NYC's Favorite Fall Dance Festival

As grassy parks transition into ice skating rinks and hustling New Yorkers layer on comfy coats, the dance world initiates its fall season with an all-inclusive festival. Fall for Dance is a two week New York City dance festival that collects the best dance companies, choreographers, and dancers. These artists come from every corner of the world to perform at the renowned New York City Center. Each night within the two weeks, the stage holds four different pieces, so each performance is something completely new. There is one thing that makes Fall for Dance stand out from every other dance festival: $15 tickets! No matter where you sit in the 2,700 seat theater, no matter which performance night you choose. $15 makes this unforgettable show accessible to everyone. 


This Fall for Dance I decided to see two out of the five programs offered. The first program I saw started with Russia’s technically perfect Mariinsky Ballet. With pointed feet, swirling skirts, and glimpses of young love, this piece choreographed by Alexander Sergeev was absolutely enchanting.


Next came English National Ballet’s “Dust Duet.” This gut-wrenching duo was the opposite of the first piece if there ever was one. Choreographer Akram Khan focused this piece around the men and women of World War I. After twenty minutes of heart touching movement, the audience, including myself, rose to their feet and wiped away tears.


Skånes Dansteater, “Dare to Wreck”

The third piece was the most unexpected. Performed by Swedish company, Skånes Dansteater, “Dare to Wreck” showcased an emotional duet between an able-bodied male dancer and woman in a wheelchair. Throughout the piece, the duo executed gravity-defying lifts while carrying such an emotional connection. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time wanting to know what would happen next.


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, “Lazarus (Act 2)”

My absolute favorite piece from that night was performed by America’s own Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. It was a 30 minute hip hop piece that loosely followed the bible story of Lazarus. Between its mainstream music, upbeat rhythms, and joyous dancers, there’s no way this piece couldn’t bring a smile to my face.


Now exactly one week later, I ventured back to New York City Center to experience another night of wondrous dance. This program also included a spectacular collection of dance. It ranged from New York City’s Martha Graham Dance Company to Canada’s Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal. But my most favorite performance from this night, (which I think is also my favorite piece from any Fall for Dance performance every) was Monica Bill Barnes & Company’s “The Running Show.”


Monica Bill Barnes & Company, “The Running Show”

“The Running Show” was like nothing I had ever seen before. It started with a man sitting on the corner of the stage with a desk and a microphone. Then slowly dancer after dancer came on stage until the 40-something year old Monica Bill Barnes joined. They then competed in a snapping competition (yes snapping!), followed by dancing with their eyes closed, and ending with Monica racing to see how many turns she could complete during the song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Amidst all this wonderful nonsense, the man with a microphone recited an interview with a seven year old girl excited to be at her second dance recital, then one with a 70 year old woman still taking ballet class recreationally. The point of the interviews and onstage movement was to prove that dancers are like sports heroes. They keep moving against any circumstances.


Now the dancers in this piece, besides Monica Bill Barnes, weren’t technically the greatest performers of the night. They were a collection of local college students. They couldn’t execute a triple pirouette like the Mariinsky Ballet or show the emotional vulnerability of the English National Ballet, but for some reason halfway through the performance I felt large tears roll down my face. And when the curtain rose, I turned to the friends that witnessed this randomly magical moment with me. Their faces were wet. Their eyes were glossy from the tears that were trying so hard not to fall. But underneath all the tears we were also smiling, teeth and all.


I think the reason I love Fall for Dance so much is because it is everything good about the dance community. It’s not just for people like me who are pursuing dance as a career. It shows the average New Yorker what this city (or what this world) has to offer through art. You will end up leaving the theater in outrageous sobs of joy or at least knowing you watched something beautiful. It’s dance that represents the people of New York, but it also shows you how art can be reached from all corners of the world.


Fall for Dance is sadly over for this season, but it’s not going anywhere for a long time. If you’d like to experience dance at its finest, you can follow the link here for when tickets become available next fall!