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Kyle Abraham and Emma Portner Are Choreographing for NYCB

Kyle Abraham's Untitled America for Ailey. PC Paul Kolnik

Ever since New York City Ballet's interim leadership team took over from Peter Martins, we've been curious whether they'd get a chance to try their hand at programming. (It was unclear how much Martins had done before he retired.)

As it turns out, Martins left room for Justin Peck, Rebecca Krohn, Craig Hall and Jonathan Stafford to select two of the company's six commissions for the 2018-19 season. Their choicesKyle Abraham and Emma Portner—are surprising, and thrilling.


Neither choreographer has made work on a large ballet company before, though Abraham created a duet with Wendy Whelan for her "Restless Creature" series, among his other commissions for companies like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and work for his own company. And though Portner has been a favorite in commercial circles for a few years now, the concert commissions have just recently started rolling in: This fall she'll be collaborating with Lil Buck and Dev Hynes for a full-length work for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and working with Anne Plamondon on a Fall for Dance North piece.

This news comes just off the heels of American Ballet Theatre's announcement that tap dynamo Michelle Dorrance will make three works for the company over the next year. Bold, out-of-the-box programming choices are apparently in season, and we're totally here for it.

The four commissions chosen by Martins are slightly more traditional, but promising nonetheless. They include works by BalletX co-founder Matthew Neenan (also his first for the company) and Gianna Reisen, the young choreographer who created Composer's Holiday on the company last year, and two pieces by Peck, one of which will be set to a new score by Sufjan Stevens.

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