The American Dance Festival announced the lineup for its 2009 season at the end of last week. Dance cognoscenti had braced for the worst, given warnings earlier in the year about financial reversals in support due to the economic maelstrom.
Rumor confirmed: the 2009 season will be one week shorter than usual, covering five and a half weeks from June 18-July 25. The festival has also cut the number of marquee main-stage presentations this year from 13 to 10, a reduction of almost 25 percent.
On the bright side, the venue upgrade is still on, as ADF swaps the dysfunctional sightlines of Page Auditorium for the new Durham Performing Arts Center for its top-tier acts. But an equally anticipated upgrade in the acts performing there—world-class companies which the festival claimed, for years, they simply could not present on Page's smaller stage—isn't present in this summer's programming.
Usual suspects Mark Morris, Paul Taylor and Pilobolus play the DPAC stage after Shen Wei opens the festival on June 18—hopefully this time with the real parts II and III of his travel-inspired triptych Re-, and not the lecture-demonstration that frustrated local audiences in January. Even festival newbie Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet seems potentially caught in rewind and replay: We're curious to learn the differences between the version of the Ohad Naharin greatest-hits piece Decadance they'll present—billed as having been created in 2007—and a Naharin dance of the same name that ADF audiences saw his Batsheva Dance Company perform here in 2004.
True, choreographer William Forsythe finally sees his first work performed on an ADF mainstage this summer—the two-dancer Slingerland pas de deux, during an Aspen Santa Fe Ballet stand also featuring Twyla Tharp and Laura Dean reconstructions. Another bright note among the top-tiers: a new Pilobolus/ Inbal Pinto/ Avshalom Pollak collaboration, joining a restaging of their acclaimed 2005 work, Rushes.
The thought-provoking Emanuel Gat opens the second stage at Reynolds Theater with the world-premiere of a duet, Winter Variations, before Japan's H. Art Chaos challenges American audiences with its ragged-but-right aesthetics one week later. After that, festival audiences get to see Fraulein Maria, Doug Elkins' warped version of The Sound of Music, in his company's first ADF main stage appearance. In addition to another Laura Dean reconstruction on ADF students, the Past/ Forward presentation during the last week of the festival introduces them and us to Miami-based Rosie Herrera, before a world-premiere by Faye Driscoll. A standout while she danced with Doug Varone's company, Driscoll's been doing significantly edgier and more autobiographical dance/ theater works ever since.
But particularly for a season that bears the billing "Where Ballet and Modern Meet," several questions stand out. Perhaps the main one is, where is Merce Cunningham? The ballet influences of the dance avatar, who was also conspicuously absent during the festival's celebration of 75 years of modern dance last season, have long been recognized by both worlds: Cunningham's been placing his work on the world's major ballet companies since the early 1970s. His 90th birthday is being celebrated at Brooklyn Academy of Music in April with his latest work, set to new music by Sonic Youth and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, before performances in Spain.
As for us: Maybe next year?