Contemporary dance troupes will bring heat to Kennedy Center's 2010-2011 season

By Sarah Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 3, 2010; C10

If, as I did, you lost your heart to the warmth and cheer of Ballet Nacional de Cuba when it was here nearly a decade ago, if you thrilled to the wondrous unpredictability of Brazil's Companhia de Danca Deborah Colker, and if the charm and fullness of the Royal Danish Ballet's "Napoli" left you craving more, then you're in luck. The Kennedy Center's 2010-11 dance season brings back some of its best offerings of the past decade, artists and productions that have been too long absent.

In fact, the regulars stand to be overshadowed by major dance companies and small-scale curiosities coming from Latin America, Europe and India.

The Cubans, back for the first time since 2001, will perform "Don Quixote" May 31-June 5, 2011, and if it's anything like the roof-raising production I saw in Havana in 2000, we'll be in for an early solstice. Count on serious physical and dramatic heat that week.

The Danes were last here in 2004, and not only is it good to get them back, it will be especially intriguing to see how they are performing under new director Nikolaj Hübbe, the former New York City Ballet star. One of his goals has been restoring luster to the works by Danish choreographer August Bournonville, two of which will be on view here June 7-12, 2011: "Napoli" and "A Folk Tale." Bournonville's works are known for their light jumps, unforced ease and a subtle modesty -- in other words, you couldn't ask for more of a contrast with the Cubans.

For its engagement Jan. 18-23, American Ballet Theatre will bring Alexei Ratmansky's full-length "Bright Stream" -- a company premiere, originally made for the Bolshoi -- that centers on a 1930s farm collective in the Russian steppes, with music by Shostakovich. The rest of the ballet season is rather standard fare: "Giselle" from the Mariinsky Ballet; and, sadly, no new works from the New York City Ballet, which is offering three all-Balanchine programs. More Balanchine from Suzanne Farrell Ballet.

The modern dance contingent doesn't play it so safe. Colker burned herself into the collective memory in 2003 with her dancers' serene delivery of the impossible, their fiery physicality and improbable grace. They'll be back Oct. 28-30 with "Mix," danced on a huge square structure onstage. Also of note are Mexico's Tania Perez Salas Compania de Danza and Bill T. Jones's meditation on Abraham Lincoln, "Fondly Do We Hope . . . Fervently Do We Pray." Most especially welcome are the many dance artists of the "maximum INDIA" festival.

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