Doing the Board walk

On the Boards struts its stuff in new digs and offers a season full of treats.

One major reason to anticipate this year's dance season is the much-publicized new On the Boards' space. Truth be told, I was attached to their home in funky Washington Hall and wondered if the remodeled ACT space on lower Queen Anne would reek of upscale snobbery. Skeptical, I scheduled a tour.

What was I thinking? Just like the people who run it, the place is wonderful. Same cozy brick warmth as OTB's former residence (both built in early 1900), but larger and much more performer-friendly. Two stages, a warm-up room (all with sprung wood floors), and showers are a dancer's dream. On a larger scale, OTB's wide-range programming will expand, giving more opportunities to more artists—a real psychological boost to the dance community.

For the audience there are standard amenities like a street-level box office, an elevator, a spacious and airy lobby, and a women's bathroom with six stalls—once unheard of luxuries in the old space. In the house, the seats are raked steep (so everyone can see), with plush cushions (no more numb butt) and ample leg room (no more trampled toes). The best perk: a ground level European-style cafe. Supper with friends before an exciting show, followed by dessert and titillating post-performance discussions—now there's a satisfying evening of dance.

Other changes in the dance community offer less cause to celebrate. Dancer/choreographers Heather Kravas, Kristina Dillard, and Robert Davidson have moved away. New City Theater and the Compound are no longer dance venues. The most tragic loss was the December death of extraordinary composer/pianist Michael Cava. For years, Cava performed and conducted the superlative music for the Chamber Dance Company concerts at the University of Washington. As co-artistic director of the Cava-Parker Dance company he composed and performed his own evocative scores. He will be greatly missed.

Looking forward, here's what sounds interesting in the coming season: The buzz says PNB's repeat performance of William Forsythe's Artifact II next March will be the most wonderful and controversial ballet ever to land on the Opera House stage. Also, everyone is dying to see what gifts the four newest members of the Chamber Dance Company (especially former Limón and Taylor dancer Yoav Kaddar) will bring to their annual performances of modern dance classics.

In December, 33 Fainting Spells (Gaelen and Dayna Hanson joined by Peggy Piacenza) will return from a world tour to perform Maria the Storm Cloud. Last year's work-in-progress excerpt had me howling. Crispin Spaeth's work used to annoy me, like watching a screaming brat. A few recent introspective pieces won me over, though, and I'm eagerly looking forward to her latest imaginative landscape in October, Chicken Little.

This week, the gypsy flamenco company Sonidos Gitanos is here from Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. If the previews are true, you'll have to carry me out on a stretcher. Same goes for next May's visit from Rennie Harris Pure Movement, the only dance company that has ever brought me to my feet screaming, "You are amazing!"

In April at OTB, the company will perform Rome and Jewels, a hip-hop Romeo and Juliet. Last, but not least, the Mark Morris Dance Group's annual Meany concert in October will feature Medium. The work, set to John Harbison's chamber piece November 19, 1828, is an homage to Franz Schubert, who died on that date. Watching Morris' dances is like listening to Mozart—it makes you smarter.

If none of the above puts wind in your sails, go see Kaleidoscope's "Gift of Dance" concert in December. These talented children will give you some hope for the future and remind you why people dance.

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