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Festival Fever: 33 Performances On Our Radar This Summer

Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group will appear at Bates Dance Festival this summer. Photo by Ian Douglas, Courtesy Bates

As far as we're concerned, it's not really summer until our favorite dance festivals kick things off. This year's season is as packed and promising as ever, with seemingly everyone who is anyone converging on at least one big festival between now and August. Here are the artists, premieres and collaborations we can't wait to see.


American Dance Festival

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

Jerry Metellus, Courtesy ADF

DURHAM, NC ADF's busy five-week season has its eyes on both the past and the future. The season is dedicated to the late Paul Taylor, with Taylor 2 opening the season in his Piazzolla Caldera, the main company performing two programs of classics (all ADF premieres) and Michael Trusnovec, acting as artist in residence, staging the iconic Esplanade on ADF students. Eiko Otake, Micaela Taylor (for Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble), and Murielle Elizéon and Tommy Noonan premiere new commissions; Dorrance Dance and Malpaso Dance Company make their ADF debuts. June 13–July 20. americandancefestival.org.

Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival

Circa, here in What Will Have Been, appears at the Pillow this summer.

Andy Phillipson, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow

BECKET, MA As always, there's more happening at America's longest-running dance festival than any one person could experience. We have our sights set on Lucinda Childs' new vehicle for Wendy Whelan (The Day), premieres from companies like Compañía Irene Rodríguez and Gallim Dance, and Ice Dance International's Inside/Out performance featuring choreography by Trey McIntyre and Edward Villella, which marks the first time ice dancing (albeit on synthetic ice) has appeared at the Pillow. Anniversaries are big this summer, too, with the Pillow debut of Compagnie CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston to mark the Cunningham Centennial, Dance Theatre of Harlem continuing its 50th-anniversary celebrations, and Mark Morris Dance Group looking ahead to its 40th in 2020. June 19–Aug. 25. jacobspillow.org.

Manchester International Festival

Rambert

Ben Hopper, Courtesy MIF

MANCHESTER, UK While they might not be the headliners of this multi-genre festival (that would be actor Idris Elba and musician Janelle Monáe), the dance offerings at this year's Manchester International Festival more than hold their own. There's the multidisciplinary Invisible Cities, a site-specific work that reimagines how Marco Polo described his travels to Kublai Khan, with Rambert performing choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui; the premiere of Trajal Harrell's Tennessee Williams–inspired Maggie the Cat; Thank You Very Much, in which Claire Cunningham uses the strange world of Elvis impersonators to explore issues of identity and self-tribute; and the return of Reggie "Regg Roc" Gray, who is joined by New York City– and Manchester-based flexers for Alphabus. July 4–21. mif.co.uk.

Bates Dance Festival

nora chipaumire's #PUNK 100% POP *N!GGA

Ian Douglas, Courtesy Bates Dance Festival

LEWISTON, ME Buzzy, challenging works from a wide spectrum of artists brush up against each other at Bates Dance Festival. The festival opens with hip-hop duo MaMa2 (Amirah Sackett and Mary Mar) and closes with jumatatu m. poe and Jermone Donte Beacham's exploration of queer black life, This is a Formation: Intervention. In between are Netta Yerushalmy's rigorous deconstruction of dance masterworks (Paramodernities), Joanna Kotze's rumination on the sociopolitical environment around the 2016 election (What will we be like when we get there), and Bates favorites Doug Varone, Reggie Wilson and nora chipaumire. July 12–14; July 25–Aug. 3. batesdancefestival.org.

Vail Dance Festival

Patricia Delgado and Lauren Lovette in rehearsal

Erin Baiano, Courtesy Vail Dance Festival

VAIL, CO A panoply of high-profile dancers make their annual trek to the mountains for this collaboration-rich festival. Female choreographers are once again a focus this year, with the NOW: Premieres program featuring new works by Michelle Dorrance, Tiler Peck, Pam Tanowitz and Lauren Lovette, who, in her capacity as artist in residence, will also star in a new work by Ailey dancer Hope Boykin and teach master classes. And it will be a tale of two coasts as dancers from Alonzo King LINES Ballet take the stage with members of New York City Ballet for a new work from King and musician Jason Moran. July 26–Aug. 10. vaildance.org.

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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