2021–22 Season Preview: The Shows We Can't Wait to See

August 29, 2021

While “subject to change” is a given these days, here’s what we’re most excited to catch if all goes as planned during the 2021–22 season.

Who Was It For?

Against a white backdrop, a Black dancer performs a stag leap with flexed feet, holding one wrist before her with the opposite hand, head tipped back. Blue and pink flowers fly and fall around her.
Clarissa Dyas

RJ Muna, Courtesy Joe Goode Performance Group

Are you ready to revisit the Summer of Love? With Time of Change, the Joe Goode Performance Group takes over San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, known as the birthplace of the 1960s counterculture movement, with site-specific pop-up moments of song, monologue and goosebump-raising movement, all laced with Goode’s signature sense of humor. But don’t expect to land in a hippie flower-child nirvana. With the help of collaborators and community, Goode delves into the iconic neighborhood’s racial history by asking, “Who was the dream for? Was it just for middle-class white kids like myself?” One thing you can expect is stunning aerial work at the Doolan-Larson Residence, as directed by BANDALOOP’s Melecio Estrella, as well as contributions from queer Black choreographic duo OYSTERKNIFE, featuring Chibueze Crouch and Gabriel Christian. Sept. 1–12. joegoode.org. —Karen Hildebrand

Something to Talk About

A young man in a rumpled dress shirt and slacks balances in sparkling ruby heels, looking down as he speaks to two older women in casual dress. Around the back garden are balloons and streamers for a birthday party.

Sarah Lancashire, Shobna Gulati and Max Harwood in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Courtesy Amazon Prime Video

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
began as a television documentary about a teenage boy in northern England determined to attend his school prom in drag. Jamie and his mother, both figures of boundless heart and iron will, inspired a 2017 musical that sashayed into the West End. Now, it returns to the screen with a movie adaptation on Amazon Prime Video directed by Jonathan Butterell and starring newcomer Max Harwood, with Richard E. Grant as Jamie’s drag mentor Loco Chanelle.

An irrepressible coming-of-age tale, both stage and film versions feature rollicking choreography by Kate Prince. Her theatrical hip hop can embrace both Jamie’s unquench­able fantasy life and his teetering first steps in scarlet heels. Its songs by Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae range from fizzy pop to heart-wrenching ballads. If it lands like it did onstage, prepare to grin your face off and sob like a baby. Sept. 17. primevideo.com. —David Jays

A Pandemic Partnership Blossoms

Donna Crump and Kayla Collymore look intently at the camera as they pose on a white stage against a backdrop of sunlit grass and trees. Diaphanous white fabric billows and drapes around them.
Donna Crump and Kayla Collymore

Keda Sharber, Images by Papillon, Courtesy Collymore

With their crisp and leggy finesse, Kayla Collymore and Donna Crump possess a sizzling kinetic rapport. Collymore, who’s performed with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, and Crump, director of Good Dance Since 1984, move as if they have been performing together for decades, but they actually met during the pandemic. Their first digital collaboration, Gend[H]er at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, examined what it would mean to bring divine femininity to a world dominated by masculine energy. It proved a rousing success, and audiences will finally be able to witness their creative chemistry in person when the duo premieres the live version of Gend[H]er along with a new work on Sept. 17 in Houston at Ronin 2, followed by a Sept. 25 performance at First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans. linearfunction.net. —Nancy Wozny

Athletics in Akron

In a gymnasium, a line of hard backed chairs are occupied by several young women of color wearing white tanks, grey sweats, sneakers, and numbers. A similarly dressed Monica Bill Barnes smiles at the camera from a middle seat, as Robbie Saenz de Viteri clutches a mic next to her.

Robbie Saenz de Viteri and Monica Bill Barnes (center) co-created The Running Show

David Wilson Barnes, Courtesy Monica Bill Barnes & Company

Running shoes, race bibs and baseball-uniform pants create the atmosphere of a sporting event in Monica Bill Barnes & Company’s The Running Show. Yet the full-throttle, humor-infused dance-theater work documents not the life of an ordinary athlete, but of a dancer. The community-tailorable production features a local multigenerational cast, incorporating their personal stories, along with the show’s co-creators Monica Bill Barnes and Robbie Saenz de Viteri. Co-presented by DANCECleveland and The University of Akron Dance Program, The Running Show dashes to Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall for its post-COVID premiere Sept. 25. monicabillbarnes.com. —Steve Sucato

Bringing History Back to Life

In a colorized archival photo, Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis pose together on grass and dirt, draped in colorful approximations of traditional Indian garb.
Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis

Courtesy Audrey Ross

Denishawn, the company founded in 1914 by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, might seem relegated to the annals of dance history. But this fall, producer Audrey Ross breathes new life into some of St. Denis and Shawn’s groundbreaking works. Modern Dance 101 is the first major reconstruction of Denishawn repertoire since Jane Sherman, the last living member of the original company, passed away in 2010. These rarely seen dances will be performed by a roster of distinguished artists, including former Martha Graham Dance Company principals PeiJu Chien-Pott and Christine Dakin, for­mer New York City Ballet and Bolshoi star Valentina Kozlova, former Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane
Company standout Arthur Aviles, and the Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble. Sept. 30–Oct. 3 at New York City’s Theatre at St. Jean’s.
—Chava Pearl Lansky

When Inspiration Strikes

Joseph Gordon is lifted at the hip by Adrian Danchig-Waring, their outside arms extended loosely to mirror one another. Both wear practice clothes in the studio, their gazes directed down.
Joseph Gordon and Adrian Danchig-Waring in rehearsal

Tobin Del Cuore, Courtesy Lar Lubovitch Dance Company

When Lar Lubovitch celebrated the 50th anniversary of his dance company in 2018, he saw the occasion as a chance to consider stepping back from full-time dancemaking. “I don’t believe in repeating myself,” he said recently. Instead, he would work less often and wait for special situations that fired his imagination. One of those came last year. After setting his most famous duet, from Concerto Six Twenty-Two, on Adrian Danchig-Waring and his partner, Joseph Gordon, both New York City Ballet principals, for New York City Center’s Fall for Dance, Lubovitch felt so inspired that he couldn’t resist making something new for the pair. The dance, tentatively titled To Each in His Own Time, is set to three Brahms piano pieces; it will premiere at this year’s FFD. “It was built around the idea of each dancer paying respect to the other by stepping aside and allowing him to express himself,” says Lubovitch. It is also rhapsodic, rigorous and athletic. Pure Lubovitch. Oct. 13–24. nycitycenter.org. —Marina Harss

Dancing Back to Broadway

Rob McClure wears a coifed wig, oversized glasses, and an old-fashioned patterned dress as he putters around with a vacuum cleaner. Behind him, set pieces of a kitchen and front door are visible.

Rob McClure in Mrs. Doubtfire

Joan Marcus, Courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown

As the swivel-hipped Peter Allen, Hugh Jackman danced his way to a Tony in The Boy From Oz. Gaga technique informed Katrina Lenk’s sinuous, Tony-winning performance in The Band’s Visit. High-kicking tap dancer Sutton Foster won two Tonys starring in Anything Goes and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Tony Yazbeck earned a Tony nomination for his soaring sailor in On the Town. And the super-agile actor Rob McClure brought his kinetic comedy to the title role of Chaplin and won a Tony nomination in the process.

Yes, it’s all old news. But these extraordinary movers are new news, too, headlining four incoming musicals this season—the first time in years that Broadway has promised so much off-the-charts-brilliant dancing from its leading men and women.

Katrina Lenk sings, her dress and lipstick a matching red, looking slightly alarmed at the dozen partygoers clustered around and looking to her.

Katrina Lenk with the cast of Company

Brinkhoff-Moegenburg, Courtesy DKC/O&M

First up is McClure, in the title role of Mrs. Doubtfire, which on Oct. 21 resumes the previews so rudely interrupted in spring

of 2020. Next, Yazbeck will show us what Michelle Dorrance’s Broadway choreography debut looks and sounds like, playing Cary Grant in Flying Over Sunset, starting Nov. 11. Stephen Sondheim’s seminal 1970 musical Company gets a newly female protagonist—Lenk—on Nov. 15. And closing out the roster are Foster and Jackman, as the reluctant-but-made-for-each-other lovers in the Broadway classic The Music Man, returning on Dec. 20. Take your pick—you’re going to see a dance star wherever you end up. mrsdoubtfirebroadway.com, flyingoversunset.com, companymusical.com and musicmanonbroadway.com. —Sylviane Gold

Tempest and Slaughter

On a shadowy stage set, three dancers in deconstructed dresses with corsets and partial suits with suspenders move separately in a cluster. A white man stands proudly, holding a model ship. A dark skinned woman flows through pliu00e9 in front of him, arms extended lightly. A third dancer goes to the floor, back to the viewer.

Open Dance Project’s All the Devils Are Here: A Tempest in the Galapagos

Lynn Lane, Courtesy Open Dance Project

In the early 1930s, three European families migrated to Floreana Island in the Galapagos. Murder and mayhem ensued, making the largely unknown true tale—interwoven with a reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Tempest—perfect fodder for Open Dance Project’s newest immersive opus. In All the Devils Are Here: A Tempest in the Galapagos, Annie Arnoult and her savvy dancing actors drop us into a world of colonial power structures and conflicting visions of paradise. Arnoult leaves plenty of space for the audience to decipher this wild story on their own terms in an enveloping, sensuous environment crafted by Ryan McGettigan. After a digital premiere in May 2020, the show, co-commissioned by DiverseWorks with Studio5 and National Performance Network, looks to finally get its in-person debut Nov. 5–6 in Evanston, IL. opendanceproject.org. —Nancy Wozny

Dancing Directors

Clu00e9mentine Deluy looks just off camera as she touches a hand to the opposite elbow, long brown hair flying wildly around her head.
Clémentine Deluy

Stephane Tasse, Courtesy Barbeito

Los Angeles dance maven Lillian Barbeito continues to put older dancers front and center. For the second iteration of the Wisdom Project, which honors dancers ages “40 or better” and combats ageism in the field, she’s commissioned a new work from Clémentine Deluy, a muse of both Pina Bausch and Sasha Waltz. Barbeito will be performing along with Stephanie Martinez of PARA.MAR Dance Theatre; Alex Ketley, director of The Foundry; Cheryl Mann, a former dancer with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and owner of Cheryl Mann Productions; Jennifer McQuiston Lott, on faculty at the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance; former Hubbard Street and Nederlands Dans Theater leader Jim Vincent; and others. It will premiere at California’s Hidden Valley Institute of the Arts, Nov. 20, as part of Barbeito’s newly formed Carmel Dance Festival. carmeldancefestival.org. —Nancy Wozny

Now You See It…

A dancer poses on a shadowy stage, eyes downcast as she brings the backs of her hands together over her head. Upstage, a well lit woman in white observes with an almost-smile, a hand rising as though to gesture to her.

Mayur Dance Company in Maya: The Illusionist

Saikat Chakraborty, Courtesy Mayur Dance Company

Mixing both abstract and lyrical pieces, Maya: The Illusionist focuses on the character of Maya, the creative force behind illusions in Hindu philosophy. The virtual production, performed by Washington, DC–area Odissi troupe Mayur Dance Company, incorporates ideas from the Bhagavad Gita, one of the main holy scriptures from India, as well as Western poetry. Throughout the performance, Zoom polls will ask viewers about their understanding of the South Asian perspective on illusion; after, the audience will be invited to engage in a discussion about what illusion means in today’s world. Dec. 5. mayurdance.org. —Shriya Bhattacharya

Major Moves From Claudia Schreier

Six dancers in simple grey blue costumes and ballet slippers stand onstage, the empty house visible beyond them, its lights reflecting on the marley.

Miami City Ballet in Claudia Schreier’s Places

Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy MCB

Claudia Schreier has been steadily making work and getting commissions since she emerged onto the ballet scene several years ago. But this season, her choreography is finally making it to major companies’ main stages. First up is a planned ensemble work for Boston Ballet’s ChoreograpHER program, March 3–13, set to composer Tanner Porter’s “Six Sides from the Shape of Us.” Next is a commission for stage and film for Miami City Ballet. She first worked with the company last year on Places, which was released digitally in November. This season, together with her filmmaker husband, Adam Barish, Schreier is creating a new ballet for the stage that incorporates digital elements, as well as a film adaptation of the work, April 29–May 22. And at Atlanta Ballet, where Schreier has been choreographer in residence since last season, her Pleiades Dances returns to the main stage May 13–15 after marking the company’s live-performance comeback last spring. bostonballet.org, miamicityballet.org and atlantaballet.com. —Estefania Garcia

Akram Khan Reimagines Kipling

In a black and white archival image, a young Akram Khan poses with his hands behind his back, looking uncertainly at an older dancer costumed as an animal and gesturing to him with a delicate mudra.

Akram Khan, age 10, in Akademi’s The Adventures of Mowgli, 1984

Alan Dilly, Courtesy Akram Khan Company

Written from a colonial perspective, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book may seem like a problematic inspiration for a dance show. However, British-Bangladeshi choreographer Akram Khan—who, when he was 10, danced the central role of Mowgli in an interpretation by Akademi, a London-based South Asian dance organization—is keen to approach the story with fresh eyes. In his upcoming production Jungle Book reimagined, Khan will recast Mowgli as an Indian climate refugee who arrives in London to find the streets reclaimed by nature, hoping to remind audiences of the interdependence between humans, animals and the environment in the process.

Animation, lighting and projection—developed by a creative team including Khan’s frequent collaborators Michael Hulls and Yeast Culture—will not only create arresting environments, but will also remove the need to produce and transport large sets, making the production more sustainable. Premiering at the Curve Theatre in Leicester on April 2, ahead of an international tour, it offers a prototype of how dance can respond to the climate crisis, both through its content and means of production. akramkhancompany.net. —Emily May

Centering Black Ballet Dancers

Against an orange-red background, three Black women ballet dancers in orange leotards and flesh tone pointe shoes leap together. Their arms are behind each other's backs as they temps levu00e9 in low arabesque, smiling with their chins lifted to the corner.
Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Alexandra Hutchinson, Ingrid Silva and Daphne Lee

Rachel Neville, Courtesy Kennedy Center

“It’s time to normalize the conversation about the Black ballet dancer in the field,”
Denise Saunders Thompson, president and CEO of the International Association of
Blacks in Dance, declares. She and Theresa Ruth Howard, founder of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, are co-curating the Kennedy Center’s Reframing the Narrative, a week of programming centering Black ballet artists. The nation’s performing arts center will present programs featuring Dance Theatre of Harlem alongside two companies co-founded by DTH alums: Memphis’ Collage Dance Collective, led by artistic director Kevin Thomas, and Atlanta’s Ballethnic, co-directed by alum Nena Gilreath and Waverly T. Lucas II.

While the events of summer 2020 served as a catalyst for Reframing the Narrative, Kennedy Center director of dance programming Jane Rabinovitz says addressing racial equity in ballet has long been on her mind. She hopes Reframing the Narrative will spur future performances that focus on Black ballet dancers, choreographers and companies. As Saunders Thompson says, “This is a step in the right direction.” June 14–19. kennedy-center.org. —Lisa Traiger

Not the Same Old Song and Dance

Three fresh stories aiming for the Great White Way

A group of Black dancers, the women in Victorian dresses and the men in trousers and vests, cluster together onstage, grinning at each other and singing as they stomp and lean towards the center.

Paradise Square at Berkeley Rep

Alessandra Mello, Courtesy Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Broadway’s back, and, boy, are we glad. But we’ve also got our sights set on three shows that aren’t quite there yet. These out-of-town tryouts have enticed us with their brand-new narratives that place bygone eras and disparate cultures center stage, making them stand out amongst the genre’s usual suspects. —Madeline Schrock

Paradise Square

Paradise Square

illuminates a little-known pocket of American history: As the country was divided by the Civil War, free-born Black Americans, escaped enslaved people and Irish immigrants were living alongside one another in New York City’s Five Points neighborhood. Bars erupted with spirited dance contests, playfully pitting Black American juba against Irish step dancing, and saw the early days of tap dancing. But in July 1863, the deadly New York Draft Riots burst this idyllic bubble. With choreography by the masterful Bill T. Jones and additional musical staging by Graciela Daniele and director Moisés Kaufman, Paradise Square will have its pre-Broadway run in Chicago Nov. 2–Dec. 5, followed by a planned Broadway opening March 20. broadwayinchicago.com and paradisesquaremusical.com.

Swept Away

Before #ShantyTok made waves on social media, an IRL sea-faring musical had long been in the works. Swept Away, set in 1888 off the Massachusetts coast, tells the tale of four men who survive a shipwreck. Who better than David Neumann, the choreographer responsible for Hadestown‘s gritty, mechanistic Workers Chorus, to capture the harsh aesthetic of life at sea? And who better to provide the harmonically layered music and lyrics than Grammy-nominated folk-rock band The Avett Brothers? Starts Jan. 9, at the Bay Area’s Berkeley Rep. berkeleyrep.org.

Bhangin’ It

Rujuta Vaidya has injected Bollywood moves into the Oscars, Disney’s Cheetah Girls: One World, Britney Spears’ The Circus tour and more. Now, along with bhangra consultant Anushka Pushpala, Vaidya is aiming to add Broadway to her resumé with a new musical mixing Eastern and Western dance styles. Bhangin’ It follows a young biracial woman into the world of competitive bhangra dancing as she seeks her own identity. After its 2018 turn at Project Springboard, an incubator for dance musicals, and with a Richard Rodgers Award under its belt, Bhangin’ It premieres at Southern California’s famed La Jolla Playhouse March 8–April 17. lajollaplayhouse.org.