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16 Dance Performances to See in May

By: Susan Reiter
Date: May 05, 2023


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See American Ballet Theatre's junior troupe, a premiere from Christopher Wheeldon, eclectic companies at the Joyce and more


Christopher Wheeldon's brand-new work for New York City Ballet may be garnering much of the buzz, but there are many other worthy dance performances to put on your schedule this month. The Joyce is presenting companies from near (NYC-based Gallim and Gibney) and far (troupes from South Africa, India and Sri Lanka). BAM's annual DanceAfrica returns Memorial Day weekend. And innovative choreographers push the boundaries of tap, ballet and even dance on ice.

In terms of COVID-19 safety protocols, masks are optional and proof of vaccination is not required unless otherwise noted. While we are trying to keep this article up to date, be sure to double-check the protocols before purchasing tickets so you arrive prepared.

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Trisha Brown Dance Company

The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street in Chelsea

Runs May 2-7.

It's been six years since Trisha Brown—a defiantly original figure on the post-modern dance scene for half a century—passed away. But her namesake company, work and influence live on. The troupe's weeklong Joyce engagement features two of her later works, For M. G.; The Movie (1991) and Rogues (2011), both set to music by Alvin Curran, alongside a new commission, Let's Talk About Bleeding created by former company member Judith Sánchez Ruíz. This is the first time the Trisha Brown Dance Company has performed another choreographer's work, marking an important and necessary turning point for this venerable ensemble.


Liz Roche Company: Yes and Yes

Irish Arts Center, 726 Eleventh Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets in Midtown West

Runs May 4-6. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase discount tickets.

Masks are required at matinee performances only.

Ireland's Liz Roche, a veteran choreographer on her homeland's dance scene, makes her NYC debut with a work that takes its title and affirmative approach from the Penelope episode of James Joyce's Ulysses, exploring the novel's characters, themes, sensuality and absurdity. The 70-minute piece features four dancers complemented by projections.


SYREN Modern Dance: Ithaka

Gibney 280 Broadway, 53A Chambers Street between Broadway and Elk Street in Tribeca

Runs May 4-6.

Masks are required.

SYREN celebrates its 20th anniversary with a new piece by Kate Sutter inspired by Constantine P. Cavafy's poem Ithaka. Structured in nine sections and set to a score by Los Angeles-based composer Calimossa, it chronicles the artistic and emotional evolution of the company over the past two decades.


Miguel Gutierrez: I as another

Baryshnikov Arts Center, 450 West 37th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues in Midtown West

Runs May 4-7.

A versatile and unpredictable dancer-choreographer, Miguel Gutierrez performs the New York premiere of this duet with Laila Franklin. Set in a timeless dystopia, I as another is a meditation on memory and the challenges of connection featuring movement and text by Gutierrez.


New York Theatre Ballet

Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street between Madison and Park Avenues

Runs May 5-7. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase discount tickets to NYTB's Legends & Visionaries program.

For its inaugural NYC performances under the leadership of its new artistic director Steven Melendez, a longtime lead dancer with the company, NYTB presents classics as well as fresh work. The Legends & Visionaries lineup features Arthur Avilés' Vibrant Blue, commissioned for the new multiyear initiative Letters to My Father, which invites male-identifying choreographers to create dances exploring father-son relationships. It's paired with Song Before Spring, co-choreographed by Melendez and American Ballet Theatre soloist Zhong-Jing Fang to a Philip Glass score. The family-friendly Once Upon a Ballet matinees feature the stalwart Carnival of the Animals and Little Improvisations, an underrated gem by the great Antony Tudor.


Ice Theatre of New York

Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers, 21st Street and Eleventh Avenue in Chelsea

Runs May 5-8. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase discount tickets.

For almost 40 years, Ice Theatre of New York has championed and expanded the artistry of choreography on skates. This program includes four world premieres, pieces by celebrated modern dance-makers Jody Sperling and Alberto del Saz, and even the aerial and ice solo "Neurocircle." The gala on Monday, May 8 honors beloved American figure skater Jason Brown and offers a rare chance to see him in action live in NYC.


Nrityagram Dance Ensemble and Chitrasena Dance Company

The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street in Chelsea

Runs May 9-14. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase discount tickets.

The much-admired Nrityagram, a leading exponent of the Odissi style of Indian dance, returns to the Joyce in an exciting collaboration with Chitrasena, a troupe from Sri Lanka that specializes in Kandyan dance. In the evening-length Āhuti, which translates as "offering," both companies honor and expand on their ancient practices for a cross-cultural collaboration. 


Kazunori Kumagai: Tap Into the Light

Gibney 280 Broadway, 53A Chambers Street between Broadway and Elk Street in Tribeca

Runs May 11-13.

Masks are required.

Downtown dance hub Gibney commissioned this world premiere by Bessie Award-winning Japanese tap master Kazunori Kumagai. Set to live music fused with a "rhythmic backdrop" of poetry by Maya Angelou and Kumagai, Tap Into the Light is an uplifting showcase for this hoofer-choreographer, who's joined on stage by Max Pollack, Joseph Webb and other special guests.


Gibney Company

The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street in Chelsea

Runs May 17-21. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase discount tickets.

Reconfigured in recent years as a versatile repertory company, Gibney returns to the Joyce with a notably diverse program both in terms of choreographer and geography. There's the world premiere Ghost Town, which marks the US debut of Tiffany Tregarthen and David Raymond, a Vancouver-based team known for incorporating evocative video and lighting into their work. SARA is by Israel's Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, and Bliss by Swedish dancer-choreographer Johan Inger is set to selections from Keith Jarrett's legendary album The Köln Concert of solo piano improvisations.


American Ballet Theatre Studio Company: Spring Moves

NYU Skirball, 566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square South in the West Village

Runs May 19-20.

Proof of full vaccination and booster required. Masks are optional.

The members of ABT's junior troupe are often promoted to the main company, and they certainly impress performing a variety of eclectic and challenging repertory. This program includes world premieres by former ABT member Gemma Bond, former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater standout Hope Boykin, ABT apprentice Aleisha Walker and Houston Thomas, as well as works by Balanchine and Kenneth MacMillan.


Dada Masilo: The Sacrifice

The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street in Chelsea

Runs May 23-28.

South African choreographer Dada Masilo has made a powerful impact with her signature style, fusing ballet, modern and African dance. This 2021 work for 11 dancers and four musicians is inspired by The Rite of Spring, specifically Pina Bausch's earthy, ritualistic production. However, it jettisons the Stravinsky score in favor of original percussive African music and explores the concept of sacrifice through Tswana dance from Botswana.


Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd and other works by John Bernd

Danspace Project, St. Mark's Church, 131 East 10th Street between Second and Third Avenues

Runs May 25-June 3.

Masks are required.

This ambitious celebration of the much-admired and influential downtown choreographer John Bernd, who died at age 35 from AIDS in 1988, earned great acclaim and a 2016 Bessie Award. Now it returns for a two-week run. Named after a trio of Bernd works, it's a lovingly curated program featuring reconstructed dances, archival images and excerpts from his oeuvre.


DanceAfrica 2023

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Runs May 26-29.

BAM's 46th annual edition of DanceAfrica explores Ghana's cultural diversity and revolutionary history through dance and music. The 61-year-old National Theater of Ghana's National Dance Company performs and also collaborates with the DanceAfrica Spirit Walkers and BAM RestorationART Dance Youth Ensemble. Meanwhile, music played by the 10-piece ensemble Arkestra Africa with Afropop vocalist Amma Whatt evokes Ghana's vibrant club scene.


New York City Ballet Spring Season

David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza at 63rd Street and Columbus Avenue in Lincoln Square

Runs through May 28. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase discount tickets to the Balanchine + Ratmansky I program.

We already raved about NYCB's jam-packed spring season in April . But it's worth noting that some spectacular programs are coming up this month, notably a world premiere from MJ the Musical Tony winner Christopher Wheeldon set to Schönberg's Verklärte Nacht; Justin Peck's Copland Dance Episodes performed to music by Aaron Copland; an evening that includes Jerome Robbins' first and last ballets; and George Balanchine's concise Swan Lake along with his seminal Stravinsky collaboration Agon.


Ariel Rivka Dance

The Jack Crystal Theatre at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, 111 Second Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets in the East Village

Runs May 31-June 2.

Dance that tells a story—with an occasional boost from text, film and live music—is the primary focus of this program of new works by choreographer Ariel Grossman, performed by her company Ariel Rivka Dance. Alongside two stage premieres, Microvids, 19 vignettes inspired by Stefania de Kenessey's piano pieces, and What You Want, the evening includes the debut of Never Fade Away, a short dance film featuring NYC Ballet principal Chun Wai Chan playing a young Chinese immigrant arriving stateside in the 1940s. Can't attend in person? A recording will be available to stream from June 3 to 13.



The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street in Chelsea

Runs May 31-June 4.

In 2007, Andrea Miller, then a young Juilliard alum who had performed with Israel's Batsheva Ensemble, formed her company Gallim. Within a few years the dance world was taking notice. Her early works were fresh and primal; later she created impressive site-specific projects and interdisciplinary work, and began choreographing for troupes such as Ballet Hispánico and New York City Ballet. To celebrate the troupe's 15th season, Miller brings Gallim to the Joyce for a program of new works set to a range of contemporary music, including songs by Sade and a score by Nicholas Jaar. Particularly intriguing: She joins forces with Brian "HallowDreamz" Henry, aka the "King of Krump," to push the boundaries of their movement styles.


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Top image: New York Theatre Ballet in Song Before Spring, which is part of the company's Legends & Visionaries program this month. Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima.

Susan Reiter covers dance for TDF Stages.