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Washington Area 2011-12 Dance Preview

Though tickets mostly haven’t gone on sale yet, it’s time to mark your calendars for dance this coming year
The Mark Morris Dance Group’s production of L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato is coming to the Kennedy Center Opera House January 26. Photograph courtesy of Mark Morris Dance Group

Lovers of dance—ballet, contemporary, and just about everything else—can take delight that Washington is a regular stop for tours by the best international dance companies. Tickets are mostly not on sale yet, of course, nor has the casting always been announced, but you can mark the dates on your calendar, and most presenters’ Web sites will send you an e-mail reminder when the tickets go on sale. Here are the performances you will not want to miss in the upcoming season.

Dance Companies
At the top of the list are some of the world’s leading contemporary dance troupes, beginning with the Martha Graham Dance Company, appearing at George Mason University Center for the Arts (October 21). Their program will feature one of the classic choreographies by Martha Graham, Appalachian Spring, accompanied by the iconic American score she commissioned from Aaron Copland.

The Merce Cunningham Dance Company, since the death in 2009 of its legendary founder, has been in the process of closing up shop, and their last visit to the Washington area will take place at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater (December 2 and 3). Hopefully the sound levels will be tolerable for listeners this time around, unlike their last visit at Wolf Trap.

Finally, the Mark Morris Dance Group will come to the Kennedy Center Opera House (January 26 to 28), to perform Morris’s staging of Handel’s beautiful oratorio L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (their most recent stop here was in 2010). The music will be performed live, which is key to Morris’s union of music and dance, with the choral part provided by the Washington Bach Consort, plus sopranos Christine Brandes and Lisa Saffer, tenor John McVeigh, and baritone Tom Meglioranza as soloists.

Classical Ballet
For classical ballet, there are engagements by some of the world’s premiere ballet companies, all accompanied by live music performed by the KC Opera House Orchestra. The Nutcracker to see this season will be presented by the American Ballet Theater, at the KC Opera House (December 8 to 11), with choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. ABT will also perform the Marius Petipa choreography of La Bayadère in the same venue (January 31 to February 5).

The Mariinsky Ballet returns to the KC Opera House (January 17 to 22), in three choreographies by Mikhail Fokine: Chopiniana with music by Frédéric Chopin, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and Stravinsky’s The Firebird.

The Bolshoi Ballet brings its classic Coppélia (May 29 to June 3), and the renowned Paris Opera Ballet brings its glorious Giselle (July 5 to 8), both performed in the KenCen Opera House.

There is also a selection of Balanchine choreographies from the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in the KenCen Eisenhower Theater (October 12 to 16), and the New York City Ballet in the KenCen Opera House (April 3 to 8), in mixed programs of classic choreographies.

Also of interest, but less so because the dancers will perform with recorded music, are the National Ballet of China at the KenCen Eisenhower Theater (September 22 to 24), the Beijing Dance Theater in the same venue (October 26 and 27), the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in the KenCen Opera House (February 7 to 12), and the Ballet Preljocaj at the KenCen Eisenhower Theater (March 30 to April 1), performing Angelin Preljocaj’s choreography Blanche Neige, an updating of the Snow White story, set to a selection of Mahler symphonies, with costumes by Jean-Paul Gautier.

Dance Off the Beaten Path
For something really different, there is Keigwin + Company at the KenCen Eisenhower Theater (March 2 and 3), and who knows quite what to expect from that company, as well as Jo Kanamori and Dance Company Noism in the KenCen Terrace Theater (April 26 and 27), a contemporary dance company celebrating the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of cherry trees for the tidal basin.

Even more off the beaten path is Pilobolus, a small group of acrobats known for their unpredictable performances, appearing first at the George Mason University Center for the Arts (November 4) and again, presented by Washington Performing Arts Society and the Shakespeare Theater Company, at Sidney Harman Hall downtown (May 11 and 12).

The Japanese duo Eiko and Koma are in residency this year at the Clarice Smith Center in College Park, and they will perform two programs, Regeneration (September 14 and 15) and Caravan Project (May 3 to 5). The latter performances will take place outdoors, around a specially designed trailer that serves as the set, and will be free and open to the public.

The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company will also visit the Clarice Smith Center (February 3 and 4), to perform a new work, Light Moves, commissioned by the Clarice Smith Center. Some other dance performances, not necessarily recommended, will be presented at GMU’s Center for the Arts.

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