scorecardresearch Skip to main content

9 dance performances to revive your spirits

Outdoors while the weather holds, streaming from studios, and on TV, the movement continues.

Boston Ballet will present a televised version of "The Nutcracker," for the first time ever.Angela Sterling

For dance lovers, the communal experience of sitting next to others in a darkened theater watching skilled and passionate movers share their artistry is an extraordinary gift. Unfortunately, that privilege is not in the cards right now, with area dance professionals and concert presenters still reeling from impacts of the pandemic. “Not having spaces to rehearse, teach or perform with little or no financial support from government and the philanthropic community has been an enormous challenge for Boston dance artists,” says Global Arts Live executive director Maure Aronson. “Many are struggling to get by.”

The summer months offered some socially distanced pop-up performances, and Dance Complex’s small but popular outdoor series in partnership with the newly created Starlight Square venue in Cambridge’s Central Square. But, the colder weather is pushing activity inside once again, and while dancers are performing, the opportunities to watch live are mostly via streaming.

Companies have had to totally rethink how to keep their artists and audiences engaged and connected. “We’ve had to find ways of keeping dance present in people’s lives,” says Dance Complex executive director Peter DiMuro, whose Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion is one of many companies in the throes of major creative adjustments, from dealing with pandemic limitations to embracing the social justice uprising that has come to the fore this year. “That our artistic products should change is part of this whole time — to ignore shifts in our world would not be doing a service to the art form.”


Presenters are scrambling as well. “It’s a long road ahead still,” says Celebrity Series of Boston president and executive director Gary Dunning. “Yet I’m seeing online that companies are finding ways to create new things, so I try to take a positive view to think this can be a liberating time if we get just get past the frustration and the grief and the struggle we’re all going through.” He hopes the organization can present some form of live dance in the spring.


Brian Brooks Moving Company will participate in the Pillow Lab this year. Robert Altman

Internationally renowned Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is moving forward with a promising slate of projects for the fall designed to foster creativity and community artist partnerships, including on-campus residencies, and three commissions especially for digital platforms. “Many of us in dance are doing all we can to put resources in the hands of artists whose work has been impeded by the pandemic,” says executive and artistic director Pamela Tatge. “But we’re also looking at leveraging the opportunities of all these different platforms. Some of the innovations coming out now are really exciting.” She references the festival’s creative incubator, Pillow Lab, which for the first time will let audiences in on the process through a free YouTube docuseries beginning Oct. 29. “That’s a silver lining, that access,” she says.

So what else do Boston area dance fans have to look forward to?

DANCE COMPLEX/STARLIGHT SQUARE Two free live outdoor performances are still on the docket for October. “The Dance Complex Teaching Artists & Musicians Concert” is set for Oct. 22, followed by two performances of “Routes & Roots” Oct. 23-24. For the latter, dancers and choreographers from around New England explore how their personal roots have contributed to their creative journeys. In the meantime, Cambridge’s Starlight Square is looking into heating options that might allow dance and other programming to continue into November, if the weather holds.


Amirah Sackett in residence at Boston University.handout

AMIRAH SACKETT Boston University is presenting the trailblazing hip-hop dancer/choreographer in three live-streamed public programs, including a dance workshop Oct. 19 and a panel discussion on “Dance and Spirituality” on Oct. 21. The culmination of the mini-residency is a lecture/demonstration Oct. 22 illuminating how the artist melds her Muslim and American identities into a distinctive form of expression. Free, registration required.

Abilities Dance Boston is part of the Celebrity Series of Boston's virtual programming this season.Robert Torres

ABILITIES DANCE BOSTON The Celebrity Series of Boston presents this company of professional dancers — with and without disabilities — in a free HD livestream from the Boston Center for the Arts. Founded in 2017 by Ellice Patterson, the company fosters an inclusive dance environment showcasing the rich diversity of human movement and experience, and the program features four performers in eight of Patterson’s original works. Oct. 29, 8 p.m.

While choreographer-in-residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Peter DiMuro's made the film “The House of Accumulated Beauties” Timothy Avery Photography

SEQUINS IN MY SINK: A PDM GA(Y)LA This Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion online fund-raiser blends some virtual schmoozing with a lot of dance content. The evening includes the premiere of the dance film “The House of Accumulated Beauties,” commissioned by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, plus recorded excerpts from the new project “Stones to Rainbows/Gay to Queer Lives” and the first in the pandemic response video series “Postcards From the Front.” Nov. 8, 5:30 p.m., pre-party 4:45 p.m. Sliding-scale tickets $25-$100.

BOSTON DANCE THEATER Global Arts Live presents a free event, streaming live performances of repertory selections by Princess Grace Award winner Rena Butler and company artistic collaborators Jessie Jeanne Stinnett and Israeli choreographer Itzik Galili. The presentation also includes a conversation about the company’s creative process. Nov. 14, 8 p.m.,


Junxiong Zhao and John Lam in William Forsythe's "Pas/Parts 2018."Angela Sterling

FORSYTHE ELEMENTS Boston Ballet opens its 2020-21 hybrid season with the first program of its new virtual subscription series BB@yourhome. “Forsythe Elements” takes an in-depth look at the creative genius of William Forsythe, with excerpts of old and new work recorded live in the company’s studio. Forsythe himself will lead a discussion with a select group of company members on dance, music, form, and function. Nov. 19-29. $180 for the full BB@yourhome series of six different programs.

THE NUTCRACKER Since area audiences can’t throng to the Opera House for Boston Ballet’s beloved holiday classic this year, the company is offering to bring the ballet to you — for the first time ever and free of charge. The brand new one-hour streamlined version, edited from video of previous years' dress rehearsals, will have three televised broadcasts plus limited on-demand and online viewing opportunities. Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. on NBC10 Boston, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. on NECN, and Dec. 5 at 11 a.m. on Telemundo.

BLACK VOICES BOSTON Conceived and guided by Sankofa Danzafro director Rafael Palacios, this Celebrity Series of Boston storytelling and movement project uses personal stories inspired by racial justice movements around the world as a launchpad for creative expression. Palacios is working with seven selected residents from Boston’s Black communities to transform their experiences and reflections into choreographed movement, which will be showcased in a live online event. Dec. 6, 7 p.m. Free.


THE GIFT Boston Ballet is complementing its virtual airings of the “The Nutcracker” with another holiday-themed project, this one as part of its BB@yourhome series. Set to Duke Ellington’s bluesy jazz classic “Nutcracker Suite,” “The Gift” is an evening of divertissements newly created by company dancers. The presentation’s finale is “The Nutcracker’s” regal Act II grand pas de deux. Dec. 17-27. $180 for the full BB@yourhome series of six different programs.

This story has been updated to correct an error in the founding date of Abilities Dance Boston.

Karen Campbell can be reached at