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Kennedy Center Announces 2021-2022 Ballet and Dance Season

Highlights include Akram Khan Company in XENOS, Mariinsky Ballet in Jewels and more.

Kennedy Center Announces 2021-2022 Ballet and Dance Season

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has announced its 2021-2022 ballet and dance season, rich with world-class companies and artists, captivating original works gracing our stages, signature classics, celebrating connections to the Center's storied legacy in honor of its 50th Anniversary, and more, beginning in October 2021. Ballet and dance subscriptions for the 2021-2022 season are now available here or by calling (202) 416-8500.

"In order to understand our present and ensure our future, we must know our past. This season is as much about the joy of returning to live performing arts as it is about celebrating 50 years of exceptional artistry in ballet and dance at the Center. We look forward to sharing in this season the exemplary, diverse artists shaping the art form." said Alicia Adams, Vice President of Dance and International Programming. "Since its inception, the Kennedy Center has presented the most extraordinary dance companies that exist in the world. The dance season continues the trajectory from past seasons highlighting pioneers of American modern dance-beginning with Paul Taylor and shifting to contemporary artists and their creations today."

"As the Nation's Cultural Center, we have a responsibility to shine a light on key conversations happening in the field, and to be part of the imperative work it takes to achieve an honest cultural shift." stated Jane Rabinovitz, Director of Dance Programming. "To further amplify Black artistry in ballet-stories that have too often gone unheard-we have partnered with two women leading this work in the industry, Theresa Ruth Howard and Denise Saunders Thompson, who will curate a week of performances with the aim of reframing the narrative. We are grateful to collaborate with them in highlighting three pillar companies and considering what ballet could look like moving forward."

The ballet season features opportunities to see storied companies in innovative and new contemporary works alongside signature classics with live music by the Center's own Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. The season includes the returns of the famed Mariinsky Ballet, National Ballet of China as the cornerstone of the Center's 2022 Lunar New Year festivities, and as previously announced, New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, both of which will celebrate the rich relationships and history of collaboration with the Center in celebration of the Center's 50th Anniversary. In addition, Miami City Ballet marks its first full-week engagement for the Center's holiday season. The ballet season culminates in June 2022 with Reframing the Narrative bringing together Dance Theatre of Harlem, Ballethnic Dance Company, and Collage Dance Collective, along with other Black-identifying ballet dancers from across the country to highlight the current work of these pillar companies.

The dance season kicks off in October with the legendary Paul Taylor Dance Company and continues with the return of Ronald K. Brown and his company EVIDENCE, with live music by singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello, acclaimed tap choreographer Michelle Dorrance with her company's most recent work, and returning all-time favorite the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, marking its seventh decade and 50-year relationship with the Center. Akram Khan makes his Kennedy Center debut, while also marking his final performances as a dancer, in a full-length piece. Kyle Abraham, whose choreography has been performed at the Center many times, and his company, A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, will have its first full Kennedy Center engagement. In partnership with the Japan Society, the Center will feature a one-night only performance in the spring of 2022 by a group of Japan's most skillful traditional dancers performing repertoire of Okinawan traditional performing arts.

In addition, as previously announced as part of the Center's 50th Anniversary opening weekends in September, Ragamala Dance Company's Fires of Varanasi: Dance of the Eternal Pilgrim will receive its world premiere September 11 and 12 as a site-specific, free dance experience on the REACH grounds. A Kennedy Center co-commission, the internationally-recognized bharatanatyam ensemble features the choreography of award-winning choreographers Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy.

The annual Local Dance Commissioning Project, which supports and fosters new dance works by local artists, celebrates works by 2020-2021 recipients Britta Joy Peterson and Quynn Johnson. Both recipients will create work using the REACH as a platform for discovery and opportunity with the purpose of breaking down boundaries between audience and art.

Throughout the season, the Center's Education Division offers numerous events connected to the work happening on stage including masterclasses, conversations, panels, artist talks, family dance workshops, and more.

As the Kennedy Center moves towards a full re-opening, it continues to prioritize the health and safety of artists, staff, and patrons. Current protocols can be found here and will continue to be updated as they evolve.

Artists and performances are subject to change.

The 2021-2022 Kennedy Center Ballet and Dance Season


Dates to be announced

Two World Premieres

Frequencies, with choreography by Britta Joy Peterson

Unsung Sole, with choreography by Quynn Johnson

Locally based choreographers Britta Joy Peterson and Quynn Johnson will each present a new work for the 2020-2021 Local Dance Commissioning Project (LDCP). Created to foster new dance works by D.C. metro-area artists and present these artists to the widest possible audience, the project provides funds for each artist to create a new work and a venue to premiere it in, as well as rehearsal space, artistic mentorship, and technical assistance. Further details about each work are below.

Unsung Sole, Location to be announced

Choreography by Quynn Johnson

A performance piece focused on the legacy of African American female tap dancers, Unsung Sole highlights their contributions (many unknown) to tap dance during the 1920s through 1960s. Historically, tap dance has elevated men and white female tap dancers, placing women of color in the background. Today, that narrative has shifted-female tap dancers of color are gaining visibility headlining performances, creating new works, and producing their own festivals globally. This work celebrates the important impact of master female practitioners while furthering the conversation of what's next for tap dance.

Frequencies, Studio K

Choreography by Britta Joy Peterson

Frequencies gathers together a gallery of vivid vitalities with timed entry reservations inviting small groups to follow swells of music, light, and dance through this immersive installation. Audiences wind their way through vibrant rooms, sharpening their senses towards that which is often filtered out. Audiences may find themselves singing along, dancing with giants, or laying on the grass. Within these halls the scales are tipped, dwelling is essential, and togetherness is possible. Frequencies is a COVID-19 friendly art experience and in addition, sensory-friendly showings will be offered.


September 18, 2021

In Partnership with American Dance Movement and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

As previously announced as part of the opening weekends of the 50th anniversary season, National Dance Day, a free all-day event celebrating the art form, will take place throughout the REACH and Kennedy Center campus for the 11th year in a row. The day will include lively, participatory activations from local D.C. organizations with activities for all ages and abilities. Additional details about programming and access will be made available in the coming months. For more information about National Dance Day, see here.


Eisenhower Theater

October 7-9, 2021

Repertory Program to include:

Company B (Andrews Sisters/Taylor)

Esplanade (Bach/Taylor)

One of the seminal artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, Paul Taylor helped shaped an entire generation of dancers and American modern dance. The renowned company that bears his name continues his legacy under the leadership of Michael Novak, a company member appointed to the role of Artistic Director by Taylor before his passing. The company returns to the Kennedy Center stage, last seen in 2016, with two masterworks of the late choreographer, Company B, in a nod to the Center's long history and connection with Paul Taylor, and Esplanade.

Company B, which the Center co-commissioned and premiered in 1991, is set to music of the fabled Andrews Sisters. Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the work commemorates the upbeat optimism that animated the popular music of World War II while revealing the dark realities of war. Esplanade, inspired by the sight of a woman running to catch a bus, is based on pedestrian movement and danced to music by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, A DANCE COMPANY AND Meshell Ndegeocello

Eisenhower Theater

October 21-23, 2021

Repertory Program to include:

Grace (Ellington, Everett, Davis, Jr., Kuti/Brown)

Mercy (Ndegeocello/Brown)

The Equality of Night and Day (Moran/Brown)

Considered to be one of the masters of American modern dance, Ronald K. Brown is celebrated for his fusing of the form, rhythm, and history of African dance with contemporary and urban dance styles. Last seen at the Center in 2015, his company EVIDENCE returns with a repertory program that includes companion pieces Grace and Mercy, and a new work, The Equality of Night and Day to complete the full-evening trilogy.

Originally choreographed in 1999 for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and now considered a masterpiece in the Ailey repertory, Grace weaves the story of a Goddess' journey to Earth to spread grace among humans, ultimately welcoming them to heaven, and is set to the music of Duke Ellington, Roy Davis Jr., Peven Everett, Fela Kuti, Jimmy McPhail, and Jennifer Holliday. Commissioned as a companion piece to Grace, Mercy, a 2019 Kennedy Center co-commission with Fisher Center at Bard, Carolina Performing Arts, and The Joyce Theater, focuses on seeking compassion leading to mercy. Marking the first collaboration between Brown and visionary vocalist, composer, and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, who will perform live, the dancers embark on a physical journey towards justice in response to assault that resolves in joy and surrender. The Equality of Night and Day is a new work by Brown examining the concepts of balance, equity, and fairness in light of the conflicting present-day issues that young people, women, and people of color now face in a world where exploitation, gentrification, racism, and xenophobia are on the rise. Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran will create an original score with spoken word by racial justice advocate Angela Davis, costumes by Omotatyo Wunmi Olaiya, lighting and set design by Tsubasa Kamei, and image curation by Deborah Willis.

Akram Khan COMPANY

Eisenhower Theater

November 18-20, 2021

D.C. Premiere, XENOS (Lamagna/Khan)

Marking his final performances as a dancer in a full-length piece, respected London-based choreographer and dancer Akram Khan makes his Kennedy Center debut in XENOS. Shifting between classical kathak (a classical Indian dance form) and contemporary dance, the solo performance conjures the shell-shocked dream of a colonial soldier in the First World War. Meaning "stranger" or "foreigner," XENOS reveals the beauty and horror of the human condition in its portrait of an Indian dancer whose skilled body becomes an instrument of war. Featuring Khan's choreography, he is joined onstage by five world-class musicians: percussionist BC Manjunath, vocalist Aditya Prakash, double-bassist Nina Harries, violinist Clarice Rarity, and saxophonist Tamar Osborn. Dramaturg Ruth Little, playwright Jordan Tannahill, designer Mirella Weingarten, costumier Kimie Nakano, composer Vincenzo Lamagna, and lighting designer Michael Hulls comprise the stellar creative team.


Opera House

November 24 & 26-28, 2021

George Balanchine's The Nutcracker® (Tchaikovsky/Balanchine)

with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

Last seen as part of Ballet Across America in 2019, Miami City Ballet returns for its first full-week engagement with the world-renowned holiday classic, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker®. Performed to Tchaikovsky's beloved score, the new 2017 reimagined production features tropical-inspired costumes and sets designed by the esteemed Cuban American artists Ruben and the late Isabel Toledo. As one of the few companies in the country to continuously perform George Balanchine's version, not seen at the Center in over a decade, the ballet includes a cast featuring a myriad of performers.


Eisenhower Theater

December 3-4, 2021

The Nutcracker Suite* (Ellington, Strayhorn/Dorrance and Wiggan-Freund)

A Kennedy Center Co-commission

Explosive tap dance meets your favorite holiday classic. This Nutcracker boogies, slides, struts, and dives into Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's intoxicating interpretation of the Tchaikovsky classic. Acclaimed choreographer and MacArthur Fellow Michelle Dorrance along with collaborators Hannah Heller and Josette Wiggan-Freund, transform the Kennedy Center stage into a world of jazz, swingin' syncopation, and vernacular sugar, persuading us all to be a little more soulful this holiday season.

*Full Title: We Present to You: The Nutcracker Suite or, a Rhythmaturgical Evocation of the Super-Leviathonic Enchantments of Duke and Billy's Supreme Adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Masterpiece That Tells a Tale of a Misunderstood Girl Who Kills a King and Meets a Queen and Don't Forget OOOO-Gong-Chi-Gong-Sh'-Gon-Make-It-Daddy, and That It Ain't So Bad After All.


Opera House

January 26-30, 2022

Chinese New Year (A Ballet in Two Acts) (Tchaikovsky/Zhao, Y. Wang, Feng, Q. Wang, S. Wang, and Z hang)

with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

Last seen at the Center in 2019 with Raise the Red Lantern, the renowned National Ballet of China returns to the Center with its adaptation of The Nutcracker performed as the cornerstone of the Center's 2022 Lunar New Year festivities. This colorful, fresh tale is brought to life by vibrant characters and choreography featuring Tchaikovsky's treasured score. As a young Chinese girl celebrates the New Year, she embarks on a mystical journey through a world of festive Chinese customs including a scroll of Chinese folklore showcasing the legendary monster Nian, the elegant and graceful Fans, the extravagant dances of Silk and Spinning Top, and more wonders in the Porcelain Kingdom.


Opera House

February 1-6, 2022

Repertory Program to include Revelations

Led by Artistic Director Robert Battle, the company marks its annual Kennedy Center engagement with seven performances in the Opera House. In addition to premieres and new productions, each performance features Ailey's signature masterpiece, Revelations, providing an inspiring finale to each program; it is lauded by The Washington Post as "one of the simplest and most perfect dances ever made." Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has earned a reputation as one of the finest international ambassadors of American culture, promoting the uniqueness of the African American cultural experience and the preservation and enrichment of American modern dance. The company has made frequent appearances at the Kennedy Center, dating back to the opening performance in 1971 in the world premiere of Leonard Bernstein's MASS choreographed by Alvin Ailey. In 2014, Robert Battle accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, on behalf of Alvin Ailey, who received the award posthumously. Full programming will be announced at a later date.


Terrace Theater

March 22, 2022

Repertory Program to include traditional and folk works

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Okinawa's return to Japan from the U.S., a group of the prefecture's most skillful dancers will perform a diverse repertoire of Okinawan traditional performing arts accompanied by live music. Handpicked by the artistic director of The National Theatre Okinawa Michihiko Kakazu, the versatile artists will perform classical court dances and kumiodori developed during the period when the archipelago was an independent kingdom called Ryukyu (15th-19th centuries). The program also features popular fare from after the Ryukyu Kingdom's end, such as folk dances (zo odori), traditional ensemble music, and a short musical play from the Meiji era (the late 1800s). From the brightly-dyed bingata costumes to the island music's iconic use of pentatonic scales, the history and heritage of Japan's southernmost isle will be showcased during this one-night only performance.


Opera House

March 29-April 3, 2022

ABT Forward:

Bernstein in a Bubble (Bernstein/Ratmansky)

Zig Zag (Bennett/Lang)

Additional New Work to be Announced

(March 29-30)

Don Quixote (Minkus/after Petipa and Gorsky, with staging by McKenzie and Jones)

(March 31-April 3)

with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

In celebration of the Center's 50th Anniversary, the season engagement of American Ballet Theatre (ABT) will feature two programs honoring its rich relationship and history of collaboration with the Center. On March 29 and 30, ABT Forward will showcase new choreography by a range of voices of dance creators living and working today. The program includes Alexei Ratmansky's Bernstein in a Bubble, a ballet created in a quarantined bubble residency in upstate New York, and Zig Zag, a new work by Jessica Lang set to music recorded by the legendary Tony Bennett. A third new work will be announced at a later date.

ABT also brings five performances of the rollicking, high-spirited, full-length production of Don Quixote. These shows pay homage to the 1971 opening week of the Kennedy Center when the ballet's pas de deux was performed as part of a multi-week residency with the company.


Opera House

Jewels (Fauré, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky/Balanchine)

April 26-May 1, 2022

with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

Marking its 19th annual engagement at the Kennedy Center, the famed Mariinsky Ballet returns to the Opera House stage with Jewels, one of George Balanchine's most-loved ballets in Russia and a hallmark of the company's repertoire. Choreographed by Balanchine in 1967 for New York City Ballet, Jewels is recognized as the first abstract work of classical ballet. In three distinct acts-the dreamlike "Emeralds," set to the French composer Fauré, the jazzy "Rubies," set to Stravinsky, and the courtly "Diamonds," set to Tchaikovsky-Balanchine evokes jewel imagery to reflect ballet's distinct French, American, and Russian styles.

A.I.M BY Kyle Abraham

Eisenhower Theater

April 29-30, 2022

An Untitled Love (D'Angelo and The Vanguard/Abraham for A.I.M by Kyle Abraham)

One of the most sought after choreographic voices in the field today, Kyle Abraham's choreography has been performed at the Center by many companies including NYCB and Alvin Ailey, among others. His company, A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, marks its first full Kennedy Center engagement with the D.C. premiere of Abraham's newest evening-length work, An Untitled Love. Featuring a soundtrack of the catalogue of Grammy Award®-winning R&B legend D'Angelo, this creative exaltation serves as a thumping mixtape celebrating culture, family, and community. Recalling his own "love that never waned" for D'Angelo's catalogue and the R&B/soul genre, Abraham pays tribute to unity and love in all its facets.


Opera House

June 7-12, 2022

Visionary Voices:

New Work by Sidra Bell

New Work by Jamar Roberts

New Work by Justin Peck

(June 7-8)

A Midsummer Night's Dream (Mendelssohn/Balanchine) (June 9-12)

with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

In recognition of the Center's 50th Anniversary and the long-standing relationship performing on the Center's stages, New York City Ballet (NYCB) will return in 2022 with two programs in the Opera House. As previously announced, the company will bring George Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a production brought to the Center during the company's very first engagement in 1974. Reflecting the current and future visions of the artistry of the company, the second program will look forward within the art form with new works, set to premiere during NYCB's 2021-2022 season all from present-day choreographers Sidra Bell, Jamar Roberts, and Justin Peck.


Opera House

with Dance Theatre of Harlem, Ballethnic Dance Company, and

Collage Dance Collective

June 14-19, 2022

Repertory Programs

Guest Curators: Theresa Ruth Howard and Denise Saunders Thompson

In the spirit of Sankofa, in order to understand our present and ensure our future, we must know our past.

Through Reframing the Narrative, a week-long program featuring performances on the Opera House stage, we recognize that Black ballet dancers have been pillars of the field for decades. We acknowledge that the artistry and leadership of Black ballet dancers has shaped ballet throughout the United States and across the globe. The history of Black dancers in ballet is rich, but many voices and stories have remained untold and unheard. It's time to reframe the narrative.

The week will feature multiple dynamic programs curated by Theresa Ruth Howard, founder of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet and Denise Saunders Thompson, President and CEO of The International Association of Blacks in Dance. Performances will bring together Dance Theatre of Harlem, Ballethnic Dance Company, and Collage Dance Collective, companies which spring from the legacy of Arthur Mitchell, along with other Black-identifying ballet dancers from across the country to highlight the work these pillar companies are doing in ballet today and celebrate what they have been doing for decades.

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