Devotees of dance around South Florida have a satisfying season ahead, not just with regular performances by Miami City Ballet and visits to the Duncan Theatre and Kravis Center by some of the world’s best-known troupes, but also in the innovation and promise on view in the work of the area’s local companies and schools.
Miami City Ballet mounts its 33rd season, as always, at venues in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez has curated a new season that includes the company premiere of Brahms/Handel, a unique choreographic collaboration between Twyla Tharp and Jerome Robbins; Paul Taylor’s audience favorite Company B, set to the 1940s sounds of The Andrews Sisters; Jerome Robbins’s masterwork Dances at a Gathering; Justin Peck’s Heatscape, inspired by the streets of Miami’s Wynwood Arts District and the highly anticipated return of George Balanchine’s full-length A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“Our 2018-19 season features an outstanding lineup – from beloved classics to ingenious, contemporary works – highlighting the rich variety of styles for which our dancers are renowned,” says Lopez.
Program One launches the 2018/19 season. It features two George Balanchine masterpieces and a true audience favorite by Paul Taylor. First up is Concerto Barocco, a signature Balanchine ballet, set to J.S. Bach’s Double Violin Concerto. Then, back in the rep after nearly 10 years, comes that great audience favorite Company B, a Taylor work set to popular 1940s hits like “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Rum and Coca-Cola,” sung by The Andrews Sisters. And finally, Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2, originally known as Ballet Imperial, is Balanchine’s tribute to imperial St. Petersburg, classical ballet pioneer Marius Petipa and the city’s favorite ballet composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky. (Nov. 16-18, Kravis Center)
Program Two highlights two 20th-century masterworks by Jerome Robbins, the second of MCB’s core choreographers, the other being Balanchine. Dances at a Gathering, featuring 10 dancers and piano pieces by Chopin, has been acclaimed as one of his greatest ballets, a profound yet light-hearted tribute to dancing and to dancers. This is the work that marked Robbins’ return to classical dance following his series of Broadway triumphs. The other ballet is Brahms/Handel, set to Brahms’s Handel Variations, a unique collaboration between two choreographers who were also close friends: Robbins and Twyla Tharp. (Jan. 18-20, Kravis Center)
Program Three brings back Heatscape, a ballet created three years ago for the company by Justin Peck with visual designs by Shepard Fairey and music by Martinů. A big Balanchine work, The Four Temperaments, with a score written for it by Paul Hindemith, explores the medieval belief of the four “humors” that determine a person’s temperament. Also on the program is Balanchine’s Duo Concertant, set to music by Stravinsky and featuring an onstage violinist and pianist who occasionally have an audience in the couple dancing the work. Rounding out the program is the celebrated pas de deux from the otherwise forgotten ballet Flower Festival in Genzano, from the 19th-century master August Bournonville. (March 15-17, Kravis Center)
Program Four closes the 2018/19 season with the return of Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a full-length ballet drawn from the Shakespeare comedy and featuring Mendelssohn’s much-admired score. MCB reimagines the ballet by setting it on the ocean floor, with sets by Michele Oka Doner and dramatic direction by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney. With its costumes, child dancers and familiar story, it promises to be the kind of old-fashioned ballet event that can lure a wide spectrum of audiences. (April 5-7, Kravis Center)
MCB is fortunate in being able to perform with the accompaniment of a live orchestra of fine area freelancers led by Gary Sheldon. And it wouldn’t be a complete season without its annual performances of Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at holiday time; it was Balanchine’s staging of this until-then overlooked ballet in the 1950s on television that turned it into a staple of the Christmas season. MCB has created a new production with costumes by Isabel and Ruben Toledo. (Dec. 28-30, Kravis Center)[For shows: Call the Miami City Ballet box office at (877) 929-7010 or visit www.miamicityballet.org.]
The Duncan Theatre at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth will again offer its Friday and Saturday night dance series. The series has been presented annually for years and regularly sells out.
The opening entry this season features Jessica Lang, Juilliard graduate and former member of Twyla Tharp’s company who is widely recognized as one of the most talented choreographers of her generation. New York-based Jessica Lang Dance was founded in 2011 and makes its Duncan Theatre debut this season with shows at the Duncan on Jan. 11 and 12.
Next up is Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performing Feb. 1 and 2. The company is critically acclaimed for its exuberant and innovative repertoire, featuring works by master American and international choreographers. The company, which began 41 years ago as a troupe of dancers performing at retirement homes, has become one of the best-known regional companies in the nation.
The series continues March 1 and 2 with a return appearance by Momix, Moses Pendleton’s body-bending troupe of dancer-illusionists. This year, the company presents Viva Momix, a two-act compilation of favorite scenes from five of the 35-year-old company’s most celebrated productions, including Botanica and Opus Cactus.
Last up is the Paul Taylor Dance Company, returning for the seventh time to the Duncan series March 22 and 23 in what will be an especially poignant show, Taylor having died in August at 88 after a most distinguished career in modern American dance. “We’re all very saddened by the loss of this giant in the field of dance,” said Mark Alexander, executive director of Palm Beach State College theaters. “We have had had a very rich history with his company over the last seven years. Paul programmed what pieces would be performed at the Duncan himself only a few months ago and we will be presenting the program that he specifically chose for the Duncan Theatre.”[For shows: Call (561) 868-3309 or visit duncantheatre.com, which will redirect to the Palm Beach State College site.]
The Kravis Center also presents dance companies in its PEAK program of cutting-edge presentations, which often defy genre, such as two sessions of yoga instruction accompanied by a chamber ensemble (Tranquility Yoga, March 23, Rinker Playhouse).
But this year’s dance offerings are particularly notable, especially one you’ll have to wait until early May to see, when the Dance Theatre of Harlem comes to Dreyfoos Hall. The 50-year-old troupe is one of the country’s most important companies, having been founded by Arthur Mitchell to train African-Americans in the world of classical ballet. The company presents original dances as well as standard works by Balanchine and others. (May 8)
First up, though, is Sankofa Danzafro, a contemporary dance company from Colombia that explores the African roots of the South American country’s culture. The company, founded in 1997 by Rafael Palacios, will present a work called The City of Others, which includes hip-hop, singing and drumming along with dance. The piece takes on the marginalization of minority communities in urban areas and calls for them to be open to all and not be havens of inequality. (Oct. 27-28, three performances)
The company that gave birth to Momix, Pilobolus, makes a return appearance in a show called Shadowland: The New Adventure, about a couple trying to save a magic bird. Contains nudity. (Jan. 15)
From Ohio comes the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, founded half a century ago by Jeraldyne Blunden to provide dance opportunities for performers of color. The troupe will present Body Talk, an exploration of identity as presented by the works of African-American playwrights, including August Wilson’s Fences and James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner. (Feb. 8-9, three performances)
The all-male Franco-Algerian Compagnie Hervé Koubi follows two weeks later with The Barbarian Nights, or The First Dawns of the World. Set to music from East and West, the work tackles nothing less than the history of the Mediterranean basin, where, as choreographer Koubi says, the cultures of the West have so often considered cultures on the other side as barbaric. Koubi’s dances are intensely physical, and the Kravis notes that this production is intended for mature audiences. (Feb. 22-23, two performances)
Next is Rioult Dance NY, a New York-based company founded by Pascal Rioult and Joyce Herring, two former Martha Graham dancers, with the intention of establishing a home for Rioult’s choreography. On the PEAK program will be Te Deum, set to the music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, and Fire in the Sky, set to music by the British heavy metal pioneers Deep Purple. (Feb. 27-28, two performances)
Closing out the dance offerings at PEAK is the No Gravity Dance Company, created by the Italian choreographer Emiliano Pellisari. His From Hell to Paradise is inspired by the Divine Comedy of his countryman Dante Alighieri, and features six dancers who perform amid technological effects and an eclectic, wide-ranging score. The show contains nudity, the Kravis advises. (April 18)[For shows: Call 561-832-7469 or visit www.kravis.org.]
Palm Beach County has some strong local companies that serve as teaching and well as performance institutions, including Palm Beach Gardens-based Ballet Palm Beach. The company will present its version of The Nutcracker at the Kravis Center for the second year in a row, a singular honor. “This season holds so many possibilities for Ballet Palm Beach,” said Artistic Director Colleen Smith. “Our wonderful dancers, our beautiful ‘Nutcracker’ at the Kravis Center, and a season of great storytelling ballets.”
The season opens Nov. 2-4 with the transformation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quintessential American novel, The Great Gatsby, into compelling dance drama. Smith created her ballet, Gatsby, a couple seasons ago and brings it back this year; the classic story is set to the music of the Jazz Age, with contributions by Django Reinhardt, Fats Waller, Richard Whiting, Aaron Copland and others. (The King’s Academy, Page Family Center for the Performing Arts, West Palm Beach)
Ballet Palm Beach’s Nutcracker bows Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at the Kravis, and is seen again Dec. 13-16 at King’s Academy, followed in February by Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. This is Smith’s favorite ballet score (and one of the Russian composer’s finest pieces), and she has mounted effective productions of the work in past seasons. It’s hard to resist, with its tragic Shakespearean love story and its atmosphere of hot-headed brutality. (Feb. 8-10, King’s Academy)
Another Smith ballet, Wonderland, finishes off the season. Based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, Smith’s charming 2013 ballet features music by English composers including Benjamin Britten and Gustav Holst. Smith is a gifted designer of dance who uses small children particularly well; her works are family-friendly in the best sense of the word. (May 10-12, King’s Academy)[For shows: Call Ballet Palm Beach at 561-630-8235 or visit www.balletpalmbeach.org.]
After having guided dance students through a summer of instruction, Boca Ballet Theatre’s co-artistic directors Dan Guin and Jane Tyree open their new season with their usual Thanksgiving-time production of The Nutcracker. Guin usually has guest artists lead his school’s cast of more than 100 dancers, and his Nutcracker always one or two fresh touches. Following the show is the troupe’s traditional Gingerbread Ball, at which children can meet Clara, her Cavalier, the Sugar Plum Fairy and others. (Nov. 23-25, Countess de Hoernle Theatre, Spanish River High School Boca Raton)
The other major production of the season is Romeo and Juliet, which also will likely have guest stars in the lead roles. Guin and Tyree, like Ballet Palm Beach, have a strong, well-established school that turns out good dance performances year after year, and Guin is always revisiting major story ballets for new readings, always doing a good deal of the choreography himself. (April 12-14)
Two other events on Boca Ballet’s calendar are its annual Stars of American Ballet event, in which members of the New York City Ballet present dances with members of BBT (March 10), and the summer show, which this season is called Bohemian Heat (Aug. 3-4).[For shows: Call 561-995-0709 or visit bocaballet.org.]
The Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton is a Curtis Institute-style school for aspirant dance professionals that regularly adds talented performers to the leading companies of North America and abroad. Its winter performances, set for Dec. 15 and 16 at the Countess de Hoernle Theater at Spanish River High School, include the second act of The Nutcracker and a mixed program of other shorter works.
The spring performances, scheduled for May 24-26 at the de Hoernle Theater, feature a collection of excerpts from classical ballets and a new work by Mark Godden, Harid’s resident choreographer and a creator of great whimsy and imagination whose premieres are always worth catching. Much the most inspiring part of these spring shows is the annual presentation of the graduating class, who line up and tell the audience where they’re going next, which much of the time is straight into a major company.[For shows: Call 561-997-2677 or visit harid.edu.]