The dance scene in the Valley is gearing back up after a summer-long hiatus from the grind of rehearsals and performances. But as with many things Phoenix, the dance world can feel disparate and hard to navigate. Lucky for you, we've done the hard work and gathered the dance events you don't want to miss this coming season. With most of the local company's schedules set and months of touring shows to look forward to on the books, we're already anticipating the visual feast.
As always, the Center Dance Ensemble's season lineup includes four major concerts. This year, the resident company of the Herberger Theater is kicking it off with its own interpretation of the Seven Deadly Sins. If there's ever been a boring iteration of this theme, then we haven't seen or heard of it, which is why this might be worth watching even if you're not big into modern dance or this company. The show will also feature The Tragedy of Othello, another classic story with more than enough material to inspire a great performance.
As far as classic ballets go, Cinderella has all the requisite parts, but since it's also a story ballet, it offers a theatricality that you don't find with more traditional works, like Giselle (which is still one of our favorite ballets ever). There are interesting and entertaining characters to drive the action, and there's a story that anyone can follow, even without dialogue. And as for Ib Andersen's take on the story, we haven't seen it first-hand, but in 2011, it was called "one of the best things I've ever seen in Phoenix" by the Republic, and that's enough to pique our interest.
If you haven't taken the time to see choreographer Lisa Starry's annual gothic production, this may just be the best chance you're going to get -- at least for a while. This season will be the 10th anniversary of the show that's officially become an international phenomenon after the company took the production to the Bram Stoker International Film Festival in Whitby, England last year. Often called "the Nutcracker of Halloween," the show is inherently macabre but also sexy, funny, and visually impressive. Scorpius mixes traditional dance styles with aerial work, contemporary dance, and drama to create a unique theater/dance experience.
This year will be the seventh-annual dance festival and showcase put on by local choreographer Carley Conder. Each year, the number of choreographers interested in presenting their work at the showcase has risen, and these days, the event draws artists from throughout the state and beyond. In the past, it's been a diverse event including two nights of professional performances, a student showcase, dance films, and performance art.
Choreographer Mark Morris is celebrated primarily for his one-of-a-kind musicality, and it's true that he often seems to pick apart music in a way the average ear would never imagine. His company, the Mark Morris Dance Group, spent three years in Brussels as the national dance company of Belgium, but returned to the states to tour and perform in 1991. They're known for their commitment to live music, which has been a feature at every performance since 1996.
This spring, Scottsdale will welcome one of the biggest names in modern dance to the stage when Paul Taylor Dance Company comes to present three works: Airs (1978), Byzantium (1984), and Black Tuesday (2001). Black Tuesday promises to be entertaining even for those who don't particularly like dance because the piece is set to relatively modern music from the Great Depression era. The work "celebrates the can-do American spirit," but don't think it lacks depth. Byzantium, meanwhile, recalls the Byzantine Empire and its downfall in a savage work about power.
If you've never seen Twyla Tharpe's Nine Sinatra Songs, then the drive to Tucson is a sacrifice you're just going to have to make. The classic ballet is set to Sinatra's "Softly As I Leave You," "Strangers in the Night," and "My Way" (among other songs) and mixes ballroom dance with tango, flamenco, and ballet for the kind of show that will entertain anyone with eyes. The lauded Chicago-based ballet company will also bring Interplay to stage, a celebration of youth with choreography similar in style to West Side Story, as well as "Son of Chamber Symphony," a contemporary ballet with aspects of classicism and theatricality.
Like Lazarus Did Stephen Petronio Company Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts April 25
The company premiered this piece on April 30 last year, and the work focuses on the idea of resurrection and transcendence, particularly the mythology of Lazarus. The work is set to an original electro-acoustic score that fits perfectly with Stephen Petronio's fast-paced, explosive style of choreography. The work features a "living set," which refers to the body of performance artist Janine Antoni that remains suspended above the audience throughout the 10-part show. The piece has been criticized for having too many influences, but unless you're planning a trip out east sometime soon this maybe one of your only chances to see one of the more sought-after troupes right now.
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Ballet Arizona presents Balanchine works annually, which in and of itself is a notable fact since only choreographers approved as "Balanchine repetiteurs" can stage any of his works. This season Ib Anderson and the company are presenting a trio of Balanchine works including Walpurgisnacht Ballet, a piece highlighting the beauty of two dozen female dancers set the music of Charles Gounod's opera Faust. The production will conclude with Western Symphony, a fun ballet set to a score of traditional western-inspired songs. It's set outside of a saloon, so expect cowboy costumes, upbeat music, and a satirical riff of some classic choreography from Swan Lake in the second section.
Editor's note: This post has been modified from its original version.