Previewing the 2017 Dance Season in Washington D.C.

Tuesday night, Trey Graham hosted the annual DC Theater Scene preview of the local theatre season at an event for The Smithsonian Associates. The discussion highlighted the breadth of local offerings and here are a few of the recommendations I presented for Dance not to be missed in the coming season.

Julie Kent, new Artistic Director, Washington Ballet (Photo: Dean Alexander)
Julie Kent, new Artistic Director, Washington Ballet (Photo: Dean Alexander)

The new Artistic Director of The Washington Ballet, Julie Kent, is about to start her first season at the helm of The Washington Ballet. She arrives after a career as a star performer at the great American Ballet Theater. Will the artistic quality of The Washington Ballet rise under her proverbial baton? The first opportunity to judge will be at The Washington Ballet’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, September 30th  at the Kennedy Center. Later in the season, March 1st through 5th, the Ballet will be performing the classic Giselle, in a staging by Victor Barbee and Ms. Kent, and that, too, will be an opportunity to see what this new leadership means for local audiences.

October 5th and 6th you can catch newly-minted ‘Genius’ Michelle Dorrance with her tap company at The Kennedy Center. Dorrance was the youngest in the 2015 MacArthur Genius Fellowship class and she’ll be performing The Blues Project with Toshi Reagon (daughter of Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of famed vocal ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock.)

Dance Place’s What’s Going On project premieres November 12, 13, 19 and 20. Vincent Thomas (of VTDance and Towson University) is directing this new work with a group of multi-talented local artists, including choreographers Ralph Glenmore and Sylvia Soumah. The uplifting soundtrack and tragic life story of DC’s Marvin Gaye are fertile material for exploration and the recently renovated Dance Place theater in Brookland is the best place to see modern dance in the city.

Gatekeepers by Ron Brown (Photo: Julieta Cervantes)
Gatekeepers by Ron Brown (Photo: Julieta Cervantes)

New York mainstay Ron Brown brings his company to that hall for shows February 25th and 26th. Brown is well known in dance circles for his athletic musicality and finesse and these performances at Dance Place are likely to sell out early.

If you’re a lover of contemporary ballet you’ll want to find your way to the Clarice Smith Center this year: Israeli Inbal Pinto will be performing her company’s Wallflower October 13, and Brit Wayne McGregor brings his company’s AtomosJanuary 28. Those are both “one night only” performances.

Wallflower by Inbal Pinto (Photo: Avshalom Pollak)
Wallflower by Inbal Pinto (Photo: Avshalom Pollak)

Perhaps the only American modern dance company that can compare artistically to those two international ballet companies is the great Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, at the Kennedy Center February 7th through the 12th. Unlike the Pinto and McGregor companies, the Ailey company has always been a repertory company. The Ailey company performs works by many choreographers, not just the choreography of Alvin Ailey. Newish Artistic Director Robert Battle (who took over in 2011 from longtime Artistic Director Judith Jamison) has commissioned a quiver of new works for the company and they’ll also be performing some of their beloved older works. The Ailey company is always spectacular and if you haven’t seen them in a while – or ever – these shows should be at the top of your list.

On the lighter side, drag ballet masters Les Ballets Trocadero de Monte Carlo are at the Kennedy Center March 21st and 22nd. You might think: “Men in drag in pointe shoes doing humorous all-male remakes of classical ballets, why go to that?” These guys are more similar to Cirque du Soleil athletes than your local drag heroes, and the choreography is funny even if you don’t get the ballet references. This one may not be appropriate for younger audiences so check on that if you’re planning to attend with your ballet-loving youngsters.

I’ve not included many upcoming performances worth highlighting. What’s on the top of your list that I missed? Comment below and we’ll try to feature those performances in future posts.

This piece was written for DC Theatre Scene. Read it on their site here.

Author: Robert Bettmann

Founder of Day Eight, and the DC Arts Writing Fellowship.

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