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June's Best Performance Bets, Chosen by DM Writers and Editors

Stefano Altamura, Courtesy Whim W'Him

This month's picks include premieres, Little Princes and a principal dancer's farewell that's sure to leave you sobbing. Here are the shows our writers and editors around the country are most excited to catch.


Pearls in PA

STAYCEE PEARL dance project & Soy Sos

Kitoko Chargois, Courtesy PearlArts Studios

PITTSBURGH Choreographer Staycee Pearl is on a mission to establish Pittsburgh as a dance destination. She's been creating sociopolitically informed works for her company, STAYCEE PEARL dance project & Soy Sos, since 2010 and opened PearlArts Studios in 2012. Now, she draws on local and national talent for Pittsburgh's first pearlPRESENTS Dance Festival, a week packed with master classes and performances. Pearl's troupe shares the stage with Island Moving Company and launches its touring partnership with Sidra Bell Dance New York. Completing the roster are Chitra Subramanian's chitra.MOVES, PearlDiving Movement Residency alumni (including slowdanger and Jasmine Hearn) and a dozen local artists chosen by lottery for festival opener 3600 Seconds of Solos. June 3–9. pearlartsstudios.com. —Karen Dacko

Arabian Nights

CHARLESTON Caracalla Dance Theatre brings an iconic collection of Arabic folklore to life in One Thousand and One Nights, which makes its U.S. debut at Spoleto Festival USA this month. The Beirut-based company's epic production mixes ballet, Graham and Arabic folk-dance techniques with opulent designs and a score that includes Ravel's Bolero and (of course) Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. June 7–9. spoletousa.org. —Courtney Escoyne

Integrated First

Marc Brew's Od:yssey

Robert Howard, Courtesy Dancing Wheels

CLEVELAND Reverse*Reboot*Reveal, from Dancing Wheels, America's first physically integrated dance company, features three new works created by choreographers with disabilities: Marc Brew, artistic director of AXIS Dance Company; Laurel Lawson, of Full Radius Dance; and Antoine Hunter, director of San Francisco's Urban Jazz Dance Company. Says Dancing Wheels founder/artistic director Mary Verdi-Fletcher: "Few artists with disabilities have had the opportunity to hone their skills as choreographers. We want to help change that." June 14. dancingwheels.org. —Steve Sucato

Bye-Bye, Bolle

Roberto Bolle as Des Grieux in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Manon

Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

NEW YORK CITY After over a decade of turning heads and breaking hearts at American Ballet Theatre, Roberto Bolle is saying good-bye to the company. The international star's final ABT performances will be as the idealistic Des Grieux in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's tragic Manon, dancing opposite Hee Seo for both the opening night of the ballet on June 17 and at a special farewell performance June 20. Bring your tissues. abt.org. —CE

Pure Imagination

Post:Ballet

Quinn Wharton, Courtesy Post:Ballet

SAN FRANCISCO What happens when you place dancers inside an augmented-reality art installation that's activated by movement? Visitors to Onedome will find out when Post:Ballet takes over LMNL and The Unreal Garden, two of the interactive venue's mixed-reality spaces that blend art, architecture and multimedia. The premiere is appropriately titled Mirage. June 21–22. postballet.org. —CE

Update: As of June 10, this production has been cancelled due to an issue with the venue.

Le Petit Prince

This summer, two versions of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic tale of love, loss and societal malaise premiere.

Whim W'Him in rehearsal

Stefano Altamura, Courtesy Whim W'Him

This Is Not The Little Prince

SEATTLE Olivier Wevers' all-original This Is Not The Little Prince, for Whim W'Him, gives a surreal rendering, using a monochromatic stage setting and shadow lighting. Says Wevers, "I want to challenge the audience's sensibilities, combining Saint-Exupéry's anti-realism with René Magritte's jarring aesthetic." June 7–15. whimwhim.org. —Gigi Berardi

BalletX's Roderick Phifer

Gabriel Bienczycki, Courtesy BalletX

The Little Prince

PHILADELPHIA Masterful storyteller Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's premiere for BalletX explores how the pilot's meeting with the titular prince leads him to ask life's big questions. "The Little Prince is the pilot's inner voice, the vivid child imagination that each adult has," says Ochoa. July 10–21. balletx.org. —GB

News
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"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.

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Health & Body
Sara Mearns in the gym. Photo by Kyle Froman.

New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.

"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "

She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.

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In Memoriam
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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