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6 Premieres and Programs on Our Editors' Must-See List This Month

Barak Marshall's Monger, which appears at the Walking Distance Dance Festival this month. Photo by Rose Eichenbaum, Courtesy John Hill PR

A Broadway luminary and a postmodern darling bring their talents to ballet, a music video maven turns to the concert stage, and a contemporary choreographer gets soulful with Aretha Franklin. Our editors' must-sees this May are all about the unexpected.


A Late Commission

Tanowitz in rehearsal at NYCB

Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

NEW YORK CITY When it was announced that Pam Tanowitz would be creating a new work for New York City Ballet (to replace an on-hold commission from Emma Portner), the reaction was largely: It's about time! Tanowitz has long been a critical darling for her intellectually rigorous, postmodern application of the classical vocabulary. So what can she do with seven women and four men from NYCB at her disposal? The new work is set to Bartok (expanding upon a piece she workshopped with American Ballet Theatre in 2017) and features costumes by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung. It debuts on May 2 at the company's spring gala, on a program with Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 and an additional premiere by Justin Peck. Catch it again May 4, 9, 11 and 12. nycballet.com. —Courtney Escoyne

Blankenbuehler at the Ballet

TULSA Tulsa Ballet's artistic director, Marcello Angelini, says he offered Andy Blankenbuehler a commission "before he became so famous." With Hamilton beckoning, Blankenbuehler gave him a rain check. This month Angelini cashes it in, presenting Blankenbuehler's first-ever ballet, set on a submarine during World War II. Remember Our Song runs May 9–12 at Tulsa's Lorton Performance Center, in a Ballet to Broadway triple bill with Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free and George Balanchine's Who Cares? tulsaballet.org. —Sylviane Gold

Must Love Dogs

ODC/Dance in Kimi Okada's Canine Comfort

Yvonne M. Portra, Courtesy John Hill PR

SAN FRANCISCO A cast of four-legged friends will join the dancers of ODC/Dance during this year's Walking Distance Dance Festival. Kimi Okada's Canine Comfort celebrates the peace found in nature, family and, yes, the love of dogs. During the weeklong festival, audiences can also catch works by Barak Marshall (performed by students at USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance) and d. Sabela grimes, tune in to the dancers' heartbeats in Kinetech Arts' immersive Resonant Frequencies, and follow Mary Armentrout Dance Theater around the Mission neighborhood for the meditative listening creates an opening. May 12–19. odc.dance. —CE

On the Come Up

Nicholas Guttridge and Benoit Swan Pouffer, Courtesy Rambert

LONDON Asking Marion Motin, who is best known for choreographing music videos for Christine and the Queens and Dua Lipa, to create a concert work for Britain's oldest contemporary dance company could be seen as a risk. But it's just the sort of smart, envelope-pushing choice that's always characterized Benoit Swan Pouffer as a director. Rambert's newly installed artistic leader programmed the French choreographer's premiere alongside revivals of Wayne McGregor's 2002 PreSentient and Hofesh Shechter's 2007 In your rooms—works that presaged those choreographers' ascent to international prominence. May 14–18. sadlerswells.com. —CE

A Natural Woman

NEW YORK CITY Trey McIntyre has something of a magic touch with jukebox ballets; Big Ones, his Amy Winehouse tribute created for BalletX, is a standout example. For his latest, he's going even bigger, turning to the songbook of the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. In Eight Women, the cast of male and female dancers all portray women—not for the sake of camp, but as a statement of equality. The work gets its U.S. premiere during Parsons Dance's Joyce season this month, May 14–26, alongside classic rep by David Parsons. joyce.org. —CE

I've Got No Strings

National Ballet of Canada in Will Tuckett's Pinocchio

Aleksandar Antonijevic, Courtesy Texas Ballet Theater

DALLAS AND FT. WORTH The wild adventures of a wooden puppet who wishes to be a real boy are familiar to any Disney aficionado. But the creative team behind the Will Tuckett–choreographed Pinocchio are quick to point to the darker undertones of the original tale. The full-length ballet, which debuted at National Ballet of Canada in 2017, journeys stateside for the first time this month under the stewardship of Texas Ballet Theater. Winspear Opera House, Dallas, May 17–19; Bass Performance Hall, Ft. Worth, May 24–26. texasballettheater.org. —CE

In Memoriam
A flyer showing Alberto Alonso, Fernando Alonso, Benjamin Steinberg and Alicia Alonso. Photo courtesy the author

Alicia has died. I walked around my apartment feeling her spirit, but knowing something had changed utterly.

My father, the late conductor Benjamin Steinberg, was the first music director of the Ballet de Cuba, as it was called then. I grew up in Vedado on la Calle 1ra y doce in a building called Vista al Mar. My family lived there from 1959 to 1963. My days were filled with watching Alicia teach class, rehearse and dance. She was everything: hilarious, serious, dramatic, passionate and elegiac. You lost yourself and found yourself when you loved her.

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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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Hansuke Yamamoto in Helgi Tomasson's Nutcracker at San Francisco Ballet, which features an exciting and respectful Chinese divertissement. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

It's Nutcracker time again: the season of sweet delights and a sparkling good time—if we're able to ignore the sour taste left behind by the outdated racial stereotypes so often portrayed in the second act.

In 2017, as a result of a growing list of letters from audience members, to New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief Peter Martins reached out to us asking for assistance on how to modify the elements of Chinese caricature in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Following that conversation, we founded the Final Bow for Yellowface pledge that states, "I love ballet as an art form, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages."

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Dance & Activism
Allegra Bautista in Nevertheless, by ka·nei·see | collective. Photo by Robbie Sweeny

An audience member once emailed Dallas choreographer Joshua L. Peugh, claiming his work was vulgar. It complained that he shouldn't be pushing his agenda. As the artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Peugh's recent choreography largely deals with LGBTQ issues.

"I got angry when I saw that email, wrote my angry response, deleted it, and then went back and explained to him that that's exactly why I should be making those works," says Peugh.

With the current political climate as polarized as it is, many artists today feel compelled to use their work to speak out on issues they care deeply about. But touring with a message is not for the faint of heart. From considerations about how to market the work to concerns about safety, touring to cities where, in general, that message may not be so welcome, requires companies to figure out how they'll respond to opposition.

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