“I always think of our audience,” says Meg Booth, director of dance programming for the Kennedy Center. “There are always some attending their first performances, and subscribers of 20 and 30 years who have seen it all and want to be challenged.”
The 2018-19 season should tempt new and seasoned guests, with ballet selections old and new from across the United States, China, England, and Russia; and additional offerings from the U.S., Brazil, Cambodia, and India.
Booth became dance programmer in 2007 after participating in a Kennedy Center arts-management fellowship. Before that she had held company management positions with Twyla Tharp Dance and the White Oak Dance Project, and worked for IMG, an international management company. Having seen the arts landscape from the presenter, agency, and company vantage points helps her, she says, in her current role solving the jigsaw puzzle of a year’s programming.
She stays in regular touch with major companies like the Mariinsky, the Paris Opera Ballet, and the Royal Ballet that have perhaps two or three weeks a year of touring with 140 to 160 people. If D.C. can be on their itinerary, that’s a pillar around which to start building. Booth focuses on ballet, and Alicia Adams, the Center’s vice president for international programming, focuses on contemporary dance.
Companies like the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and the Mariinsky “set the bar for our audience,” Booth says, “and give them a foundation in what first class world art truly is.”
The upcoming season will include new and classic repertory from New York City Ballet, a D.C. premiere of Ratmansky’s Harlequinade by American Ballet Theatre, and the Mariinsky’s Le Corsaire. The San Francisco Ballet will present selections from Unbound: A Festival of New Works, and the National Ballet of China will bring back its Raise the Red Lantern. Details are still being arranged for the Ballet Across America series, with acclaimed but smaller, lesser-known regional companies.
Harlequinade, Booth says, “is a very old ballet that’s gone largely out of circulation at full length.” The comedic work, about Harlequin’s efforts to win his love Columbine, is produced in conjunction with the Australian Ballet. Washington audiences saw Alexei Ratmansky’s recent reconstruction of Whipped Cream. Here he revives Marius Petipa’s 19th-century choreography from archival notes and sets it to the original score by Ricardo Driggo.
Raise the Red Lantern hasn’t been seen here since 2005. It is scheduled in conjunction with the Kennedy Center’s yearly Lunar New Year programming. Twelve musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments are traveling with the company and will join a full orchestra.
And complementing the reimagined Nutcracker will be Matthew Bourne’s reimagined Cinderella, in which her prince is a Second World War Royal Air Force pilot.
“We never want to introduce audiences to something that we’re not going to give people a chance to learn more about,” says Booth. So, following its 2011 India festival, the center this coming season will feature the Ragamala Dance Company in Written in Water, a story based on the Sufi poem “The Conference of Birds,” with music by Amir ElSaffar and Prema Ramamurthy, and projections of works by cartoonist Keshav and artist Nathan Christopher. Traditional Indian dancer and choreographer Malavika Sarukkai and her company will perform Thari—The Loom, on the theme of the hand-woven sari, with music by Aditya Prakash and incorporating elements from the films of Sumantra Ghosal.
Over three nights, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company will present The Analogy Trio, about people marginalized by society. Speaking, live music, and video contribute to the tales of a French, Jewish nurse and social worker in World War II; the 1980s-90s club culture and sex trade; and a traumatized emigrant in a work inspired by the writings of W.G. Sebald.
Cross Transit, presented in coordination with the Japan Society, blends the dance of Akiko Kitamura and the photography of Kim Hak in an exploration of Cambodian folk culture.
And, in Rooming House, the Chicago company Lucky Plush brings its blend of dance, speech, and humor to an existential whodunit.
Companhia de Danca Deborah Colker hasn’t been seen at the Center in eight years. The company returns with Dog Without Feathers, inspired by a poem by Brazilian writer Joao Cabral de Melo Neto and reflecting life in the beautiful but poor Capibaribe River Region.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, returning with repertory old and new, is not only a capital audience favorite but a company with historic ties to the Kennedy Center, Booth says, since Ailey himself choreographed to Leonard Bernstein’s Mass in the venue’s 1971 opening.
Visit The Kennedy Center’s dance season for dates, details, and tickets.
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