Not so long ago, the Seattle dance scene was rather limited.
It was dominated by touring companies brought by the now-defunct Discover Dance, a handful of local choreographers and dancers working in small, out-of-the-way spaces, and a lot of Nutcrackers.
It was so dry that two choreographers who tried to make Seattle their home base, Bill Evans and Mark Morris, wound up leaving town. ("The Death of Klinghofer," the Morris-choreographed opera that premiered in Europe earlier this year, opened in New York Thursday.)
But over the past few years, the local dance scene has become more richly textured. It's difficult to say whether the productions have become more intriguing because the audiences demand it, or whether the audiences are becoming more sophisticated because of the works they are exposed to. Perhaps the eyes we've developed for other disciplines - films, for example - are moving laterally to other art forms. Local choreographers, too, have become sharper and more focused as they are exposed to audiences in other cities.
The new dance season holds a wide, wonderful spread from which to choose.
The big show in town, Pacific Northwest Ballet, will be presenting two story ballets as bookends for their season. They are reviving "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for the season opener and "Swan Lake" for the season finale. In between is an assortment of old and new works, including the company premiere of Glen Tetley's "Alice,"
based on the Lewis Carroll tale.
"Zirkus Weill," a stylish series of dance vignettes set to Kurt Weill's music as arranged by Norman Durkee, will be coming back, and Lar Lubovitch's "Sinfonia Concertante" will also be making an encore. There's a new Clark Tippet work in the pipeline, too. PNB has a rotating repertory season, presenting two completely different lineups for each performance week. And, of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without "The Nutcracker"; this year, there will be 35 performances.
Over at Meany Theater, the World Dance series will be presenting six groups this year. One of these groups, America on Tap, is bringing Charles "Honi" Coles to town. He's an extraordinary, elegant tap dancer of the grand old style - no sequined costumes here - and he moves with more grace, fluidity and rhythm than most dancers half his age.
There will also be tappers of the current generation, including Savion Glover and Brenda Buffalino. The World Dance series will also present the Dance Theatre of Harlem, absent for too many years, for five shows.
On The Boards consistently has some of the most exciting, innovative and provocative programs in town. They are both a presenting organization, bringing out-of-town (or out-of-country) groups to Seattle, and a producing organization, using and helping local talent to produce shows.
Their upcoming New Performance Series will be bringing eight artists and groups that fuse movement, music and theater. Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, one of these eight, was recently chosen to succeed Mark Morris as the resident choreographer at the Royal Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels.
On The Boards will be producing local works in their Northwest New Works Festival and in their monthly "12 Minutes Max" exhibitions.
The Allegro! Dance Festival specializes in contemporary dance. It features the works of both nationally renowned choreographers and emerging regional artists. As the season opener, Pat Graney, recently returned from an East Coast tour, will be premiering "Sax House," set to music composed and performed by the Billy Tipton Saxophone Quartet. Also on the bill but in a totally different vein is "Jesus Loves the Little Cowgirls," set to the live country-Western tunes of Ranch Romance.