Reopening after its first phase of renovation, City Center launched its varied dance season at full throttle with the seventh annual Fall for Dance Festival.
Following the festival, Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake returns to New York for a four-week run at City Center. When Bourne's innovative and surprising version of the beloved ballet came to Broadway for a Tony Award _winning run in 1998, it captivated audiences who might never venture to see Swan Lake in an opera house. Though the plot outline and superb Tchaikovsky score were familiar from more traditional versions, Bourne created a frisson of excitement and an added air of danger with his ensemble of male swans. Add in Bourne's more contemporary setting and smartly delineated characters, and you had a fresh Swan Lake that respected the past while speaking to the present moment.
From October 13 to November 7, City Center welcomes back this acclaimed production, which has become a classic in its own right. New Yorkers can see a new generation of dancers take on its challenges, with two alternating casts in the central roles of The Prince and The Swan. There are key roles for women as well. Nina Goldman, a native New Yorker with major ballet and Broadway credits on her resume, performed in the original Broadway company as The Prince's Girlfriend. At City Center, she will move into the role of The Queen.
"There are different journeys. The Prince is someone who's trying to fit in, who is an outsider in his own life," Goldman said. "The Queen was raised a certain way: that everything is for the public. When it comes to her private life, she doesn't know how to connect and express herself." Working with Bourne, she noted, "The dance is important, but all of the movement always has an intention behind it. It's always about telling the story and making a character clear."
No one can imagine December without Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which returns December 1 to January 2 with a wealth of new and familiar works. A younger generation of choreographers is represented by Christopher Huggins, a former Ailey dancer who will create a world premiere set to music by Moby and Sean Clements, as well as by Camille A. Brown and artistic directordesignate Robert Battle. Major revivals include Geoffrey Holder's 1968 The Prodigal Prince and two rarely seen Ailey works from the 1970s: Mary Lou's Mass and Three Black Kings. Artistic Director Judith Jamison's ritualistic Forgotten Time will also return to the repertory.
For one special week, the company will be joined by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performing Duke Ellington's score for Three Black Kings and Dizzy Gillespie's music for Billy Wilson's The Winter in Lisbon. If that isn't enough to celebrate, there is also the 50th anniversary of Ailey's timeless classic, Revelations, and a tribute to Jamison for the company's final City Center performance of her 21-year tenure as artistic director.
New this season is Flamenco Hoy, which comes to City Center February 16 to 20. The show, a project of famed film director Carlos Saura, offers a historical journey through dances and music from Andalusia.
The exemplary Paul Taylor Dance Company can be counted on to lift our spirits as winter winds down, and its February 22 to March 6 season promises particular excitement, with revivals of two major Taylor works. The return of Orbs, a 1966 dance set to Beethoven's late string quartets, is particularly noteworthy, since it hasn't been performed for 28 years. Speaking in Tongues, an expansive, challenging 1989 work, probes the hold that a charismatic, possibly dangerous "man of the cloth" has over his community. In addition to two Taylor premieres, the rich repertory includes Promethean Fire, Black Tuesday and The Word, as well as the beloved classic Esplanade.
Last, but not least, are two notable events anticipated by dance lovers year after year: Career Transition for Dancers' Gala, hosted by Angela Lansbury on November 8, marks the organization's 25th anniversary. And later in the season, Youth America Grand Prix, March 21 and 22, showcases the leading youthful contenders from its global ballet competition along with luminaries from major ballet troupes.
Susan Reiter covers dance for New York Press and contributes articles on the performing arts to the Los Angeles Times and other publications.