What's coming in this fall's dance performances

By Sarah Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dance-wise, fall swings in with a strong female profile and a Latino top note. To which we say, bring it on!

Simply put, women rock the new season. Let's start with the Kennedy Center's feminine perspective. First up is Mexico's provocative Tania Pérez-Salas Compañia de Danza, Sept. 28 and 29 at the Terrace Theater. Pérez-Salas's works are fueled by rich visual imagery and bold theatrical effects -- her "Waters of Forgetfulness" is danced on a flooded stage.

She'll be followed Oct. 28-30 by Brazil's Companhia de Danca Deborah Colker, a woman with a king-size capacity to surprise.

Then there are the "Five First Ladies of Dance," an inspired gathering of revered elder divas, Nov. 2 in the Terrace Theater: choreographers Dianne McIntyre, Bebe Miller and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, the majestic performer Carmen de Lavallade and Senegal's Germaine Acogny, who is called "the mother of contemporary African dance."

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago comes to the Eisenhower Theater Nov. 12 and 13 with a work by the esteemed Czech dancemaker Jiri Kylian, but we're most excited to see "Untouched" by Aszure Barton, a promising young Canadian with a confident, stylish voice of her own.

Then there's Cynthia Word, who has been single-handedly keeping Isadora Duncan's legacy alive in the Washington area, with her ambitious program of Duncan solos, music and theater.

Continuing on the Latino front, El Teatro de Danza Contemporanea de El Salvador performs a mini-festival of Latin American dance with works from its homeland as well as from Cuba, Mexico and Columbia Oct. 1 through 3 at Dance Place. GALA celebrates Spain when it hosts Fuego Flamenco VI, its sixth annual flamenco festival, Nov. 18-Dec. 5, featuring Madrid's José Barrios and the Spanish Dance Society.

You can't fit the whole season in a box, of course. Some of what promises to be the best parts are decidedly out-of-the-box. Keep your eye out for these:

The gutsiest group: In a city of overachievers, CityDance Ensemble fits right in. This troupe draws oxygen from a tough artistic challenge. In between State Department-sponsored jaunts around the world, the group run by former Hill staffer and foreign policy wonk Paul Gordon Emerson has been steadily building up its repertoire of important modern-dance works. To a growing collection of works by the famed Paul Taylor, CityDance adds Taylor's 1975 troubling and joyous masterpiece, "Esplanade," with music by Bach. CityDance performs this and other works Nov. 6 and 7 at Strathmore, in its black-box Studio 405.

Only in America: Where else could a young man who grew up in an impoverished, low-caste fundamentalist Christian family in India get a degree in computer science and discover dance? Not just any dance, but Barata Natyam, which is Hindu-based classical Indian dance -- at once a discovery of his cultural heritage and a departure from his Methodist upbringing. By day, University of Maryland grad Daniel Phoenix Singh, whose passport is stamped "backward class," is a computer consultant. By night, he runs Dakshina, a company devoted to Indian dance as well as -- here's the newest twist -- the dark social commentary of mid-20th-century choreographer Anna Sokolow. Her works are little performed nowadays; Singh fell in love with her style at a concert years ago and will present a full program of rarely seen Sokolow dances Nov. 4 through 5 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland. He'll also present his annual fall festival of Indian Dance, Oct. 8 and 9 at the Lincoln Theatre, with Mallika Sarabhai and Anita Ratnam.

Only in America, part two: Dana Tai Soon Burgess has long tackled issues of the Asian American experience in dance, but "Charlie Chan and the Mystery of Love" -- Oct. 22-24 at Dance Place -- marks his most autobiographical effort. Growing up as a Korean American in Santa Fe, N.M., Burgess was fascinated by Chan's movies on TV, and his new work entwines his imaginary friendship with this Hollywood icon -- a detective who could solve all the problems of life -- with Burgess's ongoing journey of belonging.

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