News

6 Can't-Miss Shows This November, Chosen By DM Editors

Bill Shannon's Touch Update makes its way to Washington, DC, and New York City this month. Photo courtesy Dance Place

The fall performance season continues at breakneck speed with everything from an international ballet company making its U.S. debut to a retrospective on one of New York City's most iconic dancemakers—not to mention more than a few intriguing new works. Here's what we've got pencilled in.


Have Your Cake

Hans van Manen's Trois Gnossiennes. Photo by Peter Rakossy, Courtesy Ellen Jacobs Associates

NEW YORK CITY Hungarian National Ballet is putting its best foot forward for its American debut at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater. Following a Nov. 4 gala, the company presents recent stagings of full-length staples Swan Lake (Nov. 6–8) and Don Quixote (Nov. 9–10). To close the engagement, Trois Gnossiennes, 5 Tangos and Black Cake, a trio of Hans van Manen works programmed together last year in celebration of the venerable choreographer's 85th birthday, will be performed twice on Nov. 11. opera.hu. —Courtney Escoyne

Blood Memory

Red Clay Dance Company's Destine Young. Photo by Raymond Jerome, Courtesy Red Clay Dance Company

CHICAGO Red Clay Dance Company's ongoing cultural exchange project with Uganda's Keiga Dance Company has resulted in a new work: EKILI MUNDA|What Lies Within. Created to open the Afro-contemporary troupe's 10th-anniversary season, the piece, by artistic director Vershawn Sanders-Ward and Keiga artistic director Jonas Byaruhanga, investigates the body as an archive for cultural history. Nov. 8–10. redclaydance.com. —CE

Heuristic History

Emily Coates. Photo by Anna Lee Campbell, Courtesy Danspace Project

NEW YORK CITY Emmanuèle Phuon and Emily Coates share an evening at Danspace Project that promises smart, thought-provoking new dances. Phuon's Bits & Pieces (Choreographic Donations) looks back on her eclectic, continent-spanning career with contributions from Patricia Hoffbauer, David Thomson, Elisa Monte, Yvonne Rainer and Vincent Dunoyer. A History of Light, in collaboration with artist Josiah McElheny, dives into Coates' investigation of the intersections of dance and science through the lens of the women who have advanced art and technology throughout history. Nov. 8–10. danspaceproject.org. —CE

Update in Progress

Bill Shannon. Photo by Garrett Jones, Courtesy Dance Place

WASHINGTON, DC, AND NEW YORK CITY Ballet dancers have their pointe shoes, tap dancers have their tap shoes, Spanish dancers have their castanets—and Bill Shannon has his crutches. Since childhood, he has lived with a condition in his hips that makes it hard for him to bear weight. He's created a technique of gliding, swiveling, spinning and floating with his crutches, earning him a place in New York City's underground club scene. Recently, he's taken the idea of necessary body extensions into technology. In his new Touch Update, which was developed at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography and premiered in May in Pittsburgh, Shannon has devised wearable video masks and video sculptures that seem to dismantle the human body. Performers include the couple slowdanger (2018 "25 to Watch") and Pittsburgh hip-hop crew Get Down Gang. Ultimately, Shannon is looking at the human potential for change. Dance Place, Nov. 10–11. New York Live Arts, Nov. 14–18. whatiswhat.com. —Wendy Perron

Early Twyla

Twyla Tharp in her Eight Jelly Rolls. Photo courtesy DM Archives

NEW YORK CITY Before Twyla Tharp choreographed highly technical and propulsive ballets like In the Upper Room, she made a slew of dances with a minimalist edge. Some of them were silent and austere, but when she started to use music—whoa! What a feast of sly musicality and slippery movement. Her latest program Minimalism and Me ranges from the simplicity of her first time out—Tank Dive (1965), all angles and diagonals with a yo-yo trick thrown in—to her lusciously loose, vaudeville-inspired classic, Eight Jelly Rolls (1971), with music by jazz composer Jelly Roll Morton. Our question: Who will perform Twyla's outrageously sloppy/precise drunk solo? The program comes to the Joyce Nov. 14–Dec. 9. joyce.org. —WP

Marginalia

Karen L. Charles' Sacred Feminine is one work included in Femthology. Photo by Bill Cameron, Courtesy AQUA Public Relations

ST. PAUL, MN In the Margins, a program presented by Threads Dance Project at The O'Shaughnessy this month, aims to foster empathy for communities that are often relegated to liminal spaces in society. Karen L. Charles' To Hear Like Me utilizes American Sign Language, music visualization and silence as it interrogates implicit bias against the deaf/hard-of-hearing community. Joining it is Femthology, comprising excerpts from already-existing works that explore the female experience, newly reimagined to be equally accessible to hearing and deaf/hard-of-hearing audiences. Nov. 16–17. threadsdance.org. —CE

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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