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What to Look Forward to in the Fall Dance Season

A cast of 12 is led by Ballet Theater’s newest star partners, Isabella Boylston (American) and Alban Lendorf (Danish), artists akin in sparkling temperaments and springing steps. At the helm of its second cast (to be seen first on Oct. 21) are Christine Shevchenko (newly promoted to principal) and Calvin Royal III (newly a soloist).

Exhilaratingly different kinds of dancing and choreography reach New York with Liz Gerring’s “Horizon.” How do you stride backward? This work — new at Peak Performances in Montclair, N.J., in 2015 — shows how, as does Brandon Collwes, a former member of the Merce Cunningham company now dancing for Gerring. No American dancer today eats up space more gigantically — sometimes by striding in reverse — than he; no living American choreographer since Merce Cunningham so cleanses the dance palate as does Ms. Gerring. The objectivity with which she shows bodies in motion becomes both analytical and deeply stirring. The movement does not evoke a drama — it is the drama, with its bold mixture of athleticism and pedestrian steps. “Horizon” at last reaches New York’s Joyce Theater on Nov. 30 (through Dec. 3).

As a rule, when people speak as if the sets and costumes of a dance were its most important features, I think their values are misplaced. But Mark Morris’s “Layla and Majnun” would be an important work of theater even if its dances were poor. This is Mr. Morris’s hourlong arrangement of the 1908 opera of the same title by Uzeyir Hajibeyli, a central work of Azerbaijani culture.

When the production was new last September (it had its premiere in Berkeley, Calif.), Mr. Morris’s dances were juicy and his dramatic concept (multiple Laylas and Majnuns) fascinating; they may have become a stronger part of the equation when this reaches New York as part of the annual White Light Festival (Oct. 26 through Oct. 29).

Yet more remarkable is the opera’s intensely seductive music, to be played by the Silk Road Ensemble. But the staging’s chief impact comes from the designs, by the British painter Howard Hodgkin (who died in March). On his backdrop, violent greens, reds and yellows meet one another as if in battle, while the opera’s words tell of the heart’s despair; brush strokes hang like clouds in the fiery sky. Mr. Morris’s Laylas and Majnuns dance their dramas of love, pain, destiny and death against a vast painting that makes this drama gorgeously apocalyptic. Here is the 21st century’s most stunning dance décor to date.

— Alastair Macaulay


Aaron Mattocks and Elizabeth DeMent in Annie-B Parson’s “17C.”

Ian Douglas

Making Samuel Pepys (and the Subway) Dance

The English diarist Samuel Pepys had a fascination with dancing, if not quite a passion for it, logged in the journals he kept from 1660 to 1669. References to dancing lessons and a certain “dancing master” — whom he suspected of stealing his wife’s affections — appear throughout his detailed, confessional entries.

It’s easy to see why Big Dance Theater, the genre-blurring company led by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, would raid those diaries for its latest production, “17c,” which will have its New York premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Nov. 14 through 18. Ms. Parson, the troupe’s choreographer, is interested in dance as a social phenomenon, as part of the fabric of everyday life, today and in centuries past.

Conceived and directed by Ms. Parson, “17c” offers a kind of feminist reading of Pepys, sketching a fuller portrait than he did of the women in his life. Blending movement, text and song, the work draws from Pepys-related materials, ranging from his original writings to modern annotations found at pepysdiary.com. An early incarnation, “The Art of Dancing,” shown at the Kitchen last year, suggested that while Ms. Parson respects her subject, she doesn’t take him too seriously.

For 21st-century New Yorkers, dance often enters the daily adventure of riding the subway, when performers get on and announce: “What time is it? Showtime!” As part of the French Institute Alliance Française’s Crossing the Line festival, the Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula joins 20 subway and street performers from It’s Showtime NYC!, an initiative of Dancing in the Streets, to explore personal and collective memories through stories, music and dance.

That project, “Festival of Dreams,” culminates in free events at Roberto Clemente Plaza in the South Bronx and Weeksville Heritage Center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Sept. 23 and 24. Mr. Linyekula’s work can also be seen at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University, which will host the United States premiere of his “In Search of Dinozord,” Sept. 22 and 23.

Siobhan Burke


Eiko in “Death Poem,” a 2005 meditation on the end of life.

Steven Schreiber

Stages Full of Ferocious Female Energy

As with Misha and Merce, we know them by their first names. They have a reach that extends beyond the dance world. This fall, Pina Bausch and Eiko Otake, rigorously inquisitive and undeniably individual, inject the season with some ferocious female energy. From one come two searing early works; the other places herself — an immigrant, an outsider — within one of the city’s most revered museums.

It’s right and good that Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch opens the 2017 Next Wave Festival on Sept. 14 with “Café Müller” (1978) and “The Rite of Spring” (1975); both were included in her inaugural New York performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1984. Bausch died in 2009, but her company continues under its artistic director, Adolphe Binder, and its managing director, Dirk Hesse.

In “Café Müller,” six dancers inhabit a desolate space, scattered with tables and chairs, that is inspired by the cafe Bausch’s parents owned in Germany. Tripping and stumbling through the chaos, they employ fierce repetition to bring a world, alternately hauntingly still and frantic, to life.

Sharing the program is Bausch’s version of “The Rite of Spring.” Here, the floor is covered with dirt; its 32 dancers, more ferociously primal, tear the stage apart as a sacrificial victim is chosen and killed. Excerpts from both dances are shown in Wim Wenders’s acclaimed film “Pina”; this is a rare opportunity for New Yorkers to see them live.

Eiko, as this Japanese dance artist is known, offers herself in “A Body in Places: The Met Edition,” which unfolds over three Sundays in November in each of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s locations: the Met Cloisters (Nov. 5), the Met Breuer (Nov. 12) and the Met on Fifth Avenue (Nov. 19). It’s a continuation of her project created in reaction to the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

Presented by the museum and Performa 17, which this year explores ideas about architecture, “The Met Edition” features the luminous, otherworldly Eiko performing for hours on end while pushing a video cart — her partner — that will project photographs of her time spent in Fukushima. Collectively, the images represent human failure and poison. She will be, in her words, staining the museum’s walls.

— Gia Kourlas


Sara Rudner, near right, and Rose Marie Wright performing in 1972 in Twyla Tharp’s “The Raggedy Dances.”

William Pierce

Tharp on Dylan, Take 2; and Tea for Three Postmodernists

Even in an art as famously ephemeral as dance, successful artists with long careers must reckon with the shadows cast by their own accomplishments. It’s a measure of Twyla Tharp’s gumption that she circles back to her failures as well as to her successes. Her first attempt to grapple with the songbook of Bob Dylan — in the short-lived 2006 Broadway musical “The Times They Are A-Changin’” — earned her some of her most withering reviews.

And she is returning to his music for “Dylan Love Songs,” the premiere that anchors the three-week run of her company, Twyla Tharp Dance, at the Joyce Theater this fall (Sept. 19 through Oct. 8).

Whether the redo proves redemptive or more of a repetition-compulsion, Ms. Tharp is wisely hedging with two revivals from a breakout period when her invention was overflowing. “The Fugue,” from 1970, is a “watch what I can do” compositional wonder in which a simple walking phrase is varied with Bach-like rigor. “The Raggedy Dances,” a frisky, soufflé-light piece from 1972, has not been performed since then. Might the decades of disuse preserve the freshness of that time?

Even more years had passed between 1960, when Yvonne Rainer, Simone Forti and Steve Paxton met as students, and last year, when these titans of postmodernism first performed as a threesome. When their partly improvisatory collaboration, “Tea for Three,” receives its New York debut at Danspace Project (Oct. 26 through 28), echoes of the storied past, collective and individual, will inevitably be part of the picture.

But these three veterans, temperamentally and aesthetically distinct from one another, despite their historical association, resist any fixed backward gaze. It’s not just that they’re prone to addressing the news of today. It’s that they’re artists of the moment, drawing on decades of experience to be fully present right now.

— Brian Seibert

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