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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.

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Dancers will take over the Tower of London for East Wall. Photo by Victor Frankowski, Courtesy The Corner Shop PR

For all of its historic sites, the pulse of London can be found in its diversity, and the constant collision of the new with the old. Hofesh Shechter Company and East London Dance are pulling this dichotomy into the spotlight with East Wall, the culmination of a three-year collaboration celebrating the communities of East London. Directed by Hofesh Shechter, four young, London-based choreographers—Becky Namgauds, Duwane Taylor, James Finnemore and Joseph Toonga—weave together their wildly disparate styles for an outdoor spectacle featuring more than 150 dancers and musicians performing at one of the city's most iconic structures: the Tower of London. July 18–22. eastwall.org.

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Hofesh Shechter's Grand Finale. Photo by Rahi Rezvani, Courtesy Danse Danse.

The first time I saw a Hofesh Shechter work, the usher handed me a program and a pair of earplugs as I walked up to the theater door. I was running late so I stuffed the tiny foam pieces in my pocket. I could not imagine in what universe I would ever need such things if I didn't even use them at rock concerts. And then I walked into the theater. I was pleasantly surprised to be accosted by the decibel level of what appeared to be a death metal band playing live for Shechter's Political Mother. I never used the earplugs, but perhaps the usual concert dance audience was grateful for the gesture.

In 2012, the show was a surprise even by the standards of Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival. In the years since, the Israeli choreographer has continued to shock and awe American audiences with his powerful, raw dance theater. His latest creation, Grand Finale, is a mature study in the contrasts and contradictions, the violence and the transcendence, that mark the modern human condition. I caught up with Shechter, now based in London, ahead of the work's appearance at BAM Next Wave November 9–11.

Grand Finale. Photo by Rahi Rezvani, Courtesy Danse Danse

What was your inspiration for Grand Finale? Is it purely abstract or is there a story in it for you?

I try to make work that is like a real night dream: You feel a lot of things and kind of know where you are are, and you kind of understand what is happening. It is an opportunity to express and digest a lot of emotions in the world today and in my life. And the responses are subjective; some people speak to me about the absolute despair in it and some speak of the hope they see, a shining star in the dark or a celebration of life. I think these two powers just exist together. There is a feeling of celebrating life regardless of how difficult it is, and, perhaps new to me, the feeling that there is beauty in the horrifying truth of our world, in what people are and how they behave. I was trying to make poetry with atrocities around me.

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Hofesh Shechter's Grand Finale. Photo by Rahi Rezvani, Courtesy Danse Danse.

We are deep into the fall season, and the steady stream of great performances has yet to let up. Here are the shows we're keeping an eye on this month.

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