All the Ways to Fall for Dance Again Onstage and Beyond

All the Ways to Fall for Dance Again Onstage and Beyond

When the world shut down last year, whole slates of professional dance programming evaporated overnight. Yet suddenly everyone was dancing: at virtual dance parties and on TikTok challenges, in the swelling crowds at social justice protests, in the streets as election results rolled in. This fall dance is back onstage, with theaters and companies (optimistically) planning busy seasons. Much of the programming feels like business as usual, but some artists are channeling the energy of the moment, reimagining dances created online during shutdowns as live pieces, or bringing the cathartic power of protest dance to the stage. (Theaters may require audience members to show proof of vaccination, and live performances are still subject to change because of Covid; check websites for updated information.)


MADELINE HOLLANDER The ballet star David Hallberg was supposed to take his last bows onstage last year. The pandemic had other plans. But before Hallberg departed New York to become director of the Australian Ballet, Madeline Hollander — a choreographer, visual artist and former professional ballet dancer — recorded a collection of Hallberg bows, some in the styles of different ballets, some more imaginative. Those “50 Final Bows” first were shown during Performa’s streamed benefit in November. Hollander has expanded and re-edited the footage for “52 Final Bows,” which will stream online as part of the Shed’s digital commissioning program. (Sept. 14, The Shed)

COLLEEN THOMAS Thomas’s “Light and Desire” was scheduled to premiere just as Covid-19 shutdowns began last March. Now completely reimagined, it will open New York Live Arts’ 10th anniversary season, with Thomas and a cast of five other women exploring what it means to be an artist and a feminist during a time of global emergency. (Sept. 15-18, New York Live Arts)

LITTLE ISLAND DANCE FESTIVAL Little Island has quickly become something of a dance hot spot — thanks in large part to the resident artist Ayodele Casel, a tap dancer and choreographer of radiant generosity. Casel brought in the director and producer Torya Beard, her partner in art and life, to help organize Little Island’s first dance festival. A kaleidoscope of percussive dance and music from around the world, it includes striking artist pairings (the kathak dancer Barkha Patel with the tap dancer Michela Marino Lerman; the B-girl Rokafella with the percussive dancer Ryan K. Johnson) and a National Dance Day celebration on Sept. 18 featuring four new works. (Sept. 15-19, Little Island)

JOHN F. KENNEDY CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS The Kennedy Center’s new REACH expansion — a collection of studios, classrooms and public spaces that opened in 2019 — offers a friendly, intimate home for some of the organization’s most intriguing dance programming. Two D.C.-area artists will present new works in the REACH this fall: the tap dancer Quynn Johnson’s film “Rhythm Is Our Business” debuts on Sept. 16, and the choreographer Britta Joy Peterson’s “Already There,” an immersive installation in the center’s Studio K, runs Oct. 28-30.

MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUP The Mark Morris Dance Center, which helped make Brooklyn a dance destination when it opened in 2001, is one of the most appealing places to dance or see dance in New York. To celebrate the center’s 20th anniversary, Morris’s company will perform two repertory staples, “Words” and “Fugue and Fantasy” — not in the building, but in the open air of a nearby plaza (Sept. 18). A few days later, the company will be back outside, premiering a new work by Morris during a program at Brooklyn Bridge Park (Sept. 25); that lineup will be repeated in the Queens Botanical Garden the following week (Oct. 3).

BARYSHNIKOV ARTS CENTER The center’s fall season will be entirely digital, with programs offered free on the company’s website. “In Conversation With Merce” features excerpts from Merce Cunningham’s 1972 work “Landrover” performed by dancers from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, complemented by new works from Kyle Abraham and Liz Gerring that respond to Cunningham’s choreography (Sept. 20-30). Mats Ek and Ana Laguna — lifetime collaborators, and husband and wife — will debut his-and-hers solos choreographed by Ek and filmed at their home in Sweden (Oct. 4-14). Several other premieres stem from the BAC Artist Commissions initiative, created to support artists during the pandemic, including Sooraj Subramaniam’s “Other Places of Being” (Nov. 1-15), which explores the choreographer’s long-distance friendship with a fellow practitioner of Odissi classical dance; and Jordan Demetrius Lloyd’s “Trip Gloss” (Nov. 29-Dec. 13), which collages the movements of six dancers with layered animation.

NEW YORK CITY BALLET George Balanchine’s heart-catching “Serenade” brought even the imperious Martha Graham to tears. Will there be a dry eye in the house when “Serenade” opens City Ballet’s first show back at its Lincoln Center home? The company’s fall season (Sept. 21-Oct. 17) also includes the annual fashion gala, featuring Sidra Bell and Andrea Miller’s first stage works for City Ballet — both made digital pieces for the company last year — costumed by the designers Christopher John Rogers (for Bell’s piece) and Esteban Cortázar (for Miller’s). The principal dancers Lauren Lovette, Ask la Cour, Abi Stafford and Maria Kowroski will give farewell performances, part of a wave of notable dancer departures that continues into the winter and spring seasons. And the reliable delights of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” return Nov. 26-Jan. 2.

RAGAMALA DANCE COMPANY Led by the mother-daughter collaborators Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, Ragamala uses the South Indian classical dance style Bharatanatyam to tell stories that meld the sacred and traditional with the human and contemporary. The company’s new evening-length work, “Fires of Varanasi” (which premiered earlier in September at the Kennedy Center), features 11 dancers in an onstage ritual that examines immigrant experiences of life and death. (Sept. 22-26, the Joyce Theater)

HARKNESS DANCE CENTER The 92nd Street Y’s historic concert hall — where Martha Graham, Pearl Primus, Alvin Ailey and Merce Cunningham developed their era-defining art — has not hosted a dance season for decades. This fall, Harkness Dance Center offers four programs in the space, all viewable both in person on the first night and online for the next few days. FLOCK, founded by the former Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dancers Florian Lockner and Alice Klock, will debut a new work they have choreographed (Sept. 23-26); the former Ailey dancer Hope Boykin and her company HopeBoykinDance will present the New York premiere of Boykin’s “ReDefine US, From The INside OUT” (Oct. 21-24); Yin Yue, the Shanghai-born, New York-based choreographer who has made works for many companies, will offer a new piece for her own ensemble (Nov. 18-21); and the tap luminaries Michelle Dorrance and Dormeshia will lead a tap “cutting contest,” featuring dancers and musicians from their impressive network (Dec. 16-19).

ASBURY PARK DANCE FESTIVAL Co-founded by the acclaimed Paul Taylor Dance Company alums Michelle Fleet, Laura Halzack and Michael Trusnovec, this festival returns for a second installment after making its debut in 2019. A constellation of dance stars — including the Martha Graham Dance Company principal Xin Ying, the B-girl Ephrat Asherie, the tap artist Maurice Chestnut and the American Ballet Theater principal Cassandra Trenary — will assemble at the Jersey Shore for a one-night-only performance benefiting Arts Ed NJ. (Sept. 25, House of Independents)

DANSPACE PROJECT FALL 2021 Recognizing that early-career dance creators felt the pandemic loss of studio time, not to mention paid work, especially acutely, Danspace is focusing its fall season on a residency program that gives space and support to emerging artists. The organization will offer a free outdoor event on Sept. 25, in the garden of its St. Mark’s Church home. Part social gathering, part show, the evening will include performances by Devynn Emory, Mina Nishimura and Samita Sinha.

ALEJANDRO CERRUDO Cerrudo’s fluid, virtuosic dances have made him a hot ticket at companies around the world for more than a decade; last year he became the first resident choreographer at Pacific Northwest Ballet. “It Starts Now,” at the Joyce, is his debut solo production. Made for a handpicked group of dancers, it probes the fragmented nature of time. (Sept. 28-Oct. 3, the Joyce Theater)

BILL T. JONES Jones’s “Afterwardsness,” one of the first live dance performances of 2021, shook awake the huge Park Avenue Armory Drill Hall this spring, capturing the pain and exhaustion of a traumatic year. This fall, Jones will be back at the Armory for the long-delayed premiere of “Deep Blue Sea,” a consideration of individual and group identities inspired by “Moby-Dick” and the writings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One hundred dancers and community members will fill the Drill Hall, but the show begins with just one: Jones himself, returning to performance for the first time in more than 15 years. (Sept. 28-Oct. 9, Park Avenue Armory)

DENISHAWN Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn’s Denishawn, founded in 1914, formed part of the bedrock of American modern dance. Yet the company’s repertoire, trailblazing in its time, has gone largely unperformed in recent years. This fall at the Theater at St. Jean’s, Audrey Ross, a publicist turned producer, revives 10 rarely seen St. Denis and Shawn dances, performed by a cast of venerable artists that includes Arthur Aviles, PeiJu Chien-Pott and Valentina Kozlova. (Sept. 30-Oct. 3; Theater at St. Jean’s)


WORKS & PROCESS During last year’s shutdowns, this Guggenheim Museum series helped pioneer the bubble residency, bringing small groups of artists to secluded locations to create together safely. The fall Works & Process season includes two bubble-developed premieres. In the first, “The Missing Element,” a cast of street dancers and beatboxers, led by the B-boy Anthony Vito Rodriguez and the champion beatboxer Chris Celiz, join forces for a work inspired by natural elements (Oct. 23). In the other, “Third Bird,” John Heginbotham’s choreography animates a kid-friendly libretto by Isaac Mizrahi about a bluebird, a duck and an ostrich, with music by Nico Muhly (Dec. 3-5 and 10-12). In between, Miami City Ballet will present excerpts from coming ballets by Claudia Schreier and new choreography by Durante Verzola (Nov. 21-22).

THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY Want to get to know the Chocolate Factory’s new home? Let Aunts show you around. On Oct. 3, the dance group will put on an event in the theater’s new Long Island City space, with overlapping performances filling every corner. The theater’s fall lineup also includes Luciana Achugar’s “Puro Teatro: A Spell for Utopia,” which was first presented last year as a digital work about what it meant to make theater without a theater. Nov. 10-13, Achugar and three other performers bring the piece into the Chocolate Factory’s real-life space. (Both the Aunts event and “Puro Teatro” are co-productions with N.Y.U.’s Skirball Center.)

CALEB TEICHER Teicher — a rhythm connoisseur known for interdisciplinary collaborations (have you heard the song they made with Ben Folds?) — will present the pandemic-delayed premiere of “Swing Out” at the Joyce. Conceived with Evita Arce, LaTasha Barnes, Nathan Bugh and Macy Sullivan, the work features Lindy Hop and swing choreography set to live music by the Eyal Vilner Big Band. Come ready to join the party: At the end of each performance, the audience will be invited onstage for a jam session. (Oct. 15-Oct. 17, the Joyce Theater.)

PILOBOLUS The gymnastic dance-theater of this popular group, named for a genus of fungus, has a durable appeal. For its 50th anniversary, Pilobolus is taking a program of greatest hits, plus a new work featuring its signature shadowplay, on the road. The “Big Five-Oh!” celebration will visit 11 locations across the country. (Oct. 5-Nov. 18, various locations)

RICHARD MOVE AND MOVEOPOLIS! In “Herstory of the [email protected] Island,” the first performance work commissioned by the island’s trust, Move and their company will lead audiences on a sojourn through the park, with six site-specific dances inspired by its varied landscapes. Move has spent more than two decades channeling — being possessed by, really — Martha Graham, in their “Martha@” series, and the seven-woman cast for “Herstory” includes both current and former members of the Graham company. (Oct. 9 and 16, Governors Island)

( A ticket to New York City Center’s something-for-everyone festival will set you back only $15. Four commissions dot Fall for Dance’s five programs this season. The choreographer Lar Lubovitch will make a work for the New York City Ballet principals and real-life partners Adrian Danchig-Waring and Joseph Gordon, who gave a poignant rendition of the duet from Lubovitch’s “Concerto Six Twenty-Two” during last year’s digital festival. The Verdon Fosse Legacy, featuring the City Ballet soloist (and newly minted author) Georgina Pazcoguin, will reconstruct three dances originally made for Gwen Verdon. The tap artist Ayodele Casel and Justin Peck, City Ballet’s resident choreographer — both in high demand right now — round out the commission list. (Oct. 13-24, New York City Center)

ABRONS ARTS CENTER Abrons’s fall season begins with Ursula Eagly’s “The Nature of Physical Reality,” a one-on-one performance in which light (by Madeline Best), sound (by Kohji Setoh) and the energy healing technique reiki shape the perceptions of a single viewer (Oct. 15-Dec. 18). In “I Am Also – Monte,” the choreographer Molly Poerstel contemplates her relationship with her longtime collaborator, the house dancer Monte Jones, and how his own experiences have seeped into her work (Nov. 11-13). The choreographer Marguerite Hemmings and the new media artist LaJuneé McMillan’s “Antidote,” which had its premiere last year as a video work that used motion-capture software to create a virtual safe space for Black and brown bodies, will be presented as a live piece, Dec. 10-12, with a cast of six young artists from local high schools.

PERFORMANCE SPACE NEW YORK Last year, when Performance Space New York’s “02020” project put a cohort of artists in charge of the institution, the group resurrected an early Performance Space tradition: Open Movement, which gives the public blocks of time to work in the theater for free. The program moved to a virtual Zoom room during shutdowns, but on Sundays this fall, it returns to Performance Space’s theaters. Each week, an artist will lead a movement session for part of the day. Follow along, or don’t: either choice is equally in the Open Movement spirit. (Oct. 17-Dec. 12, Performance Space New York)

( Childs, a pioneer of postmodern minimalism, recently told The Guardian that she is “81 on paper.” One could say that her seminal work “DANCE,” with a score by Philip Glass and a film installation by Sol LeWitt, is “42 on paper.” Though “DANCE” challenged audiences at its 1979 premiere — many walked out — its austere, repetitive geometries, synchronized with projected footage of the work’s original cast, have come to feel ageless. (Oct. 19-24, the Joyce Theater)

AMERICAN BALLET THEATER The company’s scrappy summer bus tour might have proved that it doesn’t need red velvet seats, but they don’t hurt, either. Ballet Theater will return to more luxurious surroundings this fall, opening its two-week run at the David H. Koch Theater with “Giselle.” The season will also include a world premiere by Jessica Lang, “ZigZag,” set to 11 Tony Bennett songs. Two works that originally debuted online — Alexei Ratmansky’s “Bernstein in a Bubble” and Christopher Rudd’s intimate “Touché” — will get their first stage performances. And the company will revive Antony Tudor’s potent dance-drama “Pillar of Fire” for the first time in several years. (Oct. 20-31, David H. Koch Theater)

PERFORMA 21 BIENNIAL Performa is staging its interdisciplinary biennial outside this year, with programming at locations around New York City. (Organizers moved the event up by a month for friendlier weather.) The dance highlight is Madeline Hollander’s “Review” (Oct. 22-23), featuring 25 dancers who were forced to call off performances during the pandemic. “Review” gives them a chance to perform sections from those canceled dances, or versions of them: Hollander employs the “marking” gestures used by ballet dancers during rehearsals, which form a sort of dance sign language. In another Performa commission, the artist Shikeith will present a musical considering the Black queer American male body (Oct. 23-24), with an eclectic group of performers and dancers — the protagonist is a drum majorette — and choreography by Shamel Pitts.

MARTHA GRAHAM DANCE COMPANY For its return to full-length, full-strength live performance, the Graham company is bringing a now-characteristic mix of old and new to the Joyce. The choreographer Andrea Miller, seemingly everywhere right now, will premiere a piece set to a sound score by Will Epstein. Pam Tanowitz’s 2019 work “Untitled (Souvenir),” inspired by a variety of Graham works, will return, as will the Graham classics “Appalachian Spring,” “Diversion of Angels” and “Steps in the Street.” (Oct. 26-31, the Joyce Theater)

CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS Williams has a gift for making the mythological and historical feel modern. “Narcissus,” his new evening-length work at New York Live Arts — set to Nikolai Tcherepnin’s score for the 1911 Ballets Russes production “Narcisse” — looks at the familiar Greek myth from a queer, contemporary perspective. (Oct. 28-30, New York Live Arts)


ALICE RIPOLL AND SUAVE The Portuguese word “cria” can mean both “create” and “young creature.” In “Cria,” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Fishman Space (Nov. 2-6), the Brazilian choreographer Alice Ripoll channels the wildness of adolescence. The 10 members of Suave, a group of Black cisgender and transgender performers that Ripoll met in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, weave contemporary dance with the exuberant hybrid street styles passinho and dancinha. (Nov. 2-6, Brooklyn Academy of Music)

GIBNEY COMPANY Gina Gibney’s recently expanded ensemble, now 12 dancers strong, will make its Joyce Theater debut this fall with a program of three world premieres. The choreographer Sonya Tayeh — as at home in the concert dance world as she was on “So You Think You Can Dance” — will debut a piece set to a new composition performed live by the folk-rock duo the Bengsons. The Norwegian artist Alan Lucien Oyen, known for combining dance with theater and text, will make his U.S. debut. And Rena Butler, whose hybrid position at Gibney includes both dancing and choreographing, will premiere a work reimagining the story of King Kong. (Nov. 2-7, the Joyce Theater)

PEAK PERFORMANCES The Montclair State University arts series brings two dance productions to its campus theater this fall. In Stefanie Batten Bland’s dance-theater work “Look Who’s Coming to Dinner,” inspired by the 1967 film of a similar name, seven performers probe issues of race, gender and love on a stage full of tables (Nov. 4-7). In December, the French group Compagnie Libertivore presents the U.S. premiere of “Fractales,” featuring five acrobats and dancers navigating an ever-changing environment (Dec. 16-19).

CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR STARRING THE RADIO CITY ROCKETTES Only a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic could have taken down this juggernaut. But it’s back this year, with its considerable dance pleasures. In addition to the Rockettes’ precision choreography — boggling no matter how many times you’ve seen it — there’s always a wealth of talent in the non-Rockette dance ensemble. (Keep an eye on the young dancer playing Clara: several alums of the role have grown up to be ballet stars.) (Nov. 5-Jan 2, Radio City Music Hall)

INDIGENOUS ENTERPRISE This Phoenix-based company of Navajo artists — which has performed on NBC’s “World of Dance,” at the N.B.A. finals, and as part of President Biden’s inauguration — is bringing Native American dance traditions into popular culture. At the Joyce, Indigenous Enterprise will perform a new work, “Indigenous Liberation,” featuring songs, storytelling, and the powwow dances of several tribes. (Nov. 9-14, the Joyce Theater)

COMPLEXIONS CONTEMPORARY BALLET Founded by Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson in 1994, Complexions helped invent a formula now popular throughout the contemporary dance world: sleek works set to familiar music, performed by a diverse group of superhuman bodies. Its fall season at the Joyce includes the world premiere of “Snatched Back From the Edges,” with a soundtrack ranging from Beethoven to spoken word to gospel to Aloe Blacc. (Nov. 16-28, the Joyce Theater)

TWYLA NOW Happy birthday, Twyla Tharp. The renowned dancer-director-choreographer turned 80 this summer, and she’s celebrating at New York City Center with a program that looks not just back but also, as ever, forward. The lineup includes two Tharp premieres — one pairs stars from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theater and New York City Ballet with a chorus of young performers — as well as the duets “Pergolesi” and “Cornbread.” (“Pergolesi” is getting a playful twist: City Ballet’s Sara Mearns will dance the role originally made for Mikhail Baryshnikov, and the ballet and Broadway dancer Robbie Fairchild will take on Tharp’s part.) (Nov. 17-21, New York City Center)

PARSONS DANCE David Parsons’s crowd-pleasing ensemble, a regular at the Joyce, will premiere four dances during its two-week season. Two are by Parsons: “The Road,” set to songs by Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens), and “Balance of Power,” a showcase for the arresting dancer Zoey Anderson. “Past Tense,” by Matthew Neenan, a founder of BalletX, taps the entire Parsons company, and Chanel DaSilva’s “On the Other Side” features an original score by Cristina Spinei. (Nov. 30-Dec. 12, the Joyce Theater)


ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER Ailey’s return to New York City Center, where its holiday season is an annual tradition, features two premieres and three milestones. Both new works are stage adaptations of pandemic film projects: the artistic director Robert Battle’s “For Four” has a propulsive jazz score by Wynton Marsalis, which lets the dancers shake out all their bottled-up quarantine energy; and the resident choreographer Jamar Roberts’s “Holding Space” is a ruminative meditation on the ways we care for each other. Battle’s 10 years at Ailey’s helm will be celebrated in a special anniversary program, as will the 50th anniversary of “Cry,” the extraordinary 16-minute solo Alvin Ailey made as a gift for his mother, which has become one of the company’s sacred texts. But the can’t-miss date of the season is Dec. 9, the last chance to see Roberts perform with Ailey. For two decades, his quiet authority has transfixed audiences. Now he’s leaving the stage behind to focus on choreography. (Dec. 1-19, New York City Center)

RAJA FEATHER KELLY AND THE FEATH3R THEORY Kelly’s keenly observant works blur the (often artificial) lines between dance and theater. In December, he and his company the Feath3r Theory will premiere “Wednesday,” which Kelly developed as the 2019-20 Randjelovic/Stryker Resident Commissioned Artist at New York Live Arts. Based on the film “Dog Day Afternoon,” about a real-life bank robbery, “Wednesday” puts the trans woman Liz Eden — on whom the movie’s character Leon is based — at the center of the story, and casts Feath3r Theory artists as journalists tracking the robbery case. (Dec. 1-4 and 8-11, New York Live Arts)

AXIS DANCE COMPANY This Oakland, Calif.-based ensemble of disabled and nondisabled artists explores the creative potential of bodies of all kinds. The Joyce will offer a free digital presentation of the artistic director Marc Brew’s “Roots Above Ground,” a physically integrated project that considers ideas of home and belonging, performed by Brew and six other dancers. (Dec. 7-12, the Joyce Theater)

LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO No one skewers ballet as lovingly, or as knowledgeably, as this all-male drag company. The troupe’s three-week Joyce season will feature its signature parodies of classic ballets, performed with good humor and better technique. The lineup includes the premiere of “Night Crawlers,” a spoof on “In the Night,” Jerome Robbins’s collection of rapturous love duets set to Chopin — an easy mark for the Trocks. (Dec. 14-Jan. 2, the Joyce Theater)

KWANZAA CELEBRATION The Apollo’s annual Kwanzaa Celebration — a joyful mix of dance, music and poetry — will be held virtually this year, as it was in 2020. Headlining the event once again is the choreographer Abdel R. Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, with its distinctive blend of modern, West African, house and hip-hop styles. (Dec. 26, Apollo Theater)

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