The Comeback of Narrative Dance: Visions in the Dark

The Fall 2014 Issue

The Comeback of Narrative Dance: Visions in the Dark
See Alice's Adventures in Wonderland at the David H. Koch Theater.

When you attend a dance performance, you sit and watch other people move. They warm up; you settle down. They bask in bright light; you find yourself in the dark, literally and often metaphorically.

In the old days, you'd sit while performers acted out stories: about princes and princesses, women who turn into birds, wicked stepmothers. To a large extent, this is still the case. Narrative dance has made a comeback; this season New Yorkers will watch as beautifully trained artists perform Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (the National Ballet of Canada, at the Koch); flamenco genius Soledad Barrio enacts the ancient Greek tale of Antigone (at the Joyce); and Mark Dendy finally unveils his talky version of the Theseus myth (at Abrons Arts Center). The American Ballet Theatre season at the Koch is full of classic shorter stories; Bill T. Jones collects a bunch that are shorter still, at New York Live Arts; and two African men, Faustin Linyekula and Panaibra Gabriel Canda, bring tales of post-colonial dislocation, using words and movement, to Brooklyn's BRIC House Ballroom.

See also: The 2014 Fall (Arts) Issue: An Index

Location Info


David H. Koch Theater

20 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023-6925

Category: Art Galleries

Region: West 60s


Creating dance has historically been the province of the unemployed. In the 16th century that meant the nobility; King Louis XIV of France helped to popularize ballet as a diversion for his courtiers. More recently, it's been young men without jobs who've had the freedom necessary to perfect the phenomenon we call breakdancing, on the streets of our cities, and on display during October's Fall for Dance series at New York City Center.

Some of the most appealing shows this fall are, in fact, social dances, like Pina Bausch's Kontakthof, which follows 11 couples through a long evening at a German dancehall — in this case, the BAM Opera House. Also at BAM, Israel's Batsheva Dance Company, founded 50 years ago with the help of Martha Graham and now under the direction of Ohad Naharin, knits together classical training with movement derived from pleasure-seeking young clubgoers in Sadeh21, made in collaboration with Naharin's powerhouse ensemble.

We spectators, however, continue to sit—the price we pay for attending so-called "high art." Go to a stadium: During the action, the lights stay on and you're free to wander around, grab a beer, take a leak. But we whose job and pleasure is attending to the complexities of concert dance know our place: riveted to the action and, like the long-suffering Jewish mother in the light-bulb joke, sitting there in the dark.

DANCENOW Joe's Pub Festival
September 3-6 and 13

Forty choreographers take the Pub's tiny stage in short works; audience favorites each night take encores a week later. Highlights include the Bang Group, Bridgman/Packer Dance, Claire Porter, and Zvidance. Joe's Pub at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street,

National Ballet of Canada
September 9-14

Christopher Wheeldon's 2011 hit Alice's Adventures in Wonderland finally comes to town, with an atmospheric score by Joby Talbot and dazzling designs by Bob Crowley. Performed by the marvelous National Ballet of Canada dancers, it's been called "both recognizably traditional and joltingly contemporary at one and the same moment." David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza,

Fall for Dance at the Delacorte
September 12-13

The 11th Fall for Dance festival kicks off with a free show in Central Park, featuring Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in a work by Nacho Duato, Bill T. Jones's spectacular D-Man in the Waters (Part 1), Damian Woetzel's new project with jookin' star Lil Buck, and dancers from the New York City Ballet. Tickets available in the park on show days, or via online lottery. Delacorte Theater, Central Park at 79th Street,

Pacific Northwest Ballet
October 8-12

This strong Seattle-based troupe, under the direction of NYCB alum Peter Boal, performs dances new to New York by Christopher Wheeldon (to music by Joby Talbot) and Alejandro Cerrudo (music by David Child and Max Richter). Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue,

Fall for Dance
October 8-19

This big dance bargain provides glimpses of 20 troupes hailing from India, Sweden, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, France, South Africa, and across the U.S. — including the Australian Ballet and Philly hip-hop stars Rennie Harris Puremovement, spread over five programs, each playing twice. Tickets, $15, go on sale September 14; move fast! New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street,

RoseAnne Spradlin
October 8-11

Spradlin, an alchemist of risk, sexuality, and wild style, returns to NYLA with the haunting g-h-o-s-t c-r-o-w-n, for three women and "additional dancers." She collaborates with composer Jeffrey Young, visual artist Glen Fogel, and lighting designer Stan Pressner. New York Live Arts, 219 West 19th Street,

Dance Heginbotham
October 9-11

The New York premiere of Chalk and Soot marks a collaboration between witty choreographer John Heginbotham and composer Colin Jacobsen; the latter has set Dadaist poems by Wassily Kandinsky, and the score will be performed by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and singer Carla Kihlstedt. Jerome Robbins Theater, Baryshnikov Arts Center, 450 West 37th Street,

Mark Dendy Projects
October 9-26

In his autobiographical Labyrinth, Dendy, as compelling an actor as he ever was a dancer, retells the Theseus myth as a drug-fueled adventure on the eve of Superstorm Sandy. Heather Christian, Stephen Donovan and Matthew Hardy join in to create sound, music, and video live onstage in the maelstrom. Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street,

American Ballet Theatre
October 22-November 2
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