12 Dance Shows We're Already Talking About Ahead of the 2017–18 Season
On the cusp of a new performance season, our calendars are chock full with shows we're dying to see. But it can be hard to know where to start with a season filled to bursting with promising premieres, tours and revivals. We've picked 12 shows that should definitely be on your radar.
A Striking Living Sculpture is Invading the U.S.
Like a murder of crows or a conspiracy of ravens, 20 multigenerational women dressed in black rhythmically yip, bay and caw with primal, ritualistic intensity, the front ties of their white head kerchiefs pecking up and down like beaks. Moroccan choreographer Bouchra Ouizguen created Corbeaux ("Ravens") as a one-off performance at the Marrakesh train station during the 2014 Biennale of Contemporary Art. (She may have had the invisibility of Muslim women in mind while making it.) But the controlled animalism and intentionality of the work have, in three short years, found resonance with audiences around the world. Presented in nontheatrical spaces by a combined cast of local performers and members of Ouizguen's Compagnie O, Corbeaux rivets viewers with the power of its nonverbal, unison percussive quality. It conveys the urgency of female experience en masse, while tapping into the ferocity that drives all attempts at greater individual agency. Time-Based Art Festival, Portland, Sept. 9–10. Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, Sept. 16–17. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Sept. 23–24. French Institute Alliance Française, New York City, Oct. 1. bouchraouizguen.com. —Camille LeFevre
Two Iconic Pina Bausch Works Are Headed to BAM, and We Cannot Contain Our Excitement
Reprising the company's historic New York City debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1984, Tanztheater Wuppertal returns to the Howard Gilman Opera House as part of BAM's Next Wave Festival with two of Pina Bausch's most iconic works: Café Müller and The Rite of Spring. Café Müller, Bausch's autobiographical masterwork, takes us inside an abandoned café where a sleepwalking woman (originally danced by Bausch herself) staggers about as a series of characters play out a troubled, turbulent and occasionally whimsical narrative, all set to Henry Purcell's poignant arias. Bausch's Rite explodes with raw, sensual power as 32 dancers fiercely inhabit a dirt-covered stage, matching the blazing intensity of Stravinsky's revolutionary score. Sept. 14–17, 19–20, 22–24. bam.org. —Nancy Wozny
Ananya Dance Theatre Adds Its Voice to #theresistance
Ananya Dance Theatre in Ananya Chatterjea's Horidraa: Golden Healing. Photo by V. Paul Virtucio, Courtesy Ananya Dance Theatre.
To create Shyamali: Sprouting Words, Ananya Dance Theatre worked with women in diverse communities throughout the world to elicit their stories of resistance and resilience. The dancers also participated in social justice protests, forged school partnerships focusing on girls of color and led workshops with women refugees and immigrants. The resulting production grips viewers with an articulate, harrowing and ultimately uplifting choreographic conversation about the multidimensional ways in which women's dissent ultimately contributes to the world's life force. Following the St. Paul, Minnesota, premiere Sept. 15–16, the work travels to Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, Pittsburgh; University of Utah, Salt Lake City; Maui Arts & Cultural Center, Kahului, Hawaii; Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles; and Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia. ananyadancetheatre.org. —Camille LeFevre
Matthew Bourne Brought the Most Iconic Ballet Movie Ever Made to Life, and It's Touring to the U.S.
In the iconic dance movie The Red Shoes, Victoria Page wavers between the man she adores and her consuming passion for ballet, a conflict encapsulated by a pair of red satin pointe shoes that propel her to her fate. British choreographer/director Matthew Bourne has reimagined the lush 1948 film and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale as pure, rapturous dance. The four-city U.S. tour opens in Los Angeles, Sept. 15–Oct. 1, with stops in Washington, DC, Oct. 10–15, and Charlotte, Oct. 17–22, before closing Oct. 26–Nov. 5 in New York City, where New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns guests in the lead role, alternating with New Adventures' Ashley Shaw. American Ballet Theatre's Marcelo Gomes joins the cast as a guest star for the tour. new-adventures.net. —Lisa Traiger
Bill T. Jones is Directing a New Opera
Bill T. Jones during a workshop for We Shall Not Be Moved. Photo by Dave DiRentis, Courtesy Opera Philadelphia.
Five teenage runaways take refuge in an abandoned house, where they encounter ghosts of an earlier resistance movement: That's the premise for We Shall Not Be Moved, a multidisciplinary work recalling a time when the city of Philadelphia faced off with black activist group MOVE—with deadly consequences. The piece puts Bill T. Jones at the helm as director, dramaturge and choreographer, alongside spoken-word artist Mark Bamuthi Joseph, violin-wielding composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, and assistant choreographer Raphael Xavier. Weaving a narrative for the four dancers and six singers, the collaborators fuse varied music traditions (including classical, R&B and jazz singing) with spoken word, video projections and a dance vocabulary that ranges from baroque forms to hip hop. The goal, Jones says in an online preview, is to "create a new language bridging the world of urban word and opera." Opera Philadelphia, Sept. 16–18, 21, 23–24. Apollo Theater, New York City, Oct. 6–8. Hackney Empire, London, Oct. 13–15, 18, 20–21. operaphila.org. —Rachel F. Elson
Carlos Acosta's New Company is Coming, and We're Crazy Curious About It
Acosta Danza has been a source of curiosity ever since Carlos Acosta founded the company in 2016, but other than tantalizing glimpses on the international scene this summer, the company has performed primarily in its native Cuba. British and American audiences will finally get the chance to see what all the hubbub is about this season when the company makes its official U.K. and U.S. debuts in London and New York City. Fingers crossed that Acosta, expected to perform during the U.K. tour, also finds his way onstage stateside. Sadler's Wells, London, Sept. 27–30. sadlerswells.com. New York City Center, April 25–27, 2018. nycitycenter.org. —Courtney Escoyne
An Alternate Rite of Spring, Featuring Contemporary African Dance
Germaine Acogny. Photo by François Stemmer, Courtesy Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Also presented by the Next Wave Festival, choreographer Olivier Dubois of Ballet du Nord offers a striking contrast to Pina Bausch's large-scale Rite of Spring just a few weeks later. The second installment of Dubois' Sacre series, Mon élue noire is a solo for the 73-year-old mother of contemporary African dance Germaine Acogny of Senegal. Her movement restricted atop a small, elevated platform, the regal Acogny is neither pure virgin nor sacrificial lamb; perhaps she is the caged soul of African history? This fall marks the U.S. premiere of the explosive 2015 solo. BAM Fisher, Oct. 4–7. bam.org. —Jen Peters
A MacMillan Feast for Ballet-Obsessed Anglophiles
The Royal Ballet's Ryoichi Hirano and Edward Watson in MacMillan's Gloria. Photo by Johan Persson, Courtesy ROH.
Sir Kenneth MacMillan is revered in the U.K. as one of the founding fathers of British ballet, and for the first time ever, six of the country's companies will join forces this fall to celebrate him. For the 25th anniversary of his death, the Royal Opera House is set to present eight short works by the master, as well as Wayne Eagling's MacMillan-inspired Jeux. The Royal Ballet will dance Jeux and The Judas Tree, while Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, Scottish Ballet and Yorke Dance Project join in with their own MacMillan productions. Rarities include Le Baiser de la Fée and Sea of Troubles, a 1988 work inspired by Hamlet, as well as a production of Elite Syncopations danced by members of several companies. There is much more to MacMillan than three-act blockbusters like Manon: This two-week season is a unique opportunity to delve into his varied repertoire, stretching over four decades. Royal Opera House, London, Oct. 18–Nov. 1. roh.org.uk. —Laura Cappelle
NYC's Met Museum: Come for the Art, Stay for the Dancing
Gallim Dance at the Temple of Dendur. Photo by Ani Collier, Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has found a sweet spot where dancing meets treasures of the past. When Andrea Miller showed a work in progress inspired by the Egyptian Temple of Dendur last year, the synergy between her visceral, rough-hewn choreography and the stone surfaces of the ancient temple was mesmerizing. The MetLiveArts series has now named Miller artist in residence for the 2017–18 season—the first choreographer to hold this position. Her first goal: to finish the piece started last year, now titled Stone Skipping, to be danced by her company Gallim Dance Oct. 28–29 at the Temple of Dendur. Other dance artists at the Met Museum this season include Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula, who performs in the Met's 16th-century Spanish courtyard Sept. 9–10, the Japanese-American maestra Eiko Otake , who brings her haunting series A Body in Places to three Met locations in November, and Monica Bill Barnes, whose Museum Workout returns for four weekends this fall. metmuseum.org. —Wendy Perron
Charlotte Ballet's Most Incredible Thing. (No, Really, That's the Title)
Perhaps the most incredible thing about Charlotte Ballet performing The Most Incredible Thing is that it hasn't yet been seen in the United States. The award-winning multimedia spectacle created by English synth-pop giants Pet Shop Boys features choreography by Javier de Frutos. Based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale about a king who holds a competition to determine who can do "the most incredible thing," the story ballet is not only a unique family-friendly theatrical experience, but also a lightning bolt illuminating where new artistic director Hope Muir is taking Charlotte Ballet. March 9–18, 2018. charlotteballet.org. —Steve Sucato
Another Lil Buck/Jon Boogz Team-Up? We're Sold.
Lil Buck and Jon Boogz. Photo by George Evan, Courtesy Helene Davis Public Relations.
When Jon Boogz's film Color of Reality went viral last year, it was only partly because of jooker Lil Buck's terrific dancing. It was also an ingenious way to illuminate the harrowing regularity of black youth falling victim to police brutality. The video, a collaboration with the visual artist Alexa Meade, was such a brilliant melding of art consciousness and social consciousness that it made us eager to see what else they would come up with. Love Heals All Wounds, under the banner of MAI (Movement Art Is), is coming to NYU's Skirball Center in New York City April 13–14, 2018. It's one of many intriguing shows planned by Skirball's new director Jay Wegman that demonstrates a bold new direction for its programming. nyuskirball.org. —Wendy Perron
NYCB is Dusting Off a Much-Debated Robbins/Bernstein Classic
Janie Taylor in Robbins' Dybbuk. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.
It was the last collaboration between two geniuses of the theater—Leonard Berstein and Jerome Robbins—and it was called Dybbuk, after S. Ansky's classic play of 1920, a Jewish ghost story about love, death and possession. The ballet was premiered on May 16, 1974, and although American dance writers didn't get it, British critics Richard Buckle and Clive Barnes thought it blazed with brilliance. Not trusting his creation, Robbins edited the hell out of it and Dybbuk disappeared. But in 2005 Helgi Tomasson and the San Francisco Ballet brought it back, and in 2007 it was again performed by the New York City Ballet. Stark, soaring, haunting, ecstatic, magnificent, Dybbuk returns to NYCB's repertoire in spring 2018 (May 4, 5, 8 and 20), part of the "Robbins 100" centennial celebration (May 3–20). See for yourself if those Brits weren't right. nycballet.com. —Laura Jacobs
From the angles of your feet to the size of your head, it can sometimes seem like there is no part of a dancer's body that is not under scrutiny. It's easy to get obsessed when you are constantly in front of a mirror, trying to fit a mold.
Yet the traditional ideals seem to be exploding every day. "The days of carbon-copy dancers are over," says BalletX dancer Caili Quan. "Only when you're confident in your own body can you start truly working with what you have."
While the striving may never end, there can be unexpected benefits to what you may think of as your "imperfections."
It's the second week of Miami City Ballet School's Choreographic Intensive, and the students stand in a light-drenched studio watching as choreographer Durante Verzola sets a pas de trois. "Don't be afraid to look at the ceiling—look that high," Verzola shows one student as she holds an arabesque. "That gives so much more dimension to your dancing." Other students try the same movement from the sidelines.
When Arantxa Ochoa took over as MCB School's director of faculty and curriculum two years ago, she decided to add a second part to the summer intensive: five weeks focused on technique would be followed by a new two-week choreography session. The technique intensive is not a requirement, but students audition for both at the same time and many attend the two back-to-back.
On a summer afternoon at The Ailey School's studios, a group of students go through a sequence of Horton exercises, radiating concentration and strength as they tilt to one side, arms outstretched and leg parallel to the ground. Later, in a studio down the hall, a theater dance class rehearses a lively medley of Broadway show tunes. With giant smiles and bouncy energy, students run through steps to "The Nicest Kids in Town" from Hairspray.
"You gotta really scream!" teacher Judine Somerville calls out as they mime their excitement. "This is live theater!" They segue into the audition number from A Chorus Line, "I Hope I Get It," their expressions becoming purposeful and slightly nervous. "Center stage is wherever I am," Somerville tells them when the music stops, making them repeat the words back to her. "Take that wherever you go."
Dance artists, as a rule, are a resilient bunch. But working in a studio in New York City without heat or electricity in the middle of winter? That's not just crazy; it's unhealthy, and too much to ask of anyone.
Unfortunately, Brooklyn Studios for Dance hasn't had heat since mid-November, making it impossible for classes or performances to take place in the community-oriented center.
So what's a studio to do? Throw a massive dance party, of course.
As winter sets in, your muscles may feel tighter than they did in warmer weather. You're not imagining it: Cold weather can cause muscles to lose heat and contract, resulting in a more limited range of motion and muscle soreness or stiffness.
But dancers need their muscles to be supple and fresh, no matter the weather outside. Here's how to maintain your mobility during the colder months so your dancing isn't affected:
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A newly launched initiative hopes to change the face of ballet, both onstage and behind the scenes. Called "The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet," the three-year initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a partnership between Dance Theatre of Harlem, the International Association of Blacks in Dance and Dance/USA.
"We've seen huge amounts of change in the years since 1969, when Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded," says Virginia Johnson, artistic director of DTH. "But change is happening much too slowly, and it will continue to be too slow until we come to a little bit more of an awareness of what the underlying issues are and what needs to be done to address them."
From the outside, it seemed like the worst of New York City Ballet's problems were behind them last winter, when ballet master in chief Peter Martins retired amid accusations of abuse and sexual harassment, and an internal investigation did not substantiate those claims.
But further troubles were revealed in August when a scandal broke that led to dancer Chase Finlay's abrupt resignation and the firing of fellow principals Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro. All three were accused of "inappropriate communications" and violating "norms of conduct."
The artistic director sets the tone for a dance company and leads by example. But regardless of whether Martins, and George Balanchine before him, established a healthy organization, the issues at NYCB bespeak an industry-wide problem, says Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founding artistic director of Urban Bush Women. "From New York City Ballet to emerging artists, we've just done what's been handed down," she observes. "That has not necessarily led to great practices."
If you've ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at Dance Magazine, now's your chance to find out. Dance Magazine is seeking an editorial intern who's equally passionate about dance and journalism.
Through March 1, we are accepting applications for a summer intern to assist our staff onsite in New York City from June to August. The internship includes an hourly stipend and requires a minimum two-day-a-week commitment. (We do not provide assistance securing housing.)
For the past few months, the dance world has been holding its collective breath, waiting for New York City Ballet to announce who will take over the helm as artistic director.
Though former ballet master in chief Peter Martins retired over a year ago after accusations of sexual harassment and abuse (an internal investigation did not corroborate the accusations), the search for a new leader didn't begin until last May.
Nine months later, the new director's name could be released any day now. And we have some theories about who it might be:
Some people take this profession as just a chapter of their life. They feel like dance is a job—a fun job, but a job. Other people live their life through dance. I never considered being a ballerina a profession. It's a lifestyle.
If I don't have a performance, I feel like a tiger trapped in a cage. I have so many emotions, I feel I need to give them to somebody, to exhaust myself—I need to cry or laugh, or else it's suffocating. Other people might scream or throw bottles into the wall. We dancers scream onstage through our movement. For me, it's like sweeping off the dust in my soul.
Back in 2011, Yale University's dean of science was thinking about refreshing the program's offerings for non-majors when he happened upon a Pilobolus performance. A light bulb went off: Dance is full of physics.
That realization led to what has become an eight-year collaboration between particle physicist Sarah Demers and former New York City Ballet dancer Emily Coates, both professors at Yale who were brought together to co-teach a course called The Physics of Dance. Their partnership has involved everything from directing a short film to presenting a TedX Talk and performing a piece that Coates created, commissioned by Danspace Project. This month, they're publishing a book about what they've discovered by dialoging across two seemingly disparate disciplines.
Sebastian Abarbanell remembers being asked as an undergrad at Trinity Laban in London to perform wearing only a dance belt. "I said no," he says, "because I felt uncomfortable." Now a performer with Sidra Bell Dance New York, he's performed partially nude several times, without reservation. The difference? "It comes with more experience and maturing as a dancer," he says. "When you see a dancer living in their skin, you don't need to put anything else on them. When I said no in college, I wasn't in my skin yet."
Getting in your skin—and getting comfortable wearing only your skin onstage—requires a particular alchemy of vulnerability, agency, preparation and practice.
What's next for the dance world? Our annual list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing has a pretty excellent track record of answering that question.
Here they are: the 25 up-and-coming artists we believe represent the future of our field.
Though Polunin has long had a reputation for behaving inappropriately, in the last month his posts have been somewhat unhinged. In one, Polunin, who is Ukrainian, shows off his new tattoo of Vladimir Putin:
Just before retiring in 2015, Sylvie Guillem appeared on "HARDtalk with Zeinab Badawi," the BBC's hard-hitting interview program. Badawi told Guillem,
"Clement Crisp of the Financial Times, 14 years ago, described your dancing as vulgar."
"Yeah, well, he said that. But at the same time, when they asked Margot Fonteyn what she thought about lifting the leg like this she said, 'Well, if I could have done it, I would have done it.' "
They were discussing Guillem's signature stroke—her 180-degree leg extension à la seconde. Ballet legs had often flashed about in the higher zones between 135 and 160 degrees before. But it wasn't until the virtuoso French ballerina regularly
extended her leg beside her ear with immaculate poise in the 1980s that leg extensions for ballet dancers in classical roles reached their zenith. Traditionalists like Clement Crisp were not taken with it.
Birmingham Royal Ballet announced today that international star Carlos Acosta will be taking over as director in January of 2020. Current BRB director David Bintley will be stepping down this summer, at the end of the company's 2019 season, after a 24-year tenure. "It is a tremendous honor and privilege to have been appointed to lead Birmingham Royal Ballet," Acosta said in a statement.
Since retiring from The Royal Ballet in 2015, Acosta has focused much of his attention on his native Cuba, where he's proven his directorial abilities at the helm of Acosta Danza, the contemporary company that he founded in 2016. In 2017 Acosta also opened his first Dance Academy through his foundation, which provides free training to students. We don't yet know how Acosta will balance his time between his projects in Cuba and his new role at BRB.
My personal life has taken a nosedive since I broke up with my boyfriend. He's in the same show and is now dating one of my colleagues. It's heartbreaking to see them together, and I'm determined never to date a fellow dancer again. But it's challenging to find someone outside, as I practically live in the theater. Do you have any advice?
—Loveless, New York, NY
The inimitable Carol Channing, best known for her role as the titular Hello, Dolly!, passed away today at 97.
Though she became a three-time Tony winner, Channing was born in Seattle, far from the Great White Way, in 1921. After growing up in San Francisco, she attended the famed Bennington College, studying dance and drama. She later told the university, "What Bennington allows you to do is develop the thing you're going to do anyway, over everybody's dead body." For Channing, that meant decades of fiery, comical performances, bursting with energy.
Something's coming, I don't know when
But it's soon...maybe tonight?
Those iconic lyrics have basically been our #mood ever since we first heard a remake of the West Side Story film, directed by Steven Spielberg and choreographed by Justin Peck, was in the works. THE CASTING. THE CASTING WAS COMING.
Well, last night—after an extensive search process that focused on finding the best actors within the Puerto Rican/Latinx community—the WSS team finally revealed who'll be playing Maria, Anita, Bernardo, and Chino (joining Ansel Elgort, who was cast as Tony last fall). And you guys: It is a truly epic group.
Rehearsal is in full swing, and Leta Biasucci, Pacific Northwest Ballet's newest principal dancer, finds herself in unfamiliar territory. Biasucci is always game for a challenge, but choreographer Kyle Davis wants her to lift fellow dancer Clara Ruf Maldonado. Repeatedly. While she's known for her technical prowess, lifting another dancer off the floor is a bit daunting for Biasucci, who stands all of 5' 3". She eyes Maldonado skeptically, then breaks into a grin.
"It's absolutely given me a new appreciation for the partner standing behind me!" Biasucci says with a laugh.
Looking at Biasucci, 29, with her wide smile and eager curiosity, you think you see the quintessential extrovert. In reality, she's anything but. "I was an introverted kid," Biasucci says. "That's part of the reason I fell in love with dance—I didn't have to be talkative."
It's only one of the seeming contradictions in Biasucci's life: She's a short, muscular ballerina in a company known for its fleet of tall, long-legged women; she's also most comfortable with classical ballet, while taking on a growing repertoire of contemporary work.
Sergei Polunin, whose recent homophobic and sexist Instagram posts have sparked international outrage, will not be appearing with the Paris Opéra Ballet as previously announced.
POB artistic director Aurélie Dupont sent an internal email to company staff and dancers on Sunday, explaining that she did not share Polunin's values and that the Russian-based dancer would not be guesting with the company during the upcoming run of Rudolf Nureyev's Swan Lake in February.