So You Think You’ve Seen Dance? Fall Brings Both Old Standbys and Exciting Premieres

A preview of dance hitting New York City this fall.

Liebeslieder Walzer by George Balanchine (Photo by Paul Kolnik, © The George Balanchine Trust)
Liebeslieder Walzer by George Balanchine. (Photo by Paul Kolnik, © The George Balanchine Trust) (Photo by Paul Kolnik, © The George Balanchine Trust)

From Labor Day to Thanksgiving is less than three months, but a lifetime of dance is crammed into it this year. The thought of it all gives me the jitters, but I don’t despair: at least some of the new high spots really will be high spots. And we have the traditional cornerstones of the season to rely on and keep us sane: ABT, City Ballet, Fall for Dance, Ailey; Nutcracker and Revelations.

For instance: many of us Balanchine lovers believe that his Liebeslieder Waltzer is one his most sublime achievements; others (and I say to hell with them) just don’t see why they should be watching four couples waltzing for 49 minutes while four singers and two pianists, also on stage, perform Brahms’ lieder. We’ll see whether today’s City Ballet dancers can do it justice. Also back at City Ballet is Mr. B’s Harlequinade, an enchanting two-act entertainment that despite its pack of adorable children has never had the popular appeal of his Coppélia, presumably because American audiences aren’t really comfortable with commedia dell’arte. But don’t let that put you off.

City Ballet is opening its season on September 22 with a week of Peter Martins’ undercooked Swan Lake. Then—in an unfortunate new tradition—another fashion-themed gala, with four (yes) premieres, one of which is by everybody’s favorite young choreographer, Justin Peck. There’s no way this event can be as tacky and dopey as 2012’s tribute to designer Valentino—or so I comfort myself. A fifth premiere is scheduled for later in the season. Five new ballets! The odds are not good, but hope springs eternal; if it didn’t, there would be no dance critics. And of course from the end of November into the new year: The Nutcracker. Remember: It’s not just a treat for kiddies, it’s a masterpiece.

And speaking of popular Nutcrackers, Mark Morris’ provocative The Hard Nut will be back at BAM in mid-December. As for newer Mark  Morris, he’s premiering a new ballet on opening night (October 21) of the very interesting ABT fall season at the Koch. Also on that program and new to the company: the severe yet ravishing back-to-back pair of pas de trois by Frederick Ashton, Monotones I and Monotones II. This is important choreography (music by Satie). Throw in the company premiere of Balanchine’s enchanting Valse-Fantaisie, Kurt Jooss’s powerful anti-war The Green Table, Twyla Tharp’s large-scale Brahms-Haydn Variations, Company B—the Paul Taylor hit to the Andrews Sisters—and more, and you have an exciting season.

Meanwhile, beginning September 30, this year’s “Fall for Dance” marathon hits City Center. The season opens with Miami City Ballet’s first New York appearance in half a dozen years (with Balanchine’s thrilling Allegro Brillante.) The five programs have something for everyone—tap (Michelle Dorrance), Hispanic, Indian; choreographers Pam Tamowitz, Doug Elkins and Stephen Petronio; leading companies—Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor, Boston Ballet, Houston, San Francisco; Bill Irwin and Tyler Peck (an intriguing combination); and—most unsettling (or something) title—Killer Pig, from the Israeli company L-E-V.

Alvin Ailey's Revelations. (Photo by Christopher Duggan)
Alvin Ailey’s Revelations. (Photo by Christopher Duggan)

And City Center wouldn’t be City Center if the Alvin Ailey juggernaut wasn’t checking in early in December. Four premieres: Robert Battle, artistic director; Kyle Abraham (he’s everywhere); Rennie Harris (always fun); and most highly anticipated, at least by me, Ronald K. Brown, with Open Door to a Cuban-inflected jazz score. Revivals, new productions (including Ailey’s first success, Blues Suite), and, of course, a billion performances of Revelations.

Big event—not to be missed: Twyla Tharp’s celebratory 50th anniversary tour, coming to the Koch on November 17 and featuring two major new works: Preludes and Fugues (Bach) and Yowzie (not Bach). The first, she says, is the world as it should be and the second is the world as it is. Tharp will set us straight.

And then there’s everything else.

There’s always something on at the Joyce. Bowing to longevity, we begin with the José Limón company (October 13-25), celebrating its 75th anniversary—and with a far broader Limón repertory than I can ever remember seeing. Not just The Moor’s Pavane and Missa Brevis, but Mazurkas, The Unsung, Dances for Isadora, The Traitor and a lot more. Four programs, with guest artists from the Royal Danish Ballet, among others. Some of it may look dated, but this is probably the only chance we’ll ever have to take the full measure of Limón’s accomplishment.

The Joyce’s calendar includes Camilla A Brown (September 22) with Black Girl; Batsheva Ensemble (September 29) with a 70-minute piece by Ohad Naharin called Decadance (get it?); October 6—Aparna Ramaswamy’s solo performance, They Rose at Dawn; John Heginbotham’s Dance (October 10); Ballet Memphis (October 27) with several contemporary works, including one by Matthew Neenan. (The company’s CEO and founding artistic director says, “We have to use our talent to make things better for humanity.” I say, “Go for it, Dorothy!”); that always effective favorite, Garth Fagan (November 3); Kyle Abraham’s Abraham. In. Motion company (November 10); Complexions Contemporary Ballet, with a full-evening world premiere by Dwight Rhoden. 

Meanwhile, over at BAM, there’s a very different smorgasbord waiting for us. On November 4, for instance, Opus asks the question, “How do you play an intimate string quartet with 14 acrobats tumbling and somersaulting around you?” The acrobats of the Australian troupe Circa “manipulate and occasionally blindfold” the members of the Debussy String Quartet as they play three Shostakovich quartets. Or, starting October 28, you may opt for Sankai Juku, presenting Umusuna’s Memories Before History, which begins with “a column of sand cascading from the ceiling, representing life as a vertical line.” But why choose? You can see both. Or neither. And for a different kind of Asian palate there’s the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan (September 16), with Rice: “Wielding bamboo sticks, recast as field implements, slender stalk and weapon, they prod the seasons and coax valley rains as Taiwanese folk songs and Bellini arias waft in the wind.”

Tango? The Social Tango Project at the Joyce in mid-December. Silas Riener? Two weeks of his solo work Blue Name at the Chocolate Factory, starting October 14. Sylvie Guillem? Her farewell performance in America, Life in Progress, November 12 at the City Center. (Rather you than I.) On the other hand, also at the City Center and sounding especially interesting, three performances beginning November 21 of four dance works to the music of Britain’s renowned composer Thomas Adès. The choreographers are Wayne McGregor, Karole Armitage, Alexander Whitley and Crystal Pite, whose “unstoppable and fearsome” Polaris features 66 dancers.

And speaking of Wayne McGregor, beginning September 14 at the Park Avenue Armory, he’s presenting his Tree of Codes, a collaboration with artist Olafur Eliasson, producer/composer Jamie XX, and 15 dancers from his own company and the Paris Opéra Ballet. The starting point is a Jonathan Safran Foer text that makes “incisions,” we’re told, into Bruno Schulz’s classic The Street of Crocodiles. I say, why not? And I say, see you there.  So You Think You’ve Seen Dance? Fall Brings Both Old Standbys and Exciting Premieres