ON THE WHOLE, the new dance season would appear mainly to reflect the burdens of the nation's economic recession, along with some resourceful ideas for coping with the crisis. If the so-called "recovery" is brightening the picture in other domains, it has yet to make itself visible in the world of dance--traditionally, one of the fields hardest hit by hard times. This isn't to say that there's not a lot of exciting artistic prospects in store for the next 12-month period--there are. But in comparison with past seasons, which were still riding the crest of the "dance boom," the trend is clearly toward contraction of events, means and ambitions.
There is, for example, the depressing spectacle of the "downs" and the "outs." For the second year in a row, the Kennedy Center ballet series includes no foreign troupes (Roland Petit's Ballet National de Marseilles, this past summer, was a late "added attraction"), and only one company (the Houston Ballet) not previously seen at the Opera House. Among the serious casualties are the Smithsonian's World Explorer series and American Dance Experience series--both offering types of events not duplicated by other area auspices; these were victims of the Smithsonian's dismantling of its often innovative Division of Performing Arts. There will be dance events at the Smithsonian this season, under the banner of the Resident Associates Program, but clearly they'll be smaller in number and scope than before.
Also in the category of diminished offerings one must count the outstanding Washington Performing Arts Society-Kennedy Center Dance America series; the Washington Ballet, which thus far has scheduled only two weeks of in-town performances (in October and April) in place of last year's three; the Washington Project for the Arts, once the proud bastion of vanguard arts, and now severely curtailing its performing arts activities; and the Barns at Wolf Trap, which lists only a single dance performance (though it will house some other, dance-related events) through next spring.
Yes, there's good news, too. The Dance Place, by now firmly entrenched as the major dance showcase in Washington apart from the Kennedy Center, has expanded its dance series even further--virtually every viable weekend, 35 in all between September and June, will see a different company or individual artist there. New Music America, the exciting festival that's moved around the nation's cities in recent years and now comes to Washington, will have two major dance components, one manned by Washington artists, a second imported from New York.
The Nancy Hanks Center--the umbrella space for the renovated Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue--promises to yield new sites and programs for dance, despite very limited stage facilities. What's being called the Pavilion--the commercial area within the Old Post Office--actually plans to offer weekly free dance performances by local artists throughout the year. The newly formed Washington Dance Theater, a modern dance repertory company, and the D.C. City Ballet Company are the resident ingredients of a new combine called the Washington Arts Alliance, with quarters on Seventh Street NW. The Jewish Community Center is instituting several new projects, including the debut of the Center Ballet Theatre, under the direction of Ann Parson. There's also a behind-the-scenes effort under way, under the guidance of a prominent Washington choreographer, to establish a collective dance center-studio-theater to serve as a base for struggling Washington troupes--a plan modeled on successful models in cities like San Francisco and Chicago.
What all this may add up to is hard to say in advance; what's evident is that dance in Washington is in the midst of an era of adjustment. September
The Nancy Hanks Center will be officially unveiled the week of Sept. 12 with a series of festivities involving dance, starting with a benefit preview on the 12th, and including a performance at the Pavilion by members of the Washington Ballet on the 15th--thereafter, Thursday nights will be reserved weekly at the Pavilion for free dance events. The season's new Dance America series will be launched by two events at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater--the Maria Benitez Spanish Dance Company the 26th and 27th, and the Joyce Trisler Danscompany Sept. 29, 30 and Oct. 1. Among other events to watch for in September are: a solo performance by Susannah Payton, initiating the new Washington Arts Alliance's dance program (Sept. 17); "Forces of Habit," a collaboration between Wendy Woodson and Achim Nowak at George Washington University (Sept. 23-25); the Body/Mind Festival of Wellness, a series of classes and workshops in movement therapies and techniques at the Dance Place (Sept. 24 and 25); and a program by dancer-choreographer Colette Yglesias at the Church of the Epiphany (Sept. 30). October
The Kennedy Center's ballet series kicks off with the Houston Ballet at the Opera House, Oct. 11-16, featuring director Ben Stevenson's full-length "Sleeping Beauty" production and a mixed bill with works by Stevenson and Jiri Kylian. The first of two dance events in the New Music America series arrives Oct. 20 with a program combining the Dance Exchange Performance Company, composer Richard Lerman, the New Moves troupe and the Dancers of the Third Age, at the Old Post Office. The Washington Ballet offers its fall series at Lisner Auditorium Oct. 26-29; featured will be the company premieres of Choo San Goh's "Momentum" and John Cranko's "Beauty and the Beast," along with other works by Goh and Balanchine. Dance America series continues with Crowsnest, Oct. 27-29. The Publick Playhouse will launch its fall series with a performance by the Plexus Mime Troupe, Oct. 13 and 14. The Dance Place series continues with Sally Nash (Oct. 1 and 2), Douglas Dunn (Oct. 8 and 9), Claudia Murphey (Oct. 15 and 16), PATH (Oct. 22 and 23) and the East Moving Company (Oct. 29 and 30). Choreographer John Gamble of Philadelphia will offer "Oh Dry Ice" at George Washington University Oct. 15 and 16. Marina Grut will present a lecture-demonstration on castanets Oct. 19 and a concert of Spanish dance Oct. 21-23, both events with guest artists and both at the Marvin Theatre. The Washington Project for the Arts will open its newly christened Project Space Oct. 18, and some dance performances may find their way into the planned mix of arts here. The Center Dance Ensemble performs at the Jewish Community Center Oct. 29 and 30 in a program based on the life and work of Charlotte Salomon. November
A blockbuster Washington premiere will be a new collaboration by dancer-choreographer Trisha Brown, artist Robert Rauschenberg and composer-performer Laurie Anderson, in the New Music America festival, on Nov. 3 and 4 at Lisner Auditorium. The superb Paul Taylor Dance Company will appear Nov. 29-Dec. 4 in the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater, as part of the Dance America series. The African Heritage Center will hold its annual anniversary celebration in its new 7th Street studios Nov. 11 and 12. The Smithsonian's Resident Associate Program will present Samul-Nori, a troupe of Korean dancer-drummers, at Baird Auditorium Nov. 15. The Dance Exchange will inaugurate its expanded Evenings of Exchange series--informal performances and collaborations followed by discussion--on Nov. 18 with the theme, "Technology and Art." The Dance Place series continues, starting Nov. 5 and 6 with Pauline De Groot and Company, and going on with programs on successive weekends by Rob Sugar and Friends, the Perlo-Bloom company and Jan Taylor. Other troupes scheduling November performances are CODA, Improvisations Unlimited, Ava-Teri Dance Theatre, and Alvin Mayes and dancers. There are tentative plans for a "New Narrative Festival," heavily featuring dance, at the Washington Project for the Arts this month, and George Washington University and American University will hold their annual fall dance concerts. December
American Ballet Theatre returns to the Kennedy Center Opera House Dec. 6-Jan. 1, this time with a world premiere--the first performances of director Mikhail Baryshnikov's staging of "Cinderella" with the celebrated Prokofiev score, along with new repertory by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, John McFall and Twyla Tharp. The Washington Ballet's annual "Nutcracker" production will be mounted at Lisner Auditorium Dec. 15-31. Maryland Dance Theatre makes its first season appearance at the Publick Playhouse, Dec. 8-10. Another Evening of Exchange at the Dance Exchange, Dec. 2, will focus on religion in and through the arts. The Dance Place series continues Dec. 3 and 4 with Marta Renzi and Dancers, and then, on successive weekends, Diane Frank and Deborah Riley, and Cathy Paine and Friends. The New Year
Prime occurrences will include the Dance Theatre of Harlem (Feb. 14-19), the Joffrey Ballet (Feb. 21-26) and the New York City Ballet (Feb. 29-Mar. 4) at the Kennedy Center Opera House; and concluding the Dance America series, Elisa Monte & Dancers at the Terrace Theater, Mar. 22 and 23. The Washington Ballet returns to Lisner April 25-28.