The ballet world suffers from stultifying repetition. Witness the overly familiar works that lope into the Kennedy Center Opera House year after year as part of the subscription series — a parade of “Don Quixotes,” “Swan Lakes” and a small number of others geared to entice audiences with the promise of choreographic comfort food. Thankfully, the Washington Ballet is stepping out of that box.
The new work is choreographed by Septime Webre, the company’s high-energy, chaos-tolerant artistic director, and one can fairly assume that it will be neither sleepy nor hollow. The ballet is the third in Webre’s series of full-length works based on American literary classics. The first two were “The Great Gatsby” and “Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises.” But forget the 20th-century realism of those efforts. With “Sleepy Hollow,” inspired by Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” published in 1819, Webre is diving into a ghost story. His turf is the bloody, romantic realm of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and the ballet “Giselle,” with their fascination for dark, supernatural forces and the entwining of love, fear and death.
But Webre isn’t limiting his account to Irving’s Headless Horseman, schoolmaster Ichabod Crane and sweet flirt Katrina Van Tassel. He also is bringing in the Salem Witch Trials from a century before and fire-breathing Puritan preacher Cotton Mather. Oh, and I hear there’s also — somehow — a horse chase. And more ghosts. And a tale within a tale, with the compressed enactment of Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” story. (The audience, too, may have to be chaos tolerant.)
Composer Matthew Pierce has written an original score, including Gaelic lyrics, to be performed by an orchestra and choristers. Artists who have collaborated on past Webre works are creating life-size horse puppets, period costumes, decor, projections and other design elements. In a tie-in reminiscent of the link between the National Gallery of Art’s Degas statuette and the Degas-inspired musical “Little Dancer,” the ballet’s designers turned to the Smithsonian American Art Museum for inspiration, incorporating ideas from some of its Hudson River School landscapes, Colonial portraiture and Revolutionary War paintings in “Sleepy Hollow’s” multimedia set.
It all sounds like the Puritan work ethic crossed with “American Horror Story.” Hooray! Creative renewal is exactly what you look for in the spring.
Ragamala Dance Company . Mother/daughter choreographic team Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy collaborate with jazz composer Rudresh Mahanthappa for “Song of the Jasmine.”
Feb. 7 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland, University Blvd. and Stadium Dr., College Park. 301-405-2787. www.theclarice.umd.edu .
Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company performs the world premiere of “Picasso Dances,” inspired by four Picasso paintings in the Kreeger Museum’s permanent collection.
New York-based Jessica Lang Dance presents its first evening-length performance in Washington, with music by the National Symphony Orchestra. Lang is a smart, subtle choreographer whose playful, mysterious and exhilarating work “Scape” was the hit of last spring’s “New Moves: Symphony + Dance” Festival with the NSO.
March 28 at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. 202-994-6800. www.lisner.gwu.edu.
Rennie Harris RHAW performs “LOV American-Style,” a full-length hip-hop dance musical, inspired by classic rock music from the 1970s and ’80s.
April 25-26 at Dance Place, 3225 Eighth St. NE. 202-269-1600. www.danceplace.org .
The Scottish Ballet makes its Kennedy Center debut in a new take on Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a collaboration between film and theater director Nancy Meckler (Royal Shakespeare Company) and choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.
May 28-30 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. 202-467-4600. www.kennedy-center.org .