October 2016 | Performance Corner

Our sneak peek at dance shows we’d love to see

Step Afrika!

The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence

When and where: September 30–October 2, University of the District of Columbia Theater of the Arts, Washington, DC
October 8, Rialto Center for the Arts, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
October 20, Hancher Auditorium, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
October 29, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Saint Paul, MN
November 3–5, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Info: stepafrika.org

Step Afrika!’s The Migration is inspired by the paintings in Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series. Photo by Meredith Hanafi

Step Afrika!’s The Migration is inspired by the paintings in Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series.
Photo by Meredith Hanafi

It’s a truism to say a dancer’s body is her instrument. But Step Afrika! dancers use their bodies literally as instruments, producing volleys of complex rhythms through stamps, claps, slaps, and words. Based in Washington, DC, this high-energy ensemble is devoted to stepping, a percussive dance style practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities. The Migration is inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s 1941 Migration Series (on view this fall at The Phillips Collection in DC), 60 small paintings that depict the northward exodus of southern African Americans in the early 1900s. The evening-length work takes cues from the paintings’ imagery and bold colors, and it tells the story, through body percussion and dance, of one of our nation’s great demographic shifts.

Wonderbound

A Gothic Folktale

When and where: October 14–16, Performing Arts Complex at Pinnacle Charter School, Denver, CO
October 22–23, PACE Center, Parker, CO
Info: wonderbound.com

This Denver, Colorado–based contemporary ballet company specializes in collaborating with local artists. Wonderbound’s dance productions have been enriched by klezmer, indie, and classical musicians; visual and theater artists; and a poet, among others. This time it’s a folk band plus a magician. A Gothic Folktale (which premiered in 2013) was co-created by artistic director Garrett Ammon, folk singer/songwriter Jesse Manley, and “comedic mentalist” Professor Phelyx, who will contribute illusions to this circus-, tarot-, and vaudeville-inspired evening.

Nā Lei Hulu’s The Natives Are Restless recounts Hawaii’s native and colonial history. Photo by Lin Cariffe

Nā Lei Hulu’s The Natives Are Restless recounts Hawaii’s native and colonial history.
Photo by Lin Cariffe

Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu

The Natives Are Restless

When and where: October 15–16 & 22–23, Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, San Francisco, CA
Info: naleihulu.org

San Francisco Bay Area hula master Patrick Makuakāne aims for both authenticity and evolution with his 40-dancer company, founded in 1985. Nā Lei Hulu’s sumptuous productions integrate traditional hula with Makuakāne’s hula mua, “hula that evolves,” which fuses hula steps with contemporary themes and non-Hawaiian music, such as opera and pop. The Natives Are Restless recounts the events of 19th-century Hawaiian history—the arrival of Christian missionaries, the monarchy’s overthrow by colonialists, native Hawaiian resistance—as a multimedia dance theater epic.

Keigwin + Company

Queens Theatre Season

When and where: October 22–23, Queens Theatre, Queens, NY
Info: keigwinandcompany.com

Modern dance choreographer Larry Keigwin makes work that’s often unabashedly theatrical, athletic, and funny, sometimes as influenced by the club as by the studio. He favors quicksilver direction changes, springy loose-limbed leaps, and groupings that form and dissolve with the swift precision of flocking birds. The company visits Queens Theatre (a Pop Art–adorned structure designed by modernist architect Philip Johnson for the 1964 World’s Fair) in Flushing Meadows Corona Park to present the world premiere of a work by Keigwin, with an original score by Adam Crystal. Two New York premieres (both from 2014) are set to suites by Leonard Bernstein: Waterfront (to On the Waterfront) and Episodes (to On the Town).

Tulsa Ballet’s Hyonjun Rhee and Youhee Son as Eugene and Tatiana in John Cranko’s Onegin, a story of love, betrayal, and regret. Photo courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Tulsa Ballet’s Hyonjun Rhee and Youhee Son as Eugene and Tatiana in John Cranko’s Onegin, a story of love, betrayal, and regret.
Photo courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Tulsa Ballet

Onegin

When and where: October 28–30, Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Tulsa, OK
Info: tulsaballet.org/onegin

Tulsa Ballet tackles John Cranko’s dramatic Onegin, created in 1965 for Stuttgart Ballet (which Cranko directed at the time). With its emotional pas de deux and its story of love, betrayal, and regret among Russian aristocrats, this three-act ballet requires great acting as well as dancing. Like its source, Alexander Pushkin’s verse novel Eugene Onegin, Cranko’s ballet is suffused with 19th-century Russian romance: think forest duels, broken hearts, and glittering ballrooms. The score is a composite of selections from Tchaikovsky’s orchestral and solo piano works.

Boston Ballet

Le Corsaire

When and where: October 27–November 6, Boston Opera House, Boston, MA
Info: bostonballet.org

Le Corsaire variations and pas de deux are competition and gala staples; this fall, Boston Ballet performs Czech choreographer Ivan Liška’s full-length 2006 version of the ballet. The plot of this tale of pirates, slave dealers, and enslaved harem girls is romance-novel ready, but it’s not realism that draws us to the 19th-century story ballets, after all—it’s masterly dancing, lavish productions, and an understanding of ballet history. Le Corsaire was originally choreographed by Joseph Mazilier and composed by Adolphe Adam; many revisions followed, most notably by Marius Petipa in 1863. Petipa’s multiple revivals of Le Corsaire and the exoticized Orientalism of its imagined Ottoman Empire setting offer a great opportunity to talk with students about ballet’s history.