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Who's in the Running To Be Power Players

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mr. President-elect:

We know the question forming in your mind right now: Well then, Ms. Kaufman (no no no, really, Sarah is just fine), if you think we should attend theater in Washington, what do you suggest we see? Funny you should ask.

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In keeping with Mrs. Obama's interest in dance (and our own), the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, coming to the Kennedy Center Feb. 3-8, is an obvious first pick. The renowned predominantly African American troupe will launch its 50th-anniversary national tour in the Opera House. In fact, the weeks after your swearing-in are a showcase of the best of the nation's dance: American Ballet Theatre arrives Feb. 17-22 with a program of made-in-America classics (by George Balanchine, who gave an old-world art form a dazzling and uniquely American profile; Antony Tudor, who crafted deeply poignant stories about ordinary people; and Twyla Tharp, who first meshed the avant-garde with the classical). And the Paul Taylor Dance Company -- absolutely tops in contemporary, audience-friendly dancing -- follows in March.

In the musical theater arena, a new production of the epic American show "Ragtime" is coming to the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater in April, and the story -- entwining Booker T. Washington and Henry Ford, immigrant Jews, Harlem activists and wealthy Victorians -- is chockablock with of-the-moment resonance. And we're eagerly awaiting "Spring Awakening," opening at the Eisenhower in July, with Tony Award-winning choreography by the smart, fearless and trenchantly poetic dancemaker Bill T. Jones. You won't want to bring the children to this one -- too sexy -- but speaking of Malia and Sasha, there you have two more good reasons to start a theater-going tradition here. With "Unleashed: The Secret Lives of White House Pets" (thinking of that impending puppy) and Debbie Allen's new work for the "Arabesque" festival, "OMAN . . . O Man!," we're betting we'll see the entire first family at the Kennedy Center.

We also see you and Mrs. Obama heading to Ford's for the Lincoln festivities, and to the Shakespeare Theatre for a comedy (try Noel Coward's "Design for Living"). And why not venture farther north for something truly different: In February, the Clarice Smith Center at the University of Maryland hosts the world premiere of David Roussève's "Saudade," a dance-theater work by a deep-thinking and provocative storyteller that addresses the African American experience in the South against a backdrop of Portuguese Fado music.

-- Sarah Kaufman


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