Last week, I attended a show I'd been eagerly anticipating: Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise at The Shed, a brand-new performance venue in New York City. Not only was I looking forward to Akram Khan's choreography (not to mention a sword-wielding PeiJu Chien-Pott and remixes of Sia's music), but I was anxious to get a taste of The Shed's ambitious inaugural season.
Despite the slick marketing and big names involved, Dragon Spring fell short, with its cheesy dialogue, disjointed pacing and problematic narrative.
But something that evening bothered me far more than what was happening onstage.
The cast of Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise in rehearsal. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy The Shed
Akram Khan loves to dive into genres he is unfamiliar with. While his own movement vocabulary is a hybrid of kathak and contemporary dance, he has choreographed a new Giselle for English National Ballet, collaborated with flamenco artist Israel Galván and made a dance theater duet with film star Juliette Binoche. Now, in between touring Xenos, his final full-length solo, and several other projects, he's found time to tackle kung fu. Khan is part of the collaborative team behind Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a blockbuster musical based on themes of migration and the fight for survival, running June 22–July 27. Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and featuring a score that remixes songs by Sia, it's part of the inaugural season of The Shed, a new venue in New York City.
PeiJu Chien-Pott rehearsing in Beijing for the role of Xiao Lian in Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise. Photo by An Rong Xu
When dancers kick their legs, they typically try to avoid hitting their colleagues. But the performers in the upcoming show Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, choreographed by Akram Khan, have had to train to do just the opposite.
"It's not a grand battement. You're kicking someone's face. It has to have intention," says Martha Graham Dance Company star PeiJu Chien-Pott, who plays the role of Xiao Lian, a mother fighting to protect her family.
Xenos, Akram Khan's final full-length solo, is an ode to the soldiers of World War I. Photo by Nicol Vizioli, Courtesy Sadler's Wells
We might have gotten a little bit carried away with this year's "Season Preview"—but with the 2018–19 season packing so many buzzy shows, how could we not? Here are over two dozen tours, premieres and revivals that have us drooling.
Flex dancers in rehearsal at Park Avenue Armory. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy Park Avenue Armory
The Shed might not open its doors for another year, but this month Manhattan's new multidisciplinary arts center is showcasing the type of programming it hopes to offer. A Prelude to The Shed takes over an empty lot near the High Line for two weeks of ever-shifting programming. It will include dance battles featuring Reggie "Regg Roc" Gray's D.R.E.A.M. Ring and FlexNYC program; This variation, an immersive dance/sound experience by Tino Sehgal; and a new work commissioned from William Forsythe reimagining the pas de deux from his iconic In the middle, somewhat elevated. And those are just the dance offerings. May 1–13. Once the Prelude ends, we're particularly looking forward to a new production with music by Sia and choreography by Akram Khan set to premiere as part of The Shed's inaugural season next spring.
Tickets for A Prelude to The Shed are free and can be reserved beginning Thursday, April 5 at 12:00 pm EST at theshed.org.