Nederlands Dans Theater. Batsheva Dance Company. RUBBERBANDance Group. These companies top the dream-job list of many contemporary dancers, thanks to their amazingly inventive choreography and culturally specific approach to dance. They’re part of the wider world of contemporary and all its innovations—a world that extends far beyond the U.S. We rounded up boundary-pushing troupes from different continents so you can sample what contemporary dance looks like the world over.
Kaha:wi Dance Theatre
Kaha:wi Dance Theatre blends indigenous and contemporary styles to create something unique. “My approach is from a ‘Konkwehon:we,’ or ‘real woman,’ perspective, where dance is sacred, transformative and medicine for the people,” says artistic director Tekaronhiáhkhwa Santee Smith (Kahnyen’kehàka Nation). “The company’s process is interdisciplinary, intergenerational and intercultural. By holding the past, present and future together, we aim to overcome a traditional versus contemporary binary.”
Malpaso Dance Company
Though it’s only been around since 2012, Malpaso Dance Company has earned international recognition through performances at Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts and The Joyce Theater in NYC, among other venues. With a technique that merges American modern dance, Cuba’s African and Spanish influences and a more fluid European style, Malpaso and fellow Cuban companies—like Danza Contemporánea de Cuba and Carlos Acosta’s new group Acosta Danza—are set to supercharge the Cuban dance scene. “Cuban contemporary dance can be explored in many directions. There’s the influence of distinct religions and cultures, along with the technical element of modern dance,” says Malpaso founder Fernando Sáez Carvajal. “Cuba might seem like an isolated island, but it’s also
a place of exchange.”
Gauthier Dance is relatively new to the venerated European contemporary dance scene. Though it’s fewer than 10 years old, it has toured internationally, acquired an impressive repertory (including work by Alejandro Cerrudo, William Forsythe and Jirˇí Kylián) and established an annual fundraiser for Alzheimer’s research. “What I find mind-blowing is that in Germany, the audience is so knowledgeable and appreciative,” artistic director Eric Gauthier says. “They go the extra mile to show their enthusiasm.”
Dada Masilo/The Dance Factory
Location: South Africa
Choreographer Dada Masilo is known for her reimagined classics: Rather than featuring an ethereal flock of white swans, her Swan Lake tackles heavy issues like sexual orientation in a culture of violence. She mixes African dance with ballet to create a movement vocabulary that includes both pointe shoes and bare feet.
Vertigo Dance Company
Much like Germany and the Netherlands, Israel has become a contemporary dance destination, with multiple groups (Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company and L-E-V, to name a few) drawing dancers from all over the world. Vertigo Dance Company was founded in 1992 by Noa Wertheim and Adi Sha’al and includes a main company and an extensive dance education program. “Dance is not an obvious part of Jewish tradition,” Sha’al says, “yet a sense of freedom has motivated many Israelis to create in this field.” Wertheim adds: “My recent works further develop our company’s concept of reaching out, bridging over and connecting different worlds.”
Cullberg Ballet, founded in 1967, has long been at the forefront of the contemporary dance world, thanks to the company’s relationship with choreographer Mats Ek. “A sense of humor, and sometimes irony, is characteristic of work by Mats Ek, Birgit Cullberg and Alexander Ekman,” says Cullberg Ballet artistic director Gabriel Smeets. “And many young Swedish choreographers engage with subjects like the environment and how we take care of the planet.”
Korean National Contemporary Dance Company
Location: South Korea
Korean National Contemporary Dance Company takes a critical look at the impact of Western culture on Korea. “The ‘modernization’ of Asia happened in such a compressed period of time,” says artistic director Aesoon Ahn. “Now we have the ability to mix premodern, or traditional, ideas with the influence of Western contemporary dance. There’s a sense of rapid cultural absorption, but we feature tradition within that. We find meaning in premodern times.”
Bangarra Dance Theatre
Bangarra Dance Theatre is deeply committed to the ancestral heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Australia. The company fuses ancient storytelling with contemporary movement and makes a point of touring regionally, so that people in Australia’s far-flung towns can see performances.
T.H.E Dance Company
The Human Expression (T.H.E) Dance Company was founded by Kuik Swee Boon in 2008 and focuses on inclusivity and the diverse voices of the Singapore community. “We remind ourselves to keep our hearts open to tolerance and progressive thought,” Boon says. “T.H.E often focuses on our cultural heritage or concerns about the environment—what makes us a collective and what makes us individuals.”