Yes, there is dance in New England this summer, but those who love motion may need to embark on a little themselves to journey further afield to watch it. The trip, I can assure you, will be worth it.
By Debra Cash
It never ceases to amaze me when Boston-area dance lovers haven’t yet made the pilgrimage to the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshires. The rule of thumb is to spend at least two or three hours beyond what you’d expect to simply attend a concert: there’s a lot to do on the campus of this National Historic Landmark. In the rustic Ted Shawn Theatre, with its weathervane designed after a photograph of dancer Barton Mumaw, the language of the season is contemporary ballet, including the resurrection of Dance Theatre of Harlem, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and 3e Etage, Soloists of the Paris Opera Ballet. There’s also a significant dose of high concept hip hop and Martha Graham’s version of Rite of Spring. In the black box Doris Duke Theatre, the hottest ticket will be Dorrance Dance, the tap company led by this year’s recipient of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award. There are lots of free activities at the Pillow, too, including preshow performances on the Pillow’s outdoor platform, guided tours of the landscaped campus with its famous eponymous boulder, and exhibits of dance photography and art in Blake’s Barn.
Across the water on Martha’s Vineyard, The Yard opens an ambitious season with performances by South Asian choreographer Hari Krishnan and New York choreographers Deborah Lohse and Donnell Oakley, all recipients of special residency grants named after the great dance pedagogue Bessie Schönberg. It continues with a special trio show by Jodi Melnick, Sara Rudner, and Vicky Shick, and throughout the summer, a number of funny works including Doug Elkins’ “Hapless Bizarre” and “Mo(or)town/Redux,” an homage to Jose Limon’s “Moor’s Pavane” set to a top 40 sound score.
Director/choreographer Ain Gordon explores nineteenth-century rural life in Not What Happened, a show paired with a photography exhibit The Labors of Silence presented by the forward-thinking Vermont Performance Lab.
Further north, professional performances at the Bates Dance Festival include Doug Varone and Dancers in a new work, Mouth Above Water, set to music by Julia Wolfe, and Bebe Miller’s long-in-gestation project of reminiscence and renewal for longtime company members Angie Hauser and Darrell Jones. Both should be splendid.
Head south to Connecticut and you can check out dance aspects of New Haven’s always illuminating Festival of Arts and Ideas. I’m especially intrigued by a dance/theatre piece called “Freewheelers” that explores the historical moment that gave us both the corset and the bicycle. (Insider’s tip: some of the performances duplicate offerings at Jacob’s Pillow, so you get two bites of the apple to coordinate your schedule.)
Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts in Middletown, CT has rescheduled a snowed-out engagement of Andrea Miller and her New York-based troupe Gallim Dance for a more temperate season. New England will finally see the regional premiere of Mama Call, Miller’s exploration of her lost Sephardic Jewish heritage and Pupil Suite to music of Balkan Beat Box. Later in the summer, Wesleyan hosts a free afternoon lecture demonstration by Burkina Faso choreographer Souleymane Badolo he calls WATIDSOWBO—Come Dance With The World.
If summer staycations are more your speed, the Boston area will host a number of special events where dancing will have a special focus, including the inaugural year of Ted Cutler’s 10-day Outside the Box festival on the Boston Common with the final list of performers to be released in a few weeks.
At the Boston Center for the Arts, well-regarded local choreographer Kelley Donovan presents a new intergenerational work, Polishing Stone, that involves dancers ranging from age 10 to 76.
Handel’s first opera, Almira, written when the composer was 19, is the centerpiece of the 2013 Boston Early Music Festival and will feature exquisite baroque dancing choreographed in historical style by Melinda Sullivan.
Boston Urban Ballet—the folks who bring us the popular Urban Nutcracker in the winter—are presenting Sylvia and Summer Nights, a mixed bill of genres ranging from ballet to flamenco and hip hop at John Hancock hall.
At the ICA, spend some time sitting on the outdoor bleachers looking out at the boats and then come inside for former Merce Cunningham dancer Rashaun Mitchell sharing a sneak peek of work he’s developing with musician Stephin Merritt and visual artist Ali Naschke-Messing. It is the latest in Co Lab: Process + Performance, the collaboration between the ICA and Summer Stages Dance. Visiting favorites David Parker & The Bang Group hit the ICA, too, with a free, family-friendly Tap Lab.
For other local events, including the complete list of performers in Somerville’s lively outdoor Dancing in the Streets series, the best online lookup is the Boston Dance Alliance. Not a BDA member? You should be.
c 2013 Debra Cash