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Bring on the fall season

Some things to look forward to (on the dance front) this fall:

In the eight years since Pina Bausch’s sudden death, her company, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, has soldiered on, performing her emotionally strenuous dance-theatre works. At bam (Sept. 14-24), the troupe presents two scorchers, “Café Müller” and “The Rite of Spring,” both made in the seventies, before a hint of gentleness began to creep into Bausch’s world view. The first is set in a chair-strewn room, where nightmarish personal dramas play out to the music of Purcell. The other takes place on a dirt-covered stage, a sombre setting for a hair-raising ritual of immolation.

A redemption of sorts can be found in “A Love Supreme” (New York Live Arts, Sept. 27-30), Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s collaboration with Salva Sanchis, a former member of De Keersmaeker’s company, Rosas. With a mix of choreographed movement and improvisation, Sanchis and De Keersmaeker have conjured a physical counterpart to John Coltrane’s famous 1964 album. It is danced by four men, each of whom closely scans a musical line played by a different member of Coltrane’s legendary quartet.

Alexei Ratmansky’s affinity for the music of the contemporary Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov has produced some of his most original ballets, including “Russian Seasons” and “Old Women Falling Out.” His newest work for American Ballet Theatre (the season runs Oct. 18-29, at the David H. Koch) premières on Oct. 18, with a score by the same composer, “Bukovinian Songs,” a suite for solo piano based on Ukrainian folk tunes. Ratmansky’s other recent Desyatnikov ballet, “Odessa,” will be part of New York City Ballet’s fall season (Sept. 19-Oct. 15, at the David H. Koch).

Ask any dancer her favorite dance film, and she’s likely to name the 1948 surrealist melodrama “The Red Shoes,” about a ballerina (played by Moira Shearer) driven to self-destruction by her love of dance. Who better to adapt this gory tale for the stage than the British choreographer Matthew Bourne, who brought us a danced version of “Edward Scissorhands”? At City Center (Oct. 26-Nov. 5), the role of the aristocratic, tenderhearted, and obsessive heroine will be performed alternately by Ashley Shaw, of Bourne’s London-based company New Adventures, and N.Y.C.B.’s own drama queen Sara Mearns.

An impossible love story drawn from Persian myth lies at the heart of “Layla and Majnun,” a 1908 opera by the Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli. In Mark Morris’s version (in the White Light Festival, at the Rose Theatre, Oct. 26-29), the singers and players—members of the Silk Road Ensemble—sit in the center of a tiered stage, as, all around them, dancers from the Mark Morris Dance Group reënact the story of the star-crossed lovers.

In Memoriam: Trisha Brown

Last week a memorial for Trisha Brown was held at the Whitney. It was a touching event; there were not many dry eyes in the house. There were funny, and moving speeches by Laurie Anderson, Steve Paxton, Brown’s son, Adam, and others. Five dancers performed Spanish Dance, with tears in their eyes. After it ended, a screen rose, revealing the glow of the setting sun over the Hudson.
I put together some thoughts on the event for the New Yorker.

The choreographer in her prime

Jewels of the World, Unite!

Lincoln Center Festival put together a big show this week: a multinational staging of George Balanchine’s 1967 ballet Jewels, with performances by the Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, and the Bolshoi. The contrasts were fascinating, and paradoxically, had the effect of focusing attention on the ballet itself, revealing more clearly than ever why Arlene Croce described it as an “unsurpassedbBalanchine primer, incorporating in a single evening every important article of faith to which the choreographer subscribed”. My review is at DanceTabs.

Teresa Reichlen in Rubies, from Jewels. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

The Name is Bond, Gemma Bond

Gemma Bond, whose work will be shown as part of the Joyce’s Ballet Festival (which starts this week) sat down to talk about her choreographic endeavors a few months ago. (This is a preview of that conversation—the full thing is in the August edition of Dance Magazine.) Since then, it’s been announced that she will make a new work for Washington Ballet next year. She’s a thoughtful, quietly determined choreographer with a strong, and unabashedly emotional style. Looking forward to seeing more.

Merce Lives!

Who would have thought, when Merce Cunningham died in 2009, that his works would be performed with such frequency here in the US and abroad almost a decade later? Much of this activity is due to the efforts of the Cunningham Trust, which periodically schedules workshops in which the Cunningham repertory is taught to a new generation of dancers by those who performed it over the years. I attended the rehearsals for one of these workshops, devoted to Sounddance, in June. The dancers, from Purchase, Juilliard, the Alvin Ailey program, North Carolina School of the Arts, and elsewhere, were incredibly challenged by the work. It was impressive to see them struggle, learn, absorb, and finally master the movement. I wrote about the process for the New Yorker Culture Desk.

Jewels Turns Fifty

This is Patricia McBride, one of the original dancers in George Balanchine’s Jewels when it premiered at New York City Ballet in 1967. There are videos on Youtube of McBride and Edward Villella in Rubies on Youtube. Even today, they look amazingly fresh, fun, teasing, sophisticated.
Next week, fifty years after the premiere, Jewels comes to the Lincoln Center Festival, where it will be danced by three great international companies: the Paris Opera (Emeralds), City Ballet and the Bolshoi (alternating in Rubies and Diamonds). It will be fascinating to see what each brings to the ballet, and whether the idea that Jewels somehow embodies three different ideas about ballet comes through in their dancing.
For the Times, I spoke to three ballerinas—Dorothée Gilbert, Teresa Reichlen and Olga Smirnova—about the various subtexts in Balanchine’s Jewels. You can find the piece here.