The Washington Post Sunday
Dance returns to move audiences
After months of suspended shows, companies have planned performances on public stages and home screens
Live performance has never been more complicated, even as it has never felt more cherished. While many dance groups plan to make it back onstage this fall, the coronavirus pandemic’s repercussions on the field are far from over.
Dance being a touring art form, the whole supply chain is out of whack. National Ballet of China scrapped its January appearance at the Kennedy Center, citing pandemic conditions. Other troupes planning tours are waiting to hear how shifting health precautions may impact modes of travel and affect theaters, hotels and border crossings.
So it’s no surprise that dance is missing or scarce on many presenters’ schedules. Take Northeast Washington’s intimate Dance Place, for example; normally brimming with local and touring groups, it’s offering relatively few on-site performances this fall.
Still, there are stimulating works to be found there, and elsewhere. I’ve gathered some of my top picks, along with ways to enjoy dance without leaving home. These support the art form, too.
Beginning this month and continuing through December, Films.dance will offer 15 new, short dance films free on its website and on Facebook and Instagram. Filmed in Moscow; Tokyo; Cape Town, South Africa; and elsewhere, the films will follow the model that project creator Jacob Jonas established this past spring — bringing choreographers and dancers together from around the world in a virtual space to create movement that is then filmed on-site, often in stunning outdoor locations. Among the upcoming offerings is one featuring Luca Patuelli, Canadian B-boy and founder of ILL-Abilities Company, in a work created by Alessandro Giaquinto of Stuttgart Ballet. New films released each Monday from Sept. 13-Dec. 20. films.dance.
Bowen McCauley Dance
After 25 years as one of the Washington area’s most prolific and generous dance artists, Lucy Bowen McCauley is retiring with a grand finale performance of her company, Bowen McCauley Dance Co., at the Kennedy
Center. The one-night program features three world premieres, repertory works, guest artists and live music supported by the Hoppa Project, which aims to promote music from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The event is a welcome chance to honor Bowen McCauley’s output — more than 100 dances — as well as her community outreach and school residencies throughout the region. But she’s not going anywhere: Post-retirement, she’ll continue teaching at Maryland Youth Ballet and dancing with people living with Parkinson’s disease, through the Dance for PD program. Sept. 14 at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. kennedycenter.org.
Red Sky Performance
Based in Toronto and dedicated to Indigenous arts and culture, Red Sky Performance presents “Trace,” an hour-long work inspired by traditional sky and star stories, which look forward as well as back. Oct. 2-3 at Dance Place. danceplace.org.
Paul Taylor Dance Company
It’s been 30 years since the Kennedy Center established its visionary Ballet Commissioning Project, which brought together leading choreographers and the nation’s top ballet companies. Paul Taylor’s “Company B” is one of the glories that resulted. Taylor created it in 1991 simultaneously for his company and the Houston Ballet, and it was an instant success. Its somewhat deceptive jitterbug vibe is accompanied by World War II-era recordings by the Andrews Sisters, leading many to believe it was an antiwar piece, but Taylor denied this. Still, themes of lost innocence, untimely death and stoic perseverance ring clearly in “Company B,” along with a strong sense of optimism. Considering what we’ve all been through this past year, this work may feel especially restorative. “Company B” and the joyous “Esplanade,” Oct. 7-9 at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. kennedy-center.org.
12th Annual San Francisco Dance Film Festival
Local patrons can view exclusive screenings in Bay Area theaters, but many of the dance films from several countries, including feature-length films, shorts, documentaries and experimental creations, will also be available to stream on Marquee TV. Oct. 15-24. sfdancefilmfest.org.
Ronald K. Brown/Evidence
Who couldn’t use a little grace these days? Ronald K. Brown’s “Grace” brings the look, feel and emotional balm of this attribute to the stage in a reminder of what miraculous beings we are. Two more works round out the performances of his company, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence: “Mercy,” featuring live accompaniment by vocalist, composer and bass
ist Meshell Ndegeocello, and a new piece, “The Equality of Night and Day,” with an original score by Jason Moran, the Kennedy Center’s artistic director for jazz. Oct. 21-23 at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. kennedy-center.org.
American Ballet Theatre
While theaters were closed last year, many dancers and choreographers stayed busy making new works in “bubbles.” In its fall series, American Ballet Theatre will perform several of these pieces created when the artists quarantined together. Among these are Lauren Lovette’s “La Follia Variations,” Darrell Grand Moultrie’s “Indestructible Light,” Alexei Ratmansky’s “Bernstein in a Bubble” (accompanied by Leonard Bernstein’s “Divertimento”) and Christopher Rudd’s “Touché.” The fall series also includes a world premiere by Jessica Lang titled “ZigZag,” featuring 11 songs recorded by Tony Bennett — we can never get enough of Tony Bennett — along with scenic designs inspired by Bennett’s visual art; in addition, “Giselle” and works by Antony Tudor and Clark Tippett. Oct. 20-31 at David H. Koch Theatre, New York. abt.org.
Let ’im Move You
Choreographers Jumatatu M. Poe and Jermone Donte Beacham have drawn inspiration from J-Sette, a choreographed performance style practiced by the famed Jackson State University dance line, an auxiliary of the well-known Jackson, Miss.-based collegiate marching band. Drawing on J-Sette’s rules of formation and order, “Let ’im Move You” confronts the real and imaginary meanings of Black queer bodies in public assembly. Oct. 28-30 at Dance Place. danceplace.org.
Hello and goodbye, all at once. Akram Khan, the acclaimed London-based choreographer, appears at the Kennedy Center for the first time. But he’ll be dancing for the last time, in his solo “Xenos,” which is billed as his final appearance in a full-length work. Inspired by archives, “Xenos” evokes the dreams of a World War I colonial soldier, created in collaboration with dramaturge Ruth Little and Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill. An ensemble of five musicians will appear onstage with the dancer-choreographer, whose work draws on contemporary dance styles as well as kathak, the Indian classical dance form. Nov. 18-20 at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. kennedy-center.org.
The exhilaration of tap dancing. The rolling bounce and swing of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. And the merry spirit of “The Nutcracker.” It’s not much of a risk to say this sounds like a whole new order of winter fun. That’s the promise of Dorrance Dance’s “The Nutcracker Suite,” a tap version of the holiday favorite created by Michelle Dorrance, Hannah Heller and Josette Wiggan-Freund, with variations on the familiar Tchaikovsky by Ellington and Strayhorn. Dec. 3-4 at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. kennedy-center.org.
You can also enjoy tap at home, paging through “Sportin’ Life: John W. Bubbles, An American Classic,” a new biography of the vaudeville tap legend whose Buck and Bubbles partnership endured for 30 years. His rhythmic imagination inspired Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell and the Nicholas Brothers, and marked jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington. The title of this book by Brian Harker refers to the character Bubbles indelibly played in the original “Porgy and Bess.” The book comes out Nov. 23 from Oxford University Press.
New York City Ballet
Given his years dancing alongside them as a New York City Ballet member, choreographer Justin Peck knows the men and women he casts in his works especially well. There’s always something intensely personal in his works, a sense of intimate camaraderie with the dancers along with a liberating physicality and out-of-the-ordinary musical choices. What will NYCB’s resident choreographer make now, after the artists he knows so well have experienced a life-altering year in which many were scattered and far-flung? We’ll find out in January, during NYCB’s winter season, when Peck’s first main-stage world premiere in nearly two years will share a program with Merce Cunningham’s “Summerspace” and Christopher Wheeldon’s “DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse.” NYCB’s winter series runs Jan. 18-Feb. 27 at the David H. Koch Theater. Peck’s work is slated for Jan. 27, 29, Feb. 1 and 6. nycballet.com.