From dancing gauchos to stately ballerinas and innovative tap dancers to body-bending modern movement-makers, South Florida’s 2019-2020 dance season takes off in full swing by early October.
With holiday staples such as The Nutcracker, venerated classics such as The Firebird and new programming including Puremovement American Street Dance Theatre in venues from Miami to West Palm Beach, the season is replete with nothing if not variety.
Household names and audience favorites such as Pilobolus complement the classically trained Balanchine dancers of Miami City Ballet and the Argentinian gauchos performing at the Duncan Theatre’s Friday and Saturday night dance series.
Miami City Ballet
Miami City Ballet mounts its 34th season at the Arsht Center in Miami, the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale and at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.
Artistic director Lourdes Lopez has curated a new season that includes its impactful opening, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, the Balanchine-meets-Broadway crime thriller, with music by Richard Rodgers, opening Nov. 8-10 at the Kravis Center.
Made famous by Vera-Ellen and Gene Kelly in the 1948 movie Words and Music, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue tells the story of a tap dancer who falls for a stripper with —what else? — a heart of gold. As the two lovers steal time together under the threat of a gangster boyfriend, tension mounts — will the police nab him in time or will she die in the arms of her one true love?
“Audiences will have a wonderful experience for our upcoming season,” said Lopez. “In addition to the classics, this season is a perfect mix of Hollywood, Broadway, four premieres and ‘Firebird’ — one of the great Russian fairy tales.”
“When you see our incredible artists performing these modern masterpieces you’ll see why MCB is one of America’s top ballet companies,” she said.
The program also includes Stravinsky Violin Concerto, in which MCB and Balanchine’s signature style push Stravinsky’s score to the max and Mercuric Tidings, a tribute to the late choreographer Paul Taylor with music by Franz Schubert.
Program Two presents the company premiere of former New York City ballet master Jerome Robbins’s I’m Old Fashioned (Jan. 17-19, Kravis). Based on the 1942 film, You Were Never Lovelier, starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth, the dance is a tribute to Hayworth and Astaire, and America’s love affair with the silver screen.
Robbins premiered his original work in 1983 at Lincoln Center with his homage to Astaire’s lithe and languid romp with Hayworth accompanied by the music of Jerome Kern.
The piece opens with Astaire and Hayworth on the big screen — the two Hollywood icons elegantly floating and dancing alongside the MCB dancers in the well-known and iconic duet. As they glide across the silver screen, the MCB dancers give new life to the original choreography as they dance alongside the film stars.
The program also includes a second company premiere, choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s This Bitter Earth, with music by Max Richter, Clyde Otis and vocals by Dinah Washington, Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, and Symphonic Dances, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky with music by Sergei Rachmaninov.
Program Three brings the newly commissioned Firebird to flight (Feb. 21–23, Kravis). A company premiere, the ballet was an instant success when it was premiered in 1910 by the Ballet Russes at the Paris Opera House. The set features elaborate costumes and set designs and music composed by Igor Stravinsky, at that time a 28-year-old unknown. The current version of the ballet features choreography by Balanchine and Robbins.
The program also includes Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs, with costumes by Oscar de la Renta, and the company premiere of Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes, a groundbreaking work that challenges conventions. Choreography is by Tony Award winner Justin Peck and the music is by Aaron Copland.
Program Four closes the 2019/20 season with the 19th-century classic ballet Don Quixote, based on the Cervantes novel, with choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Ludwig Minkus (Mar. 20-22, Kravis).
The ballet, first performed in Moscow in 1869, is technically demanding and is acclaimed for its virtuoso dancing, its “vision scene” and the Act III pas de deux between lovers Kitri and Basilio.
In keeping with tradition, MCB also will present its annual performances of Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (Dec. 27-29, Kravis), a cultural staple of the holiday season. Their company’s new production of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet is accompanied by the Opus One Orchestra.
For more information, visit miamicityballet.org or call (877) 929-7010.
The Duncan Theatre, at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth Beach, will again offer its popular Friday and Saturday night dance series. The series has been presented annually for years and regularly sells out.
Mark Alexander, executive director of Palm Beach State College theater, says: “As we enter our 33rd season of world-class performances, we are especially proud of our history celebrating modern dance.”
“We are committed to sharing innovative choreographic works from emerging and established dance artists from around the globe,” he said. “Over the past decade, we have strengthened that commitment and have established the Duncan Theatre as a destination for the finest companies to perform on our stage.”
Premiering Jan. 17 and 18 is BalletX, Philadelphia’s premier contemporary ballet company. Founded in 2005 by Christine Cox (now the artistic director) and Matthew Neenan, BalletX stretches the boundaries of classical ballet by encouraging formal experimentation while preserving rigorous technique.
The following month, Feb. 7 and 8, will see the return of Dorrance Dance, founded in 2011 by MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient and artistic director Michelle Dorrance, who has managed to get audiences to rethink their concept of tap dancing.
The end of the month (Feb. 28 and 29) brings the Argentine all-male company, Che Malambo, complete with drumming of the bombos, and singing and whirling boleadoras (lassos with stones on the end). Directed by French choreographer and former ballet dancer, Gilles Brinas, the company’s work celebrates the unique South American cowboy tradition of the gaucho.
On Apr. 3 and 4, Pilobolus returns to the Duncan Theatre for its Come to Your Senses show. Pilobolus, renowned for the astonishing variety of what it can do with power of connected human bodies, has been an area audience favorite for years.
Also coming back for one night only is the all-male drag troupe Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (Feb. 20). The dancers perform the full range of the ballet and modern dance repertoire, including classical and original works.
For more information, visit duncantheatre.com or call (561) 868-3309.
Kravis Center PEAK Series
This contemporary dance series features performances that focus on ethnic diversity and impactful themes.
“PEAK is a favorite among dance enthusiasts,” says Lee Bell, senior director of programming for the Kravis Center. “It’s packed with groundbreaking performances, including everything from contemporary ballet to hip-hop.”
Premiering Oct. 19-20 at the Rinker Playhouse is hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris’s Puremovement American Street Dance Theatre’s Nuttin’ But a Word! Harris’s work makes the point that hip-hop, like any other art form, requires individuality, creativity and innovation to evolve.
On Nov. 3, Complexions Contemporary Ballet presents Star Dust: From Bach to David Bowie in the Kravis Center’s Dreyfoos Hall. Founded by former Alvin Ailey dancers Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden, the ballet company combines various dance styles, including ballet and hip-hop.
On March 5 and 6, the Koresh Dance Company of Philadelphia brings its world premiere production of La Danse, a work that pays tribute to Henri Matisse’s iconic painting of the same name. Created by company founder Roni Koresh, La Danse is set to the music of John Levis, and includes poetry by Karl Mullen.
On April 1, the Japanese dance collective Enra presents Dreams, a program that features the company’s signature blend of physical movement and digital projections. Enra’s director is Noboyuki Hanabusa, whose background is in video game design.
For more information about the PEAK series, visit www.kravis.org or call 561-832-7469.
Ballet Palm Beach
Colleen Smith’s Palm Beach Gardens-based school and ballet company offers a steady supply of original works by Smith to add to its roster of dance classics.
First up is Cinderella, set for Nov. 2-3 at the Rinker Playhouse at the Kravis Center. The classic rags-to-riches fairy tale is accompanied by a great score by Sergei Prokofiev.
Ballet Palm Beach’s annual production of The Nutcracker returns to The King’s Academy Page Family Center for Performing Arts in West Palm Beach from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, and again on Dec. 6 and 7 at the Kravis Center.
Swept Away, a mixed repertory program featuring live music, takes the stage at the Rinker Playhouse Feb. 1-2, followed by Queen Esther, an original Smith ballet set for March 20-22 at The King’s Academy in West Palm Beach.
The last show of the season, planned for Mother’s Day weekend (May 8-10), is another Smith ballet, Peter Pan’s Neverland. The ballet highlights the antics of Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and Captain, appropriate for a company that also is a training academy for young dancers.
For more information, visit balletpalmbeach.org or call 561-630-8235.
Boca Ballet Theatre
Founded in 1990, Dan Guin and Jane Tyree’s company and school features its young dancers in historically significant classical works and innovative contemporary choreography.
The company has scheduled its annual, charming take on The Nutcracker for Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 29-Dec. 1) at the Olympic Heights High School theater in Boca Raton. Guin always brings in professional dancers (in the past, stars from the American Ballet Theatre) to dance the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.
A Spring Collection of mixed-repertory dances from the classical and contemporary worlds, again with guest dancers, is set for April 25-26. The company’s season concludes with La Bayadere, a Marius Petipa ballet from 1877 set to a score by Ludwig Minkus. This staple of the classical ballet repertoire is a tragic story of a temple dancer in ancient India whose love for a warrior is thwarted by a jealous Brahmin. The show is set for July 31-Aug. 2.
For more information, visit bocaballet.org or call 561-995-0709.
The Harid Conservatory
Each year, the Boca Raton-based dance conservatory presents two series of performances for the South Florida community, including classical and neoclassical ballets, modern and character dance, and cutting-edge contemporary works by leading choreographers.
The Nutcracker is scheduled for Dec. 14-15 at Countess de Hoernle Theater on the campus of Spanish River High School in Boca Raton.
For its spring session, the 2020 graduating class will perform a collection of scenes from classical and contemporary ballets. The young dancers also usually debut a newly staged work by Mark Godden. The spring concerts are set for May 22-24.
For more information, visit harid.edu or call 561-998-8038.