The Festival has become the essential opening salvo of the new season, and no year would be complete without such longstanding and welcome resident companies as those of Alvin Ailey and Paul Taylor. And although it is only in its third year of existence, Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company has become a highly anticipated annual offering, with its adventurous and forward-looking ballet repertory and world-class dancers.
But alongside these regulars, an eclectic array of unfamiliar offerings will represent everything from tango to Brazilian contemporary dance to classical ballet: the latter in the form of a highly-anticipated U.S. debut: the new Spanish company directed by American Ballet Theatre virtuoso Angel Corella. Also new: in terms of its participants, if not its name: is Kings of the Dance, the program that celebrates today's leading male ballet artists. Its 2007 incarnation featured four dancers, but the February performances will include seven men with impeccable credentials.
The special gala evenings offered by Career Transitions for Dancers and Youth America Grand Prix have also become staples of City Center's calendar. The former, always a swiftly-paced smorgasbord with a stellar line-up, takes place November 2 and celebrates dance on Broadway, film and television, with a roster that includes New York City Ballet's Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette, performers from "Dancing with the Stars" and a tribute to Duke Ellington. Youth America Grand Prix, a worldwide ballet competition scheduled for March 25 _27, juxtaposes its talented array of young international ballet dancers with the "stars of today."
For several weeks this fall, the focus will be on South America. Tanguera: The Tango Musical (October 7 _18) tells a story of unrequited love in turn-of-the-20th-century Buenos Aires through music, song and dance. A book musical with a cast of more than 30, this production opened in Buenos Aires in 2002, and has since been seen in Paris, Madrid, Berlin and Mexico City as well as in China and Japan. The following week (October 22 _25) brings Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker, a 15-year old Rio de Janeiro _based company last seen in New York in 2000. Colker, a Brazilian choreographer who creates works marked by physical daring and exciting visual design, is known for pushing boundaries and challenging notions of space and gravity in her contemporary dances. In addition to creating full-evening works for her troupe, she has worked in theater, and was the director/choreographer of the recent Cirque du Soleil show Ovo. In 4 POR 4, the work she is bringing to City Center, Colker has based each of four sections on a work by a Brazilian visual artist, transforming their imagery into movement.
While Morphoses, formed in 2007, is the primary vehicle for new works by Christopher Wheeldon, who has proven to be one of the most accomplished and sophisticated choreographers of his generation, it increasingly includes works by other choreographers in its repertory. This season's two programs (October 29 _November 1) offer a particularly wide range of works. Wheeldon will be represented by a new ballet set to Rachmaninoff's Suite for Two Pianos, as well as two earlier works. Morphoses has commissioned a ballet from Australia's Tim Harbour, and will also perform Alexei Ratmansky's version of Ravel's Bolero, created in 2004 for the Bolshoi Ballet, and Softly As I Leave You, a duet by the husband-and-wife team of Paul Lightfoot and Sol León. The Morphoses roster of dancers includes original members Wendy Whelan and Edwaard Liang and an intriguing, international mix of returning members and newcomers. As always, live musical accompaniment is a company priority; this season, it will be provided by the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, conducted on opening night by the orchestra's founder and music director, Alondra de la Parra.
The expanded 2010 Kings of the Dance (February 19 _21) boasts a glamorous, international line-up: ABT's José Manuel Carreño, Marcelo Gomes and David Hallberg; NYCB's Joaquin De Luz; Dennis Matvienko; Guillaume Coté of the National Ballet of Canada, and the Bolshoi Ballet's Nikolai Tsiskaridze: the sole holdover from the original edition. They will dance in works representing many eras and styles, by Frederick Ashton, José Limón, Nacho Duato, Roland Petit, Anton Dolin, and Boris Eifman, as well as Wheeldon.
Angel Corella was one of the original "Kings," and he continues to thrill audiences as an ABT principal. But somehow he also has the time to direct Corella Ballet Castilla y León, a 60-member classical company that will make its U.S. debut March 17 _20. Corella has choreographed String Sextet (set to Tchaikovsky) to the repertory. He is also a principal dancer, along with another ABT luminary, Herman Cornejo, and former ABT soloist Carmen Corella.
A very different aspect of Spain's rich dance traditions will be represented by the tenth annual New York Flamenco Festival (February 11 _14). In addition to the opening gala, the 15-member Compania Maria Pagés will perform her Self-Portrait, and Rocio Molina, an exciting young flamenco artist who is an alumna of that company, and her troupe will offer Oro Viejo.
No City Center dance season would be complete without two of the nation's most venerable, acclaimed and beloved companies. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns (December 2 _January 3) to celebrate Judith Jamison's 20th year as Artistic Director with a world premiere by Ronald K. Brown, Dancing Spirit: with music by Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsalis and War: that pays tribute to her influence. Jamison will also contribute a new work, and a highlights program will recognize the major works she has brought into the repertory over the past two decades.
And when the Paul Taylor Dance Company takes the stage (February 24 _March 14), it will celebrate not only Taylor's amazing and unpredictable creativity: with a new dance that pays comic tribute to vaudeville as well as another set to Debussy: but also his 80th birthday.
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Susan Reiter covers dance for New York Press and con- tributes articles on the performing arts to the Los Angeles Times and other publications.