Raise your hand if you've ever gotten sucked down an informational rabbit hole on the internet. (Come on, we know it's not just us.) Now, allow us to direct you to this new project from Google Arts & Culture. To celebrate Black History Month, they've put together a newly curated collection of images, videos and stories that spotlights black history and culture in America specifically through the lens of dance—and it's pretty much our new favorite way to pass the time online.
With a blend of postmodern and black aesthetics, Reggie Wilson's work explores connections between secular and spiritual cultures of the African diaspora in the Americas. Audiences are drawn to his unique synergy of formal rigor, playfulness and depth.
The Milwaukee-raised award-winning choreographer formed Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group in Brooklyn in 1989 after dancing for Ohad Naharin. Most recently, he curated the 2018 Danspace Project's Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance.
It's no wonder Yeman Brown was nominated for a 2017 Outstanding Performer Bessie for his performance in Reggie Wilson's Citizen. Amidst the marathon of broken-up solos, Brown flies through the lightning-fast choreography. His movement is both gestural and athletic—not to mention deeply poetic—and is driven by a particular force which exudes a matter-of-fact command of the stage.
Myles Thatcher in the studio. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.
A New Ballet Voice
This season, budding dancemaker Myles Thatcher had the opportunity to be mentored by one of the world’s greatest classical choreographers. Alexei Ratmansky chose the San Francisco Ballet corps member for the Rolex Mentor & Protégé Arts Initiative, taking him under his choreographic wing, so to speak. Now Thatcher will premiere a ballet with six couples set to Bach. It’s his first for SFB’s main season, on a program with works by none other than William Forsythe and Hans van Manen. Select dates Feb. 24–March 7. sfballet.org.
Choreographer Asher Lev. Photo Courtesy Chop Shop.
A popular festival in the Seattle area, Chop Shop: Bodies of Work, offers a refreshing lineup of contemporary dance from the region and beyond. This year includes the Bay Area’s Alex Ketley, Gabrielle Revlock from Philly and Seattle’s Stone Dance Collective, led by Eva Stone, the mastermind behind Chop Shop. International entries include Donald Sales, from Vancouver, and Asher Lev, from Belgium/Israel. Several choreographers will also give master classes, with scholarships available to pre-professionals. Feb. 14–15, Theatre at Meydenbauer. chopshopdance.org.
Ballet Memphis in Gabrielle Lamb’s Manifold. Photo by Andrea Zucker, Courtesy Ballet Memphis.
Four Choreographers, One Work
It’s an ambitious project: Gather four choreographers from different dance worlds, ask each to create something that speaks to their identity, then link them together and make one cohesive performance. Ballet Memphis’ I Am will include the voices of Reggie Wilson, Gabrielle Lamb, Julia Adam and Steven McMahon in I Am A Man, I Am A Woman, I Am A Child and closing with I Am, respectively. Each piece will be inspired by the theme of civil rights struggles in America.
“Part of my quest is building a ballet company that looks like our community,” says artistic director Dorothy Gunther Pugh. “If you look at our culture, women, children and people of color are still not fully valued. I want the work we create to have value in other people’s lives. That we realize that ballet is part of the world—not the world.” Feb. 20–22 at Playhouse on the Square. balletmemphis.org.
Yumiko Takeshima and Raphaël Coumes-Marquet in David Dawson’s Giselle. Photo by Costin Radu, Courtesy Semperoper Ballet.
A Modern Take on an Old Tale
Novels, films and operas have captured the tragic love story Tristan + Isolde. This month, Semperoper Ballet dances a new ballet version by David Dawson, whose work has become a staple of many European repertoires. This isn’t the abstract choreographer’s first narrative, though. Dawson, who credits his years dancing for William Forsythe as his most influential, created an unconventional but well received Giselle for the company in 2008. (And it’s on this year’s rep list, as well, with performances in April). Select dates Feb. 15–26 at the Semperoper in Dresden. semperoper.de.
Eve Schulte and Kelly Vittetoe in Nicolas Lincoln’s Semi-Detached. Photo by V.P. Virtucio, Courtesy James Sewell Ballet.
Two Styles, Fused
James Sewell Ballet, known for exploring the possibilities of what ballet can be, has commissioned a work from New York City postmodern darling Joanna Kotze. Her new work will take its ideas from what’s lost in translation—between conversations, cultures and the ballet-vs.-modern-dance division. Also on the bill: Works by Houston’s Jane Weiner and Minnesota choreographers Lance Hardin and Amy Earnest, as well as a new piece by company dancer Nicolas Lincoln. Feb. 6–15, The Cowles Center. thecowlescenter.org.
Double the Diva
MONTE CARLO What do you get when you combine the sublime dramatics of Diana Vishneva and the stylish eloquence of Bernice Coppieters? Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Switch, which comes to the Salle Garnier in Monte Carlo Dec. 18–19. Maillot chose a cinematic score by Danny Elfman for the work, which features longtime Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo dancer Gaëtan Morlotti alongside Maillot’s two muses. Switch is paired on the program with Carolyn Carlson’s solo for Vishneva, Woman in a Room, part of Vishneva’s “On the Edge” evening, which premiered last month at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Southern California. www.balletsdemontecarlo.com.
Coppieters, Vishneva, and Maillot. Photo by Alice Blangero, Courtesy Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo.
Danzón in DC
WASHINGTON, DC This month, Ballet Hispanico visits the Kennedy Center for the first time under director Eduardo Vilaro. The soulful Jardí Tancat, Nacho Duato’s first choreographic work, joins the spirited duet Sortijas (Rings) by fellow Spaniard Cayetano Soto, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s vivacious all-male Sombrerísimo, and Vilaro’s own Danzón, made extraordinary by the infectious onstage musical performance of jazz saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera. Dec. 5–6, with masterclass led by BH company members on Dec. 4. www.kennedy-center.org.
Ballet Hispanico in Nacho Duato's Jardi Tancat. Photo by Paula Lobo, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick.
From Screen to Stage
PHILADELPHIA The wizards of BodyVox bring The Cutting Room, an homage to films of all persuasions, to the Annenberg Center in Philly. Under co-directors Ashley Roland and Jamey Hampton, who count MOMIX and Pilobolus among their credits, the Portland-based company is known for its theatricality and eye-catching physicality. The Cutting Room incorporates video clips to explore motion pictures, from documentary to romantic comedy to sci-fi. Dec. 12–14. www.danceaffiliates.org.
BodyVox in The Cutting Room. Photo by David Krebs, Courtesy BodyVox.
Moseying Along Moses’ Paths
NEW YORK CITY Leave it to Reggie Wilson to dig up rousing vocal music from the depths of black culture for his dances. The sound score for his new Moses(es), presented by Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, combines hip-hop, house, and traditional music from Egypt, Senegal, and Zanzibar. This full-length piece draws from another American who researched her roots: Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston. The nine dancers of Wilson’s Fist & Heel Performance Group will explore responses to questions inspired by various versions of the Moses narrative: How do we lead and why do we follow? Dec. 4–7, BAM Harvey Theater. www.bam.org.
Reggie Wilson's Moses(es). Photo by Julia Cervantes, Courtesy BAM.
CHICAGO Alejandro Cerrudo’s evening-length One Thousand Pieces for the dancers of both Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Hubbard Street 2 returns to the Harris Theater Dec. 12–15. Described as a “rarely pausing onslaught of silky, gorgeous, often classically pure dance, dotted with bits of its choreographer’s persona” by Sid Smith of the Chicago Tribune, the piece, which premiered last year, draws inspiration from Marc Chagall’s blue-tinged America Windows and its Philip Glass score. (See “DM Awards,” p. 36). www.hubbardstreetdance.com.
Jessica Tong and Jesse Bechard in One Thousand Pieces. Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy HSDC.
Mad for MADboots
NEW YORK CITY After meeting in Sidra Bell’s contemporary dance company, Jonathan Campbell and Austin Diaz joined forces in 2011, creating compelling male-centered work for their NYC–based troupe MADboots dance co. The two have a knack for unison, and though Campbell comes by way of Juilliard and Diaz from NYU’s Tisch School, it’s like they were cut from the same postmodern cloth—gesturing, slicing, and rolling through space as one. This month MADboots will present two works for the 92nd St. Y’s Dig Dance series: their 2013 piece, blue, a work for three men with bouquets of brightly colored flowers inspired by Picasso’s Blue Period, along with a premiere, ACADEMY, a dance for five men set to an eclectic music and sound score. Dec. 7–8. www.madbootsdance.com or www.92y.org.
The men of MADboots. Photo by Nir Ariel, Courtesy MADboots.
Downtown Dance Sampler
NEW YORK CITY Every year Movement Research, that fortress of experimental dance and performance, holds a fall festival. Curated by Adrienne Truscott and Jibz Cameron, this edition is hosted by the Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church. It includes masters of improvisation like Ishmael Houston-Jones, Greg Zuccolo, and members of a younger generation. For instance, Nikki Zialcita has worked with “25 to Watch” choreographer Faye Driscoll, and Sophia Cleary has worked with the brazen Ann Liv Young. Expect a range from serene to boisterous. Dec. 5–7 at Danspace Project. www.movementresearch.org or www.danspaceproject.org.
Adrienne Truscott. Photo by Ian Douglas, Courtesy Movement Research
Tolerance and Tragicomedy
NEW YORK CITY With its talkback format, Camille A. Brown’s latest work, Mr. TOL E. RAncE, is meant to engender conversation around race and humor. Through Brown’s vibrant choreography, the evocative piece, which Camille A. Brown & Dancers perform at the Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts in Brooklyn, Dec. 6–7, explores the historical roots of minstrelsy and its present-day forms. (Paging Miley Cyrus.) See www.camilleabrown.org to participate in the dialogue online.
Waldean Nelson in Mr. TOL E. RAncE. Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy Camille A. Brown
What’s Left Behind
MIAMI In Jonah Bokaer’s latest work, Occupant, premiering at Art Basel Miami on Dec. 6, dancers manipulate chalk plaster sculptures by visual artist Daniel Arsham, Bokaer’s frequent collaborator (who also worked with Merce Cunningham, Bokaer’s former boss). The work removes divisions between process and product—traces of the objects will transform the black-papered floor of the Carnival Studio Theater into a drawing. www.arshtcenter.org.
Jonah Bokaer. Photo courtesy Ellen Jacobs.