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Northrop announces a knockout dance season

Bravo, Ben Johnson!

Bravo, Ben Johnson! The new director of concerts and lectures at Northrop Auditorium has programmed his first season — the 2009/2010 Dance Series — and it’s superlative and savvy.

We may still complain about the venerable venue’s seats (which are falling apart) and the sightlines (which are terrible). Because of the recession, Northrop will remain open during its 80th-anniversary, ’09-’10 season. (The extensive rehab has been rescheduled until summer 2010.)

But I, for one, will hardly notice, what with the world premiere, the never-seen-in-the-Twin-Cities-before internationally renowned companies and the restaging of an iconic modern-dance masterwork.

You read me right. On Oct. 17, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet will premiere its new contemporary work based on the French café Moulin Rouge, “Moulin — The Ballet.” It’s Northrop’s first world premiere since Mikhail Baryshnikov and Mark Morris premiered their White Oak Dance Project back in the 1990s.

Before that, the season opens with Wayne McGregor | Random Dance’s “Entity,” on Sept. 11. McGregor’s U.K. company performs an hour-long work based on a research collaboration with psychologists, neuroscientists and software engineers focused on the corporeal relationship between the brain and the kinetic body. The soundscape was created by Coldplay, Jon Hopkins (Massive Attack) and composer John Talbot.

McGregor’s company has never been to Minnesota; nor has another British sensation, Akram Kahn. An adventurous and innovative collaborator, and practitioner of Kathak dance, Kahn has been hailed by the international press for his intimate duets with actors and artists. For “bahok,” presented with Walker Art Center on March 3, Kahn’s teaming with the National Ballet of China to present a multicultural, 21st-century version of the tale of Babel.

The Suzanne Farrell Company also makes its Minnesota debut, on March 12. Farrell was George Balanchine’s beloved muse; today, she’s the keeper of his artistic flame, as well as of many of his masterworks. The program of mixed repertory will include one of the rarely seen or “lost” works held by The Balanchine Preservation Initiative.

If all that isn’t breathtaking enough, the Martha Graham Dance Company returns with a restaging of her full-length “Clytemnestra” on November 12, complete with Noguchi’s set pieces, the body-sculpting costumes and Egyptian composer Halim El-Dabh’s score.

Whew! The season also includes Virsky Ukrainian National Dance Company (Oct. 11), Moscow Festival Ballet performing “Coppélia”(Jan. 14-15), two different Pilobolus programs (Feb. 12-13) and Zimbabwean dancer Nora Chipaumire with live music by Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited in “lions will roar, swans will fly, angels will wrestle heaven, rains will break: gukurahundi” (April 29). The Walker-Northrop co-presentation of Saburo Teshigawara | KARAS’s “MIROKU” will be performed at the Walker’s McGuire Theater (April 22-24).

What a relief to be excited about the Northrop Dance Series again.

Series tickets ($402-$30), 612-624-2345, Room 105 Northrop, 84 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis. More information here.