As summer fades into memory, the pleasures of autumn come into focus. And on the cultural calendar, New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival is one of the most eagerly anticipated celebrations in the season. The Festival returns live in full force, with five wide-ranging slates featuring dance’s brightest performers and choreographers, including four commissioned premieres, with all tickets at $15.
City Center has always prized artists first and foremost, and its four 2021 Fall for Dance commissions reflect deep and valued relationships with some of the field’s most vibrant talents. Tap luminary Ayodele Casel performs a work sure to get the house buzzing, and modern dance icon Lar Lubovitch collaborates with New York City Ballet principals Adrian Danchig-Waring and Joseph Gordon on a special duet.
In a co-commission with the Vail Dance Festival under the guidance of ex-New York City Ballet luminary Damian Woetzel, the talented young choreographer Justin Peck sets a dance on two of the city’s most cherished and charismatic dancers—Tiler Peck of NYCB and Herman Cornejo, a star with American Ballet Theatre. And City Center’s Broadway history gets a nod with The Verdon Fosse Legacy’s Sweet Gwen Suite, a series of dances based on trios originally created for Gwen Verdon, featuring Georgina Pazcoguin of NYCB, also a recent Broadway star.
Two very different companies join the Verdon/Fosse suite on Program 1 (October 13 and 14). STREB EXTREME ACTION performs Molinette, Add, and Air, choreographed by Elizabeth Streb, whose daredevil risk-taking and tests of her dancers’ physical limits are legendary. In contrast is Kyle Abraham’s company—A.I.M. His style is wide-ranging and unique, often incorporating gestures, hip-hop, and ballet in a silky and emotive mix.
On October 15 and 16, Program 2 features the boldly athletic choreography of Stephen Petronio; they dance in American Landscapes. Houston Ballet dances artistic director Stanton Welch’s elegant Sons de L’Âme, an ode to the purity and elegance of the lines grounding classical ballet and a showcase for two principal dancers. It is rounded out by ODEON:Redux by Ephrat Asherie Dance; Asherie has delighted audiences with her blend of underground, hip-hop, vogue, club, and more into a completely distinctive style.
Philadelphia Ballet is the new name of Pennsylvania Ballet, under the direction of ballet superstar Angel Corella. Leading off Program 3 (October 19 and 20), it presents Connection by Juliano Nunes, a young Brazilian choreographer who danced previously with Royal Ballet of Flanders. Another young talent, Micaela Taylor and The TL Collective, follows with the New York premiere of Drift. This LA-based choreographer has gained recognition quickly for her contemporary/pop dances which draw from her hip-hop experience. And in what promises to be bring down the house, Step Africa! presents The Movement by Conrad Kelly II. This electrifying collective’s body of work is built upon stepping, popular nationally at Black campuses; traditional African dance; and contemporary strands combined to connect audiences with the dynamic performers.
The fourth program (October 21 and 22) begins with a Vail Dance Festival co-presentation, 38109 by Lil Buck, who has astounded audiences with his boneless maneuvers and toe glides in which he appears to skate effortlessly. It is followed by Each in His Own Time, a City Center commission in part inspired by the alchemy resulting from Adrian Danchig-Waring and Joseph Gordon’s previous performance during the 2020 Fall for Dance Festival of Lubovitch’s tender duet from Concerto Six Twenty-Two. This world premiere adds to Lubovitch’s canon of lushly swirling, organic contemporary dances laced with balletic lines. BalletX then performs Mapping Out A Sky by one of its co-founders, Matthew Neenan, who creates work combining ballet’s virtuosity with a modern flair and visual and narrative wit.
And finally, on October 23 and 24, Program 5 begins with Fandango by Alexei Ratmansky, one of the world’s pre-eminent ballet creators. This solo, danced by NYCB’s Roman Mejia, is packed with technical fireworks and fervent musicality. The second work, Bloom, is an eagerly anticipated duet between Tiler Peck and Herman Cornejo, choreographed by Justin Peck. Winding up the festival, tap wonder Ayodele Casel creates a new work commissioned for the festival, and which will no doubt elicit a buzz and set viewers’ hearts aglow.
A return to live dance at one of the world’s choreographic crucibles is a long-overdue pivot back to the life-affirming cultural riches of the Big Apple and a reminder of why people flock here. It’s autumn in New York—and time to fall for dance all over again.
Susan Yung writes about dance and the arts.