Moving Targets

Choreographers Stride to Hit the Mark

Imagine an escalator carrying choreographers and their companies up through dance venues, from tiny lofts and 99-seat houses to the Kaye Playhouse, the Joyce Theater, Aaron Davis Hall, gigs at colleges around the country, the international touring circuit, and back to the distinguished reaches of BAM, City Center, and Lincoln Center. Artists go from renting theaters—an expensive strategy that's always a gamble—to being fully produced, which guarantees they'll at least break even, and on to being commissioned. The trip can take years—from, say, five for the supremely trendy to a dozen or more for riskier work. And not all choreographers benefit from making this journey. Some dances work best in intimate spaces, and are better served by running for several weeks in a small house than for one weekend in a barn where the most dedicated spectators—those in the cheap seats—are nearly a block from the stage.

After two decades of watching New York dance, I'm seeing some of my early favorites arrive at the top of these particular heaps. Susan Marshall, a Next Wave veteran who recently won a MacArthur Foundation grant, headlines a series reopening a much missed, newly renovated 140-seat space at the New 14th Street Y on September 7 and 10; this is the same address where she made her local debut some 15 years ago.

David Dorfman is a triple-threat artist who talks, plays several musical instruments, and choreographs funny, often heartrending dances for duos (his Live Sax Acts with Dan Froot are priceless), community groups, and a company of expressive performers who cleave to him. On September 15, at the Joyce, Dorfman and Froot host this season's Bessie Awards, a community celebration that marks the unofficial start of the fall season. And Dorfman makes his Next Wave Festival debut in December with To Lie Tenderly, which has original rock and roll music by Amy Denio and Hahn Rowe performed live. Examining multiple meanings of the verb "to lie," the dance explores emotional struggles between the urge for autonomy and the need for intimacy. The ramshackle BAM Harvey Theater sounds like the right crib for this show.

Ronald K. Brown adds Grace to City Center's calendar.
photo: Michael Kamber
Ronald K. Brown adds Grace to City Center's calendar.

Stephen Petronio's new Strange Attractors opens for a week at the Joyce October 17, with contributions from a very British team: a lush, romantic score by Michael Nyman and additional music by James Lavelle, as well as costumes by Tanya Sarne of Ghost and a shiny metal landscape constructed by sculptor Anish Kapoor.

Ralph Lemon's Tree continues his intercultural explorations begun two years back. This year, Lemon's putative subject is Asia, but as always his approaches are circuitous and his methods diverse; catch up with him at the BAM Harvey Theater late in October.

Slightly younger, but making rapid strides both with his own troupe (September 28 and 29, Aaron Davis Hall, City College, 135th Street and Convent Avenue, 650-7148) and as a guest choreographer, is Ronald K. Brown, whose Grace highlights the Ailey season in December at City Center. He'll also contribute to the repertory of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (Joyce, October 10-15) a dance made collaboratively with veteran choreographer Donald McKayle.

Another young African American choreographer, incorporating the hip-hop landscape of his native Philadelphia into a very sharp rethinking of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, is Rennie Harris, who brings his Rome & Jewels to the Joyce September 26-October 1. The listings here barely skim the surface of what is shaping up to be a rich fall season of dance.

September 6-17
City Center, 135 West 55th Street, 581-1212

This beloved ballet company is back in Midtown for the first time in years, with new work by Augustus van Heerden and favorites by Balanchine, Smuin, and others.

September 7, 9-10
New 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street, 780-0800, ext. 248

Susan Marshall, Beverly Blossom, Graham Lustig, Felicia Norton, Kraig Patterson, and more artists headline this festival in a newly renovated space.

September 9
Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center, 62nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, 571-1555

A free, daylong celebration of music and dance from the city's ethnic neighborhoods

September 12
Dixon Place, 309 East 26th Street, 532-1546

Paula Hunter, Samuael Topiary, Miguel Gutierrez, Liam Clancy, and Trajal Harrell launch a series obsessed with movement and the spoken word.

September 13-30
Dance Theater Workshop, 219 West 19th Street, 924-0077

New works by a choreographer steeped in African and diasporic traditions

September 14-October 7
The Flea, 41 White Street, 226-0051

Her new Slay the Dragon is an acrobatic piece about overcoming adversity.

September 14
Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, 966-5621

Members of her troupe, the Players' Project, celebrate the great choreographer's long life.

September 19 and 26, October 3
Dance Theater Workshop, 219 West 19th Street, 924-0077

Juried program of emerging choreographers

September 19, October 24, November 21, December 19
Dixon Place, 309 East 26th Street, 532-1546

A "monthly Mardi Gras" performance party curated by Boo Froebel, featuring dance, theater, media, puppet, and performance artists

September 21-24
Pace Downtown Theater, 1 Pace Plaza, Spruce Street between Park Row and Gold Street, 625-8369

New works commissioned from Andrew Asnes, Robert Battle, Matt Jensen, Nicholas Leichter, Gabriel Masson, Le Minh Tam, Nathan Trice, and artistic director Charles Wright

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