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The Washington Ballet revealed its 2011-2012 season today, and it looks pretty promising. The lineup includes a program featuring works by Twyla Tharp, a full-length ballet based on Alice in Wonderland, a mixed-repertory program titled ¡Noche Latina!, and another showing of last year’s acclaimed “The Great Gatsby.”
I’ve been impressed with the company over the past few years: artistic director Septime Webre and his colleagues have a sense of dynamism and energy that mesh well with the city’s growing cosmopolitanism. This season’s choices continue in that direction; of course, there’s the inevitable Nutcracker around the end of the year, but all of the other performances promise to break free of the predictable, somnolent, girls-in-tutus image of ballet.
I’m especially excited by the Twyla Tharp program, which will include her classic “Nine Sinatra Songs” and “Waterbaby Bagatelles.” Tharp is generally categorized as a modern dance choreographer, but she relies heavily on ballet technique and vocabulary, and this should be a nice fit for the versatile Washington Ballet. The Alice in Wonderland takeoff, titled “ALICE (in wonderland)” is also intriguing; in the best of all worlds, it’ll be as innovative and vibrant as the Gatsby show was.
What’s smart is that the company isn’t trying to compete with the Kennedy Center’s ballet offerings (indeed, much of season will take place there). The Kennedy Center does classical ballet well—but as Washington Post reviewer Sarah Kaufman pointed out last month when that institution’s 2011-2012 season was announced, these days, that’s pretty much the only kind of ballet it does. Which leaves the Washington Ballet quite a bit of freedom to experiment with new ideas and push the boundaries of what exactly defines ballet.
Photo by Brianne Bland