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Fall dance preview: Japanese butoh, Spanish flamenco and much more

Sankai Juku perform Resonance from Far Away.

The fall dance season features the new and different, as well as the tried and true. From the poetic beauty of Japanese butoh to the steaming sizzle of Spanish flamenco, both the adventurous and conservative audiences will be happy. Several acclaimed international companies are making their Canadian debuts, but there are new initiatives on the home front as well.

These are the highlights of contemporary dance and ballet concerts to keep on your radar for fall.


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Sankai Juku This revered butoh company from Japan is bringing two works by legendary choreographer Ushio Amagatsu. Montreal and Quebec will see Hibiki: Resonance from far away (1998) which is built around the motif of water, while Vancouver gets the new show Tobari: As if in an inexhaustible flux (2010), which is inspired by the flow of the cosmos of life.

Grand Theatre de Quebec, Quebec, Sept. 27; Place des Arts, Montreal, Sept. 30-Oct. 2; Vancouver Playhouse, Nov. 5-6.

BJM Danse Montreal Western Tour Artistic director Louis Robitaille has mandated that in these depressing times, the company, formerly known as Les Ballet Jazz de Montréal, is going to perform only an upbeat repertoire by hot new choreographers. To that end, the sunny works going west are by Italy's Mauro Bigonzetti, New York-based Canadian Aszure Barton, and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, who works out of Amsterdam but is half Colombian, half Belgian.

Timms Centre, Edmonton, Oct. 7-8; Yukon Arts Centre, Whitehorse, Oct. 13; Port Theatre, Nanaimo, Oct. 16; Keyano Theatre, Fort McMurray, Oct. 20; Eric Harvie Theatre, Banff, Oct. 23.

La Zambra Both Halifax's and Toronto's flamenco festivals are sharing the star performer, Madrid's La Zambra, a.k.a. Maribel Ramos, whom cognoscenti consider "a complete dancer," perhaps the greatest accolade for a flamenco artist because it pertains to both technique and interpretation. Precision and passion are the Ramos trademark, and she is bringing as her dance partner, Oscar de Los Reyes, one of the sexiest men in Spain.

Halifax's Fall for Flamenco Festival, Lilian Piercey Concert Hall, Oct. 14-15; Toronto International Flamenco Festival, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Oct. 23.

Prairie Dance Circuit Apparently, PDC was thought up when five artistic directors met together in a cabin on a Saskatchewan Lake in the heat of summer. The result is a clever show that features four new works by mid-career choreographers from the prairies - Jason Stroh (Calgary), Andrew Milne (Winnipeg), Joelle Arnusch and Robert Regala (Regina), and Raena Waddell (Edmonton) - with performances in each city.

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Rachel Browne Theatre, Winnipeg, Oct. 15-16; Arrata Opera Centre, Calgary, Oct 22-23; John L. Haar Theatre, Edmonton, Nov. 19-20; New Dance Horizons, Regina, Jan. 27-28.

Sylvie Guillem, Robert Lepage, Russell Maliphant - Eonnagata When you take three of the best - French prima ballerina Guillem, Canadian director Lepage and British choreographer Maliphant - and combine their genius with costumes by the late designer Alexander McQueen, what you get is a show that has dazzled the world since its London premiere in 2009. The inspiration of these three artistic visionaries is twofold. The first is the outrageous exploits of the 18th-century French spy and transvestite, le Chevalier d'Éon, who spent the first part of life as a man and the second as a woman. They also incorporate the ancient kabuki technique of onnagata, where male actors portray female roles with unbelievable realism.

National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Nov. 12-13; Sony Centre,Toronto, Nov. 18 and 19


Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada - Igor Dobrovolskiy's Fidelio In just 10 years, this upstart little company has jumped from Moncton to the world. ABTC is bringing home artistic director Dobrovolskiy's ballet version of Beethoven's beloved opera Fidelio, which premiered in the composer's birthplace of Bonn, Germany, in early September to great success. Dobrobolskiy's particular story twist is turning the villain Pizarro into a woman.

Dalhousie Arts Centre (with Symphony Nova Scotia), Halifax, Oct. 7; Capital Theatre, Moncton, Oct. 14; Imperial Theatre, Saint John, Oct. 27; The Playhouse, Fredericton, Oct. 29.

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Stars of the 21st Century Ballet Gala Toronto-based Solomon Tencer and Nadia Veselova-Tencer put on ballet galas which are billed as the biggest in North America. With many foreign companies not travelling due to the economy, this thrilling concert is the next best thing to experiencing international ballet stars. This year the dancers are drawn from groups including American Ballet Theatre, Berlin Opera Ballet, Kirov Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada.

Sony Centre, Toronto, Oct. 14.

Pacific Northwest Ballet This Seattle-based company under former New York City Ballet principal dancer Peter Boal is giving the more famous companies from San Francisco and New York a run for their money, thanks to the excellence of its dancers and its exciting contemporary ballet choreography. Because of the small stage, PNB is sending seven principals, five soloists, and two corps de ballets members performing works by Nacho Duato, Jean-Christophe Maillot, Jiri Kylian, Ulysses Dove, and its spiritual father, George Balanchine.

Royal Theatre, Victoria, Oct. 15-16.

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet The Canadian premiere of this acclaimed company is a coup for Calgary's Fluid Movement Arts Festival. The repertoire includes three provocative choreographers - Israel's Ohad Naharin, Canada's Crystal Pite and Norway's Jo Stromgren. The company was founded in 2003 to be the cutting edge of contemporary ballet by Wal-Mart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie. Her millions have helped attract brilliant French-born artistic director Benoit-Swan Pouffer, top-of-the-line choreographers, and some of the world's best dancers.

Theatre Junction Grand, Calgary, Oct. 21-22. (The company appears at Ottawa's National Arts Centre with a different program, March 3-4.)

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens - Christian Spuck's Leonce et Lena The big deal here is Spuck, resident choreographer of the Stuttgart Ballet, who is a darling of the European avant-garde for his innovative repertoire. He created Leonce et Lena for Aalto Ballet in Essen in 2008, and the German critics are still gushing. The comic if caustic ballet is based on the satire by Georg Buchner about two royal misfit lovers from the kingdoms of Popo and Pipi.

Place des Arts, Montreal, Oct. 21-26.

National Ballet of Canada - Wayne McGregor's Chroma Clever Karen Kain has bagged the work that took Covent Garden by storm in 2006. McGregor, resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet (an appointment that has ballet purists screaming), is an iconoclast of dance. Chroma, inspired by the philosophy of psychochromatics, or how colour evokes certain emotions, uses flesh-coloured costumes and movements that are deliberately ugly and distorted to make a provocative statement about the human condition. This mixed program is rounded out by George Balanchine's Serenade and Crystal Pite's Emergence.

Four Seasons Centre, Toronto, Nov. 24-28. (McGregor's own company, Random Dance, comes to Kingston Feb. 5, Ottawa Feb. 8 and Montreal Feb. 10-12.)

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