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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

Broadway
The "Merde" bag. Courtesy Scenery

Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.

But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?

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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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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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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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