Entertainment & Arts

Spring dance picks: Alvin Ailey, Eifman Ballet, ‘Night of 100 Solos’ and more

Pepper land dress rehearsal and press night. Images by Gareth Jones
Mark Morris Dance Group performs “Pepperland,” an evening-length tribute to the Beatles’ classic 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
(Gareth Jones)

Ballet, street dance theater, Mexican folk — there are enough offerings this spring to satisfy any dance lover’s taste.

Ford Theatres has a particularly strong lineup, kicking off spring with artist-in-residence Micaela Taylor. The emerging choreographer will premiere “Drift,” an evening-length work highlighting her blend of contemporary dance and hip-hop on March 30 (see related article).

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L.A. darling Jacob Jonas the Company will return to the Wallis as the company-in-residence for a world premiere May 10-11. And the historic Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will celebrate its 60th anniversary with four programs April 3-7 at the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.


Here are more highlights, a mix of local dance companies and touring troupes from across the nation and abroad.

April 14

Pacifico Dance Company

For more than 25 years, artistic director Adriana Astorga-Gainey has dedicated herself to preserving traditional Mexican dance in L.A. — like the lively percussive zapateado — and remixing it with modern and ballet. “Al Paso de la Mujer” explores Mexico’s past from the female gaze, paying homage to religious and historical figures like the Virgen de Guadalupe and female warriors from the Mexican revolution.


The premiere of “Guerrero” is one of the seven works on the program. It features sones de tarima, a dance that blends influences from early African and Chilean settlers, traditionally performed on small wooden boxes to amplify rapid footwork. The Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts, Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. $20-$40. (310) 506-4522.

Pacifico Dance Company will be one of 22 groups performing at this year’s 58th annual L.A. County Ho
Pacifico Dance Company will perform at Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theatre.
(Gennia Cui)

April 16

Merce Cunningham Trust

To commemorate what would have been Merce Cunningham’s 100th birthday, his trust is organizing the largest Cunningham event ever. “Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event” is a showcase of performances spread across the Barbican in London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York and the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA.

Former Cunningham dancers are curating each 75-minute performance, celebrating the modern dance pioneer’s choreography. On each stage, 25 dancers will perform 100 different solos taken from more than seven decades of Cunningham’s work. Each event will be live streamed for those unable to attend. Royce Hall, UCLA, 340 Royce Drive, Westwood. $29-$59. (310) 825-2101.

May 22



The Orange County contemporary company recently completed its 15th anniversary season, which included its first European tour. In this program, company founder and artistic director Jennifer Backhaus and Complexions Contemporary Ballet founding artistic director Dwight Rhoden premiere new work on the company.

Rhoden says his impressionistic and abstract ballet will explore love, acceptance and one’s place in the world. The program also includes 2018’s “Beyond the Noise” by Italian choreographer Walter Matteini. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine. $40-$100. (949) 854-4646.

Contemporary company Backhausdance performs “Quantum of Love” in 2018.
(Jack Hartin)

May 24-26

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg

Russian choreographer Boris Eifman’s brand of ballet theater takes its cues from literature, tackling classics including Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” and Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.” Eifman’s latest production, “The Pygmalion Effect,” is inspired by the Greek myth of a sculptor who falls in love with his beautiful, life-like statue.

But in this narrative ballet, the sculptor is a successful ballroom dancer who “sculpts” a performer from an impoverished, clumsy young woman. “Pygmalion” makes its U.S. debut in Chicago before stopping in Costa Mesa for a weekend. Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. $29-$169. (714) 556-2787.

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg brings “The Pygmalion Effect” to the Segerstrom Center in May.
(Michael Khoury)

June 14-15

Mark Morris Dance Group

To kick off its 2017 “Sgt. Pepper at 50” festival celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the Beatles’ landmark 1967 album, the city of Liverpool requested the renowned choreographer to create work. The Brooklyn-based choreographer was just a child when “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released, but he fondly recalled Beatlemania.

ARCHIVE: Mark Morris mines the Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ for an irresistible ‘Pepperland’ »

The colorful “Pepperland” shows off the modern troupe’s trademark musicality and an original score by composer Ethan Iverson, interspersing arrangements of tracks from the album including “When I’m Sixty Four,” “A Day in the Life” and “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. $29-$119. (714) 556-2787.

July 12-13

Thomas Adès and Wayne McGregor

Music and dance powerhouses collide for “Adès & McGregor: A Dance Collaboration.” British composer Adès will conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic as it performs three works. Two world premieres choreographed by McGregor are on the program: “In Seven Days” performed by his Company Wayne McGregor and a currently untitled work danced by the Royal Ballet. The third work, “Outlier” will be danced by the Royal Ballet and Company Wayne McGregor. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. $34-$138. (213) 972-0711.

July 20

Rennie Harris

Considered the pioneer of street dance theater, Harris has become a sought-out choreographer across the nation, creating work for companies including Alvin Ailey and Lula Washington Dance Theatre. His latest, “Funkedified,” follows the West Coast premiere of “Lazarus,” a work created for Alvin Ailey inspired by the life and legacy of its founder.

“Funkedified” features Harris’ own company, Puremovement, plus the Hood Lockers and L.A. street dance ensemble Versa-Style Dance Company. With a live band playing tribute to funk legends James Brown, George Clinton and others, the multimedia performance is a celebration of the funk music and street dance Harris grew up with in the 1970s. Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. $25-$50. (323) 461-3673.

Aug. 16

Brockus Project

Men tend to dominate the dance scene internationally, but in L.A., many women have risen to positions of power, says choreographer and dance curator Deborah Brockus. To honor the women’s movement and L.A.’s rich history of women in modern dance, Brockus will present a one-night performance showcasing 10 female-run companies in L.A. “Women Rising: Choreography From the Female Perspective” also coincides with the 99th anniversary of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote.

Expect an array of performances from companies including JazzAntiqua, Heidi Duckler Dance, MashUp Contemporary Dance Company and Luminario Ballet, a group that has performed works by L.A. modern dance pioneer Bella Lewitzky. Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. $20-$70. (323) 461-3673.

Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre The Story of Ramona
Lenin Fernandez and Rosanna Taravez in Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre’s 2018 production “The Story of Ramona.”
(Mae Koo)

Aug. 30

Urban Bush Women

Black hair is more than just a style — that’s the message behind the Brooklyn-based dance theater company’s latest work. Since its founding in 1984, UBW has been dedicated to telling the stories of African American women. “Hair & Other Stories” is based on personal narratives from performers and the community about experiences with black hair.

The soulful performance mixes contemporary dance, spoken word and some audience participation. Choreographed by the company’s associate artistic directors, Chanon Judson and Samantha Speis, the work is a reimagining of founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s 2001 “HairStories.” Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. $25-$50. (323) 461-3673.

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