Highlights include Mark Morris, Dance Theatre of Harlem and Cloud Gate

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Consider it a human-centered season, where the lives of real people take center stage. It’s an intriguing coincidence — I can’t remember another dance season with so many works in circulation that have been inspired by historical figures, complicated icons, and artists living and dead. It feels like a promising trend, one that offers a way to think differently about familiar names and learn about those who have all but vanished. In chronological order, here are some of the works I’m most eager to see.

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Dance Theatre of Harlem: ‘Sounds of Hazel’

Dance Theatre of Harlem’s world-premiere ballet pays tribute to Hazel Scott, the Trinidad-born and Juilliard-trained civil rights activist who died in 1981. She’d led a trailblazing career as a jazz and classical pianist, singer, movie star and TV host, but the height of her fame coincided with McCarthyism — and she was blacklisted. Over time, her name faded from history. A team of Black female artists created “Sounds of Hazel,” including choreographer Tiffany Rea-Fisher and composer Erica Lewis Blunt. Both DTH and Washington Performing Arts, a co-commissioner, kick off their seasons with this work. Oct. 7-8 at Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW.

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Washington Ballet: ‘NEXTsteps’

In June, the Washington Ballet ended its spring season with an installment of “NEXTsteps,” as its new-works program is called. The fall season offers a fresh array of new dances. This time, the choreographers include former San Francisco Ballet soloist Dana Genshaft, who created “Shadow Lands” for the Washington Ballet in 2019; former New York City Ballet dancer Silas Farley; and Washington Ballet member Andile Ndlovu. Oct. 12-16 at Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW.

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Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance: ‘Surroundings: A Tribute to Maya Lin’

The work of contemporary sculptor and designer Maya Lin blends organically with the outside world (think of the quiet, gradual rise and fall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial). But what do we know about the inner world that produces such art? Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance explores Lin’s interior landscape, her focus on history and human rights, and how memory and contemplation contribute to her art. The performances are free and feature live piano, cello and vocal accompaniment. “Surroundings” coincides with the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition “One Life: Maya Lin,” Sept. 30-April 16. Oct. 16, 23 and 30 in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s Kogod Courtyard, Eighth and F streets NW.

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Cloud Gate Dance Theatre: ‘13 Tongues’

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan takes the intriguing name of its new work from a 1960s street artist in Taipei. Cloud Gate’s director-choreographer, Cheng Tsung-lung, drew inspiration from his mother’s stories about the storyteller known as 13 Tongues, who had a remarkable ability to embody all sorts of characters found in a historic district of Taipei known as Bangka. These stories entwine with the director’s childhood memories and Taipei’s contemporary culture to form what the company describes as a dreamlike world where ancient and modern coexist. Musical accompaniment includes Taiwanese folk songs, Taoist chants and electronica. Oct. 20-22 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW.

Mark Morris Dance Group: ‘The Look of Love’

Do you vibe to “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” or “What’s New, Pussycat?” There’s a distinct charm and poignancy to Burt Bacharach’s songs, and they’ve struck a chord with choreographer Mark Morris. I can’t wait to see the result. After all, Morris’s Beatles-inspired “Pepperland” was magical and profound and full of surprises. “The Look of Love,” Morris’s homage to Bacharach, features new musical arrangements by Ethan Iverson (who also teamed up on “Pepperland,” and has collaborated on many other Morris works). Accompaniment features piano, trumpet, bass and percussion, with Broadway’s Marcy Harriell on lead vocals. “I’ve found an ideal collaborator in Mark Morris,” writes singer-songwriter Bacharach on the Mark Morris Dance Group’s website. You be the judge, as MMDG tours “The Look of Love” this fall. Oct. 26-29 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW.

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Nrityagram Dance Ensemble and Chitrasena Dance Company: ‘Ahuti’

The renowned Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, from India, collaborates with Sri Lanka’s Chitrasena Dance Company in “Ahuti,” a cross-cultural work that fuses the companies’ styles. The Nrityagram dancers live on a residential dance commune about an hour’s drive from Bangalore, where they study and perform Odissi, a fluid and intricate temple dance more than 2,000 years old. Chitrasena, based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, specializes in Kandyan dance, once performed only by men. The members of both companies are resident artists at George Mason University, where “Ahuti” will be accompanied by flute, violin, harmonium, manjira and drums. Nov. 5 at the George Mason University Center for the Arts Concert Hall, 4373 Mason Pond Dr., Fairfax.

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Les Ballets de Monte Carlo: ‘Cendrillon’

Is this a fairy tale from Mars? Jean-Christophe Maillot’s ballet “Cendrillon” (the French name for Cinderella) has a strikingly futuristic look, with spare, elegantly simple costuming instead of elaborate gowns and wigs — and glitter-dusted feet instead of glass slippers. Maillot, who created his version in 1999, also provides a fresh perspective on the story, focusing on how the loss of Cinderella’s mother shapes the lives of both father and daughter. The traditional Prokofiev score accompanies performances by Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, which Maillot directs. Nov. 17-20 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW.

Shamel Pitts: ‘Black Hole: Trilogy and Triathlon’

Choreographer Shamel Pitts spent seven years with Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company and its former director, Ohad Naharin, immersing himself in Gaga, the movement style that Naharin developed. As founder and director of Tribe, a multidisciplinary arts collective, Pitts has created a trilogy of works built on Gaga, which is essentially a way of developing one’s unique way of moving. “Black Hole” is the third installment of the trilogy. Pitts describes it as a performance-art odyssey that includes movement, lighting, video projections, cinematography and original sound to evoke the mystery of a black hole and to tell a story of three Black artists. Dec. 2 at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, 8270 Alumni Dr., College Park.

Ballet Hispanico: ‘Doña Perón’

The musical “Evita” isn’t the last word on artistic fascination with Eva “Evita” Perón. In her ballet “Doña Perón,” choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa offers a dance portrait of the Argentine first lady, who died at 33 in 1952, leaving behind conflicting legacies. Was she a savior of the working class or the ruthless power behind Juan Perón’s throne? Lopez Ochoa is no stranger to interpreting the lives of historic Latina women in dance, having made two works about Mexican painter Frida Kahlo: “Frida,” for the Dutch National Ballet, and “Broken Wings” for the English National Ballet. She created “Doña Perón” for Ballet Hispanico, with music by Peter Salem. Nov. 30-Dec. 3 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW.

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