limit, trusting the music to carry her to a deep place (and her partner to save her should she go too far). In the 13 years since, her dancing has gained in power and focus, while never losing that edge of risk.

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