We all know that it’s a fool’s errand to predict the future. But as the new arts’ seasons approach, critics inevitably are asked for recommendations about which upcoming performances will be worth attending. A little bit of prognostication. I understand; no one wants to miss a truly memorable show — even if it’s impossible to foresee which one that will be.
Knowledge is power, though, so, in that spirit, I thought that it would be helpful to go through the major dance series in L.A. and Orange County, and share with you what I know about each one. Whether the choreography and dancers live up to expectations is another matter. That will be up to each of us to decide once we’re sitting in the theater. So for the next few weeks, I’ll list the different dance offerings and give you some insider background.
First up — Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center because they’ve put together a big and splashy season:
- L.A. Dance Project, Sept. 22-23
- National Ballet of Canada, Oct. 19-21
- Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Feb. 1-3, 2013
- Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, April 17-21, 2013
- 7 Fingers (Traces), April 26-28, 2013
- Hubbard Street with LINES Ballet, June 21-23, 2013
- American Ballet Theatre, July 11-14, 2013
The big news, of course, is L.A. Dance Project, the arts collective started with funding from the Music Center and run by choreographer and retired New York City Ballet principal dancer Benjamin Millepied. His partners in the project are not well-known here: producer Charles Fabius, dancer-choreographer Dimitri Chamblas, art consultant Matthieu Humery, and composer Nico Muhly. Six dancers are currently listed on the Project website and Millepied is expected to dance as well. Millpied is creating a new piece with a score by Muhly for the first program, which will be performed at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The two other works on this inaugural program are from master choreographers — “Winterbranch” by Merce Cunningham and “Quintett” by William Forsythe. How these two pieces will play together is the question, however, because both pieces are known for having difficult scores that test their audiences. In David Vaughan’s book “Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years,” Vaughan says that La Monte Young’s electronic piece, “2 sounds,” is “excruciating.” It consists of two sound elements “amplified up to or perhaps beyond the limit of human endurance.” Cunningham was interested in exploring the “fact of falling” in “Winterbranch.” Artist Robert Rauschenberg did the lighting and costumes for the original 1964 production. “Quintett” was created in 1993 as a tribute to Forsythe’s wife, the dancer Tracy-Kai Maier, who was dying from cancer. Forsythe set the piece to experimental composer Gavin Bryar’s “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” which loops incessantly, maddeningly. Putting together an appealing program is an art in itself. Will these pieces be a problem together? We’ll have to see.
The rest of the season has other appealing offerings, and you will notice certain themes and names running through the season. National Ballet of Canada will be dancing Christopher Wheeldon’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” a 2011 full-length ballet co-commissioned with the Royal Ballet. According to their arrangement, National Ballet of Canada has the exclusive rights initially to perform “Alice” in the United States. The piece has received mixed reviews and I know one theater producer who passed on the production because this person wanted the Royal Ballet only. But Renae Williams Niles, the Music Center’s director of programming, told me she saw the company at home in Toronto and she thought the dancers were glorious.
Both Wheeldon’s and Forsythe’s works will appear again on the Joffrey Ballet’s two mixed repertory programs, as will the company’s reproduction of Nijinsky-Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” One or two other pieces have yet to be announced. The Ailey programs will be announced later, too. But Niles said she is a fan of choreographer Kyle Abraham, who is making a new piece for Ailey, and that “Minus 16,” by Ohad Naharin and now in the Ailey repertory, is one of her favorite pieces.
Other tidbits — the Hubbard Street-LINES collaboration will include a new piece that LINES director Alonzo King is making for the dancers of both companies. Each company will have the spotlight to themselves, in addition. (Incidentally, you can see both companies before then at the Laguna Dance Festival, September 8-9. Click here for more information.) Finally, ABT will present “Le Corsaire” and one night of mixed repertory. Niles has requested George Balanchine’s “Apollo,” which has another famous score by Igor Stravinsky, and a piece by one of my favorite choreographers, Alexei Ratmansky. Stay tuned for announcements about that as well.
Check back here Thursday for information about the Segerstrom Center’s dance series.