If you want to see truly exceptional, big-name dance this year, you'll have to hop in your car and head south on I-95. Major league dance companies are coming to the area -- such as the Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, the Martha Graham Company or the Jose Limon Company -- but they'll be appearing in Washington.
Despite the fact Baltimore is not a required stop for most national companies, it does have a dance scene.
Several local dance companies will perform -- in spite of funding problems and inconsistent audience development. And the dance programs at area colleges and universities will also have annual showcases of talent.
But, the city's gateway to world-class dance, the Dance on the Edge Series, is struggling and may not be presented.
Karen Bradley, chair of Towson University's dance department, which oversees and co-sponsors the series, said they are looking for underwriting. If they don't get it, she said, the series won't happen. At any rate, there will be no Dance on the Edge performances this fall, and the spring schedule is tentative.
While Baltimore's dance scene is hurting, there are some bright spots.
One is the Baltimore School for the Arts, which is a regular stop of scouts for the big dance companies in search of talent. The BSA production of "The Nutcracker" is fresh and loads of fun. And their Spring Fever dance concert (May 10-12) will feature a dance by noted choreographer David Parsons, as well as a work by David Grenke, principal dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company.
Another boost for Baltimore dance fans will be the Lyric Opera House's presentation Nov. 21-26 of "Stomp," the off-off-Broadway hit that features a handful of creative, high-spirited dancers. The Lyric will also have "The Nutcracker," but as of this writing the date has not been confirmed.
The new Peggy & Yale Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills is a good place to view dance -- and the program is eclectic. Booked for Sept. 16-17 is the New Jersey-based American Ballet Company, with their production of "Romeo and Juliet." On Nov. 4-5, the fancy footwork of the flamenco dancing of Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco will appear. In the spring, students from the Baltimore School for the Arts (May 11-12) perform.
Local performers, choreographers and small companies worth watching out for are Kinetics Dance Theater (debuting its renovated performance space at the Howard County Center for Performing Arts Oct. 27), the Baltimore Dance Collaborative, Binnie Ritchie-Holum, Sandra Lacey, Eva Anderson Dancer Theatre, Chris Dohse, Nancy Havlik, Kimberly Mackin, Nancy Wanich-Romita's the Moving Company and Marsha Tallerico.
On Oct. 7, four companies -- Ms. Romita's the Moving Company, Kimberly Mackin Dance Company, Tallerico & Company and Chris Dohse/Toothmother -- will join other artists in the Baltimore Museum of Art auditorium as part of the National Arts and Humanities Open House.
Several other performances planned for the fall look promising. Binnie Ritchie Holum and Kimberly Mackin will perform with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, the Baltimore Symphony and the Morgan State Choir, and in a production of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" at the Meyerhoff (Nov. 8).
Also in November, the Second Presbyterian Church Concert Series will feature dances by local groups, such as Eva Anderson Dance Theatre and the Moving Company, set to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (Nov. 19).
And also worth noting is the Baltimore Dance Sampler coming to Theatre Project May 15-19; the companies have yet to be picked, but the program will feature about five local companies or choreographers.
For serious devotees of dance, a superb program is the new Kennedy Center Series titled "Tradition and Rebellion: Generational Change, a Survey of American Contemporary Dance." Beginning in November with the Martha Graham Dance Company, the five-year series will survey dance styles from past masters and pioneers and trace their development to current performers.
Ballet fans will note that the roster of companies scheduled at the Kennedy Center is decidedly familiar: the Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre (not the one from New Jersey) and Dance Theater of Harlem.
The season opens with Balanchine muse Suzanne Farrell and her posse of 28 hand-picked dancers from around the country (four from Maryland). Next is American Ballet Theatre, with "Paquita," staged by Natalia Marakova, in March. Then the Joffrey Ballet will present two world premieres -- one each from Ralph Lemon and Mehmet Sander -- in May.