Kristin Damrow and Company's Allegra Bautiste. Photo by RJ Muna, Courtesy John Hill PR

5 January Performances to Start 2019 Off Right

If one of your New Year's resolutions was "See more dance" (and really, shouldn't that be everyone's?), never fear. We picked five shows certain to get 2019 off to a brilliant start.


Twyla's Greens and Jerry's Blues

A man and a woman in green and another pair in blue form a line, standing in tendu crois\u00e9 devant with their left hand on their hips, their right linking through their neighbors elbow, palm up.

Miami City Ballet in Brahms/Handel. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet

FLORIDA It's rare that two choreographers want to learn from each other so much that they decide to collaborate. But so it was with Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp in 1984. Tharp and Robbins chose Brahms' "Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel" and divided up the variations according to colors—his dancers wore blue and hers wore green. Luckily, they didn't hold to the color scheme for long and intermeshed the roles after the opening statement. When Brahms/Handel premiered, Anna Kisselgoff wrote in The New York Times, "The brilliant sum is greater than the parts." This month, Miami City Ballet introduces its hometown audiences to the work, on the same program as Dances at a Gathering, the Robbins masterpiece with a warm community glow. Miami, Jan. 11–13; West Palm Beach, Jan. 18–20; Fort Lauderdale, Jan. 26–27. miamicityballet.org. —Wendy Perron

When Three Makes Two More Romantic

Herman Cornejo stares impassively offstage as Alessandra Ferri lunges deeply at his feet, her hands on his hips and her head arched back.

Herman Cornejo and Alessandra Ferri. Photo by Roberto Ricci, Courtesy Richard Kornberg & Associates

LONDON A former American Ballet Theatre star with a luscious, limpid quality and a current ABT star with softly bounding energy, Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo make an exquisite romantic pair onstage. Together they will open the newly renovated Linbury Theatre in the Royal Opera House. For their TRIOConcertDance, they've teamed up with pianist Bruce Levingston to perform duets by Demis Volpi, Russell Maliphant, Wayne McGregor, Fang-Yi Sheu and Angelin Preljocaj, and a solo by and for Cornejo. Placing these dancers in this intimate setting is part of the Royal Opera House's plan to attract wider audiences of all ages. Jan. 17–27. roh.org.uk. —WP

Three Cheers for Carmen

Carmen de Lavallade. Photo by Piper Ferguson, Courtesy Jazz at Lincoln Center

NEW YORK CITY Will we ever stop celebrating Carmen de Lavallade? We certainly hope not! Jazz at Lincoln Center takes its turn to hail the beloved leading lady with a new iteration of its Life of a Legend series. Joined by dancer Maggie Small and a handful of jazz musicians, de Lavallade will speak and dance through her storied career, with a special emphasis on where it intersected with jazz music. Her famous performance in John Butler's Portrait of Billie—which, legend has it, brought Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to tears—is sure to get a nod. Jan. 24–25. jazz.org. —Courtney Escoyne

Curiosity and Awe

Johanna Bergfelt. Photo by Kristy Kennedy, Courtesy Citadel + Cie

TORONTO Choreographer William Yong has an affinity for acronyms. His company is called Zata Omm Dance Projects (Zen and the Actualization of Modern Movement), and the title of his latest work, SKOW, derives from the phrase "Some Kinds Of Wonder." Yong's fascination with performer Johanna Bergfelt and their shared interest in the way seemingly insignificant things can evoke a sense of wonder inspired the work. It's a deceptively simple-sounding concept, but Yong frequently uses spellbinding visual and technological elements to create alternate worlds onstage—if anyone knows how to leave an audience wondering, it's him. Jan. 30–Feb. 2. citadelcie.com. —CE

Bearing the Brunt

SAN FRANCISCO The hulking, monolithic structures that exemplify Brutalism served as inspiration for Kristin Damrow's latest work. The architectural style, prevalent in the 1950s and '60s, is largely associated with mid-century socialist movements and an egalitarian ethos. In IMPACT, 15 dancers chart a dystopian future ravaged by tribalism to a score by Aaron M. Gold that includes found sound recorded at iconic Brutalist buildings in the Bay Area. Jan. 31–Feb. 2. kristindamrow.com. —CE

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Courtesy Harlequin

What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance?

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and with it comes a light at the end of a hibernation tunnel for many dance organizations: a chance to perform again. While social distancing and mask-wearing remain essential to gathering safely, the great outdoors has become an often-preferred performance venue.

But, of course, nature likes to throw its curveballs. What does it take to successfully pull off an alfresco show?

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Dwight Rhodens "Ave Maria," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Keeping dancers safe outside requires the same intentional flooring as you have in the studio—but it also needs to be hearty enough to withstand the weather. With so many factors to consider, two ballet companies consulted with Harlequin Floors to find the perfect floor for their unique circumstances.

Last fall, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre invested in a mobile stage that allowed the dancers to perform live for socially distanced audiences. "But we didn't have an outdoor resilient floor, so we quickly realized that if we had any rain, we were going to be in big trouble—it would have rotted," says artistic director Susan Jaffe.

The company purchased the lightweight, waterproof Harlequin's AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and the heavy-duty Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl, which is manufactured with BioCote® Antimicrobial Protection to help with the prevention of bacteria and mold. After an indoor test run while filming Nutcracker ("It felt exactly like our regular floor," says Jaffe), the company will debut the new setup this May in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park during a two-week series of performances shared with other local arts organizations.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Open Air Series last fall. The company plans to roll out their new Harlequin AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl floor for more outdoor performances this spring.

Harris Ferris, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

In addition to the possibility of rain, a range of temperatures also has to be taken into account. When the State Ballet of Rhode Island received a grant from the state to upgrade its 15-year-old stage, executive director Ana Fox chose the Harlequin Cascade vinyl floor in the lighter gray color "so that it would be cooler if it's reflecting sunlight during daytime performances," she says.

However, for the civic ballet company's first performance on its new 24-by-48–foot stage on November 22, heat was less of a concern than the Northeastern cold. Fortunately, Fox says the surface never got icy or too stiff. "It felt warm to the feel," she says. "You could see the dancers didn't hesitate to run or step into arabesque." (The Harlequin Cascade floor is known for providing a good grip.)

"To have a safe floor for dancers not to worry about shin splints or something of that nature, that's everything," she says. "The dancers have to feel secure."

State Ballet of Rhode Island first rolled out their new Harlequin Cascade™ flooring for an outdoor performance last November.

Courtesy of Harlequin

Of course, the elements need to be considered even when dancers aren't actively performing. Although Harlequin's AeroDeck is waterproof, both PBT and SBRI have tarps to cover their stages to keep any water out. SBRI also does damp mopping before performances to get pollen off the surface. Additionally, the company is building a shed to safely store the floor long-term when it's not in use. "Of course, it's heavy, but laying down the floor and putting it away was not an issue at all," says Fox, adding that both were easy to accomplish with a crew of four people.

Since the Harlequin Cascade surface is versatile enough to support a wide range of dance styles—and even opera and theater sets—both PBT and SBRI are partnering with other local arts organizations to put their outdoor stages to use as much as possible. Because audiences are hungry for art right now.

"In September, I made our outdoor performance shorter so we wouldn't have to worry about intermission or bathrooms, but when it was over, they just sat there," says Jaffe, with a laugh. "People were so grateful and so happy to see us perform. We just got an overwhelming response of love and gratitude."

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Susan Jaffes "Carmina Terra," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

February 2021