What do Percy Jackson, Princess Diana and Tina Turner have in common? They're all characters on Broadway this season. Throw in Michelle Dorrance's choreographic debut, Henry VIII's six diva-licious wives and the 1990s angst of Alanis Morissette, and the 2019–20 season is shaping up to be an exciting mix of past-meets-pop-culture-present.
Here's a look at the musicals hitting Broadway in the coming months. We're biding our time until opening night!
Unexpected collaborations, celebrations of culture, literary classics that take a turn for the tragic—it might be freezing outside, but the new season is just heating up. Here are six shows we'd happily brave the winter weather for this month.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is a busy man. These days, when he's not directing Royal Ballet of Flanders or his contemporary company Eastman, he's working on a new duet with Irish dancer Colin Dunne, creating a premiere for the Göteborg Opera, or choreographing on Beyoncé like it's NBD.
Next week, he's also taking a trip to New York City to perform in Sutra, his hit collaboration with a group of 20 Shaolin monks. In the 10 years since its premiere, the work has been performed in 60 cities across 28 countries to rave reviews and sold-out audiences. The New York performances at the White Light Festival mark a homecoming to the same festival where the piece received its US premiere.
We recently caught up with Cherkaoui to hear his thoughts on performing on the opening night of the run, what he's learned from the monks and how he manages to juggle so many projects at once.
In 1995, when Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill album stormed the airwaves, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui was a young dancer in Antwerp, Belgium, taking his first steps toward a genre-mixing, category-defying career. In 2018, with more than 50 choreographic works and two Olivier Awards, he takes on the choreography of Jagged Little Pill, the musical, premiering May 5 at American Repertory Theater.
The much-anticipated Martha Graham Dance Company season at New York City Center is upon us. From April 11–14, the company will present classics like Chronicle, the sly melodrama Embattled Garden and of course Graham's visceral masterwork The Rite of Spring. This season also includes works by internationally acclaimed choreographers Lucinda Childs, Lar Lubovitch and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
We sat down with Graham artistic director Janet Eilber to talk about bringing back older Graham works, working with new choreographers and what Martha would have to say about today's wave of feminism.
Ten years is a long time for a dance production to run, but Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Sutra, an athletic, meditative spectacle featuring 19 Shaolin monks and a malleable set of 21 wooden boxes (designed by Antony Gormley) is still striking a chord with audiences worldwide. To celebrate the milestone, Sutra is returning to Sadler's Wells, where it all began. March 26–28. sadlerswells.com.
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Claude Debussy's only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, emphasizes clarity and subtlety over high-flung drama as a deadly love triangle unfolds. Opera Vlaanderen and Royal Ballet of Flanders are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the composer's death with a new production of the landmark opera that is sure to be anything but traditional: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet are choreographing and directing, while boundary-pushing performance artist Marina Abramović collaborates on the design. Antwerp, Feb. 2–13. Ghent, Feb. 23–March 4. operaballet.be/en.
She may have ruined the word "ironic" forever, but we can't help loving Alanis Morrisette for channeling all our 90s-era angst. So we were super excited to hear rumors a few years ago that someone was making a musical out of her Grammy-winning album "Jagged Little Pill."
This week we learned even better news: There's serious talent behind the show—and it now has an official opening date of May 5, 2018 at American Repertory Theater.
Can a contemporary choreographer save the Royal Ballet of Flanders? That's what many questioned when the company announced that Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui would take over in September as the new artistic director. The organization's future has seemed increasingly bleak since Kathryn Bennetts resigned in 2012 over the merger of Antwerp's ballet and opera companies. The tenure of her successor, Assis Carreiro, brought an eclectic mix of classical and contemporary works, but lasted only two seasons before she was let go last fall.
Royal Ballet of Flanders' board approached Cherkaoui, who directs his own contemporary troupe, Eastman. To help balance styles, he suggested that ballet master Tamas Moricz, who danced with Frankfurt Ballet under William Forsythe, join him as associate artistic director.
Cherkaoui, who was born in Antwerp, hopes that his local ties may help him handle the treacherous politics his predecessors faced. “I can raise my voice in Flemish, the language of the community," he says. Plus, his experience with Eastman's flexible structure may prove useful in running a company facing budget constraints. “I'm used to working on a shoestring," he says. “We have to find alternative solutions, collaborations and co-productions."
Still, the local dance community has speculated that Cherkaoui's appointment signals the death of classical ballet in Belgium. Though Cherkaoui won't speak specifically of the company's future repertoire, he says he is looking to bring ballet and contemporary dance together. “Either we go for reconciliation or separation. I'm trying to reconcile," he says. He also wants to explore the Royal Ballet of Flanders' history, including the little-known work of Jeanne Brabants, who founded the company in 1969. And he plans to reintroduce Belgian talent like Jeroen Verbruggen, who choreographs for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo.
Though Carreiro programmed the upcoming season, Cherkaoui has made small adjustments, including his creation of a new work in October. No layoffs have been planned. “We're starting homoeopathically, which is a good thing," he says. “I want to take my time to connect with the dancers, the staff."
Left: Sara Mearns rehearsing Karole Armitage’s A Dancer’s Dream. Photo by Chris Lee.
In the case of breakout choreographer Kyle Abraham, the appeal of his work lies in its power to surprise. A rippling hip-hop duet might melt into a pair of smiles and an unexpected hug, which somehow unfolds into an upsetting scene of police violence. He can skillfully pair smart humor with disturbing observations about racism, or a romantic tutu with a 1980s boom box. This agility has helped him rack up an impressive collection of commissions, tours, grants and awards over the past two years, seemingly coming out of nowhere to become the new darling of the dance world. Now with a MacArthur “genius grant” worth $625,000, Abraham has the resources to take his vision even further. (Are you a choreographer looking for your own opportunities? Be sure to check out “Choreography Knocks,” a detailed list of workshops, festivals, residencies and more, at dancemagazine.com.)
Our annual choreography issue also talks to a handful of today’s most interesting dancemakers about one of the boldest tools they can use onstage: nudity. In “Baring It All,” Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Jonah Bokaer and others talk about what goes into their decisions to present dancers naked. We also hear a performer’s view of what that experience is like. And in “A Muse’s Vision,” New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns shares her perspective on the creative process, and talks about the magic—and pressure—of stringing together series of movements until they become something more. Because ultimately, choreographers’ number-one tools are their dancers.
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Headshot by Nathan Sayers
GöteborgsOperans Danskompani rehearsing Noetic. Photo by Tilo Stengel.
The Grass Is Always Greener…
GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s newest work takes on a familiar theme: the need to understand the rules in order to break them. The Belgian choreographer’s Noetic, for Sweden’s GöteborgsOperans Danskompani, explores the human desire to find order, only to long for freedom once that’s achieved. Playing with this idea of building up and breaking down, sculptor Antony Gormley has designed a set with six large rings that support the dancers’ weight and connect to create new structures. Upping the piece’s European cool quotient even further, the dancers are decked out in costumes by Belgian menswear duo Les Hommes. Premieres March 8–April 12 at The Göteborg Opera. opera.se.
Luhrmann Makes a Musical
SYDNEY Baz Luhrmann’s movies owe a debt to Broadway spectacle—Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge! and, most recently, The Great Gatsby jump off the screen with electric colors and drama-fueled plots. But he entered new directing territory when reimagining his first major flick, Strictly Ballroom (1992), for the stage. The pasadoble-filled musical about a champion ballroom dancer premieres on March 25 at the Sydney Lyric Theatre. strictlyballroomthemusical.com.
Strictly Ballroom: The Musical. Photo courtesy AB Publicity.
Lights for LINES
NEW YORK CITY Distraction or enhancement? That’s the question about the LED light set for Alonzo King’s work Constellation. At times, electronic artist Jim Campbell provides a giant pegboard of lights; at others, the dancers cradle individual lights in their hands or feet. Either way, King’s oozy, stretchy choreography is never less than gorgeous, and the dancers of LINES Ballet are never less than compelling. A bonus: Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani will sing live. March 18–23 at The Joyce Theater. joyce.org.
Yujin Kim and Zachary Tang in King’s Constellation. Photo by Margo Moritz, Courtesy LINES.
SAN FRANCISCO Robert Moses typically uses his company to showcase his silky contemporary work. But the closing weekend of the Black Choreographers Festival is a rare chance to see Robert Moses’ Kin dancers take on a range of pieces by other artists. His Draft/By series at the ODC Theater includes choreography by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance alum Bliss Kohlmyer, hip-hop/modern dancer Dexandro Montalvo and former LINES Ballet maverick Gregory Dawson. But Moses loyalists need not worry—the artistic director will show a new work, too. March 6–8. bcfhereandnow.
Robert Moses’ Kin preparing for Draft/By. Photo courtesy Robert Moses.
Not Your Momma’s Flamenco
PHILADELPHIA There is a flurry of flamenco festivals this month, but the Philadelphia Flamenco Festival, March 1–16, is a chance to see some of Spain’s most applauded alongside Philly’s own: Local all-female troupe Pasión Y Arte will host and perform; Spanish star Israel Galván, whose dances blend traditional flamenco with theatrical contemporary movement, will show new work; and his sister Pastora Galván will dance, as well. For the truly unconventional flamenco-goer, Sevillian postmodernist Rosario Toledo will stomp up a storm—in sneakers. pasionyarteflamenco.org.
Spain’s Israel Galván. Photo by Felix Vazquezla, Courtey Feischman Gerber & Associates.
NEW YORK CITY You wouldn’t expect the cool, contained formalist Beth Gill to do something huge and dramatic. But this time out, in a work commissioned by New York Live Arts, that’s what she’s aiming for. Her lighting designer, Thomas Dunn, is capable of giving an uncanny feeling of hot and dry, and her dancers succumb to glaring light and spatial vastness. If this is beginning to sound like being in a desert, you got it: The piece is called New Work for the Desert. March 20–22. newyorklivearts.org.
Gill’s dancers in residency for Desert at Florida State University. Photo by Chris Cameron, Courtesy Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography.