Must-see Denver arts events: Colorado Ballet’s “Wizard of Oz,” “Opera Colorado’s “The Shining” and more

Editor’s note: Due to possible status changes related to COVID-19 and the delta and omicron variants, please check with the organizer to ensure the event hasn’t been canceled or postponed. See further state of Colorado guidance at covid19.colorado.gov.

I don’t know about you, but I need a little optimism in my life.

This list of upcoming offerings from many of Denver’s major arts presenters turns 2022 into something we can all look forward to. Mask up, vax out and go have a good time — pandemic permitting, of course.

Dance Theatre of Harlem, Newman Center, Jan. 14-15

A night with the Dance Theatre of Harlem should be on every American’s art bucket list, and this stop at the Newman Center offers local audiences two chances to make it happen.

The company, historic in every way, has been around since 1969, making it one of the country’s longest-standing touring ensembles. The troupe seems to be in a state of constant reinvention, thanks to an evolving list of choreographers who have brought new moves and new visions to its work.

At the June Swaner Gates Concert Hall on the University of Denver campus. 303-871-7720 or newmancenterpresents.com.

“Design for the Common Good,” Center for Visual Arts, Jan.14–March 1

Exhibitions that focus on design are super rare in Colorado, and this show fills the gap by showcasing new architecture from around the globe that is sensitive to both the environment and the cultural traditions of its very varied locations.

Curated by Metro State professor Lisa M. Abendroth, “Design for the Common Good” introduces 30 examples of socially-engaged projects spanning six continents and 32 countries. The show tells its tales through artifacts, video, building plans and a series of captivating photos that make a sound argument for how good design can turn the world into a better place.

At the CVA, 965 Santa Fe Drive. Info: 303‐615‐0282 or msudenver.edu.

“Traitor, Survivor, Icon: The Legacy of La Malinche,” Denver Art Museum, Feb. 6-May 8

This unusual and irresistible exhibition brings together works of art that evoke the life and cultural significance of La Malinche, the controversial Mexican figure who started out as an indigenous slave to Spanish conquistadors and ended up being a cultural guide for Hernán Cortés (and the mother of his child?). Was she a traitor or a survivor? The answer comes with the kind of fuzziness and complexity that only art can render. The exhibit is included with the museum’s general admission.

At DAM’s Hamilton Building, 100 W 14th Ave. Parkway. Info: 720-0865-5000 or denverartmuseum.org.

Eamon Ore-Giron and Dyani White Hawk, MCA Denver, Feb. 16-May 22

The MCA Denver brings together exhibitions by two contemporary artists who offer their own intriguing updates of abstract painting and the history of how it developed in the Americas over the last century.

The first show, “Competing with Lightning / Rivalizando con el relampágo,” traces 20 years of painting by artist and DJ Eamon Ore-Giron, whose large and colorful canvases remix references that “range from ancient Andean architecture to 20th-century modernism.”

At the same time, “Speaking to Relatives,” an import from Kansas City’s Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, showcases a decade of paintings, sculpture and installation by Dyani White Hawk, who connects “abstract visual languages of easel painting and Lakota art forms.” Both exhibitions combine existing work with new pieces made exclusively for the MCA shows.

At the MCA, 1485 Delgany St. Info: 303-298-7554 or mcadenver.org.

Dianne Reeves with the Colorado Symphony, Feb. 19

Jazz singer Dianne Reeves has an international reputation but she’s long kept her hometown address in Denver and maintained her local connections here, which are seriously deep — including to the Colorado Symphony where her legendary uncle, Charlie Burrell, once played the bass.

The George Washington High School graduate pairs with the classical ensemble Feb. 19 for this promising night of local-meets-local music. Vince Mendoza is set to conduct.

At Boettcher Concert Hall, Denver Performing Arts Complex. Info: 303-623-7876 or coloradosymphony.org.

“The Shining,” Opera Colorado, Feb. 26-March 6

The coronavirus pandemic required Opera Colorado to postpone the regional premiere of “The Shining,” forcing fans whose artistic tastes cross over between classical music and Stephen King horror stories to wait an additional year to hear this enticing work.

But the full-length terror is finally getting its staging, and it’s sure to be one of the most sought-after tickets in Denver this winter. Rightly so. The show, with music by Paul Moravec and a libretto by Mark Campbell, premiered to critical acclaim back in 2016 and it’s full of all the right chills and special effects the title demands. This is where opera is going.

At the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Performing Arts Complex. Info at 303-468-2030 or operacolorado.org.

“The Wizard of Oz,” Colorado Ballet, March 11-20

Every story can be a ballet, of course, but not every story should be a ballet (“Dracula,” I’m talking to you). But there’s something about the “The Wizard of Oz” that is just right for the tutu and leotards treatment. Maybe it’s the natural dance floor that comes from that yellow brick road or the enormous green scenery that is just right for the Emerald City.

This production, choreographed by Septime Webre and premiered in 2018, makes the most of all of it, with clever costumes and over-the-top sets. The dancing is elevated and accessible at the same time.

At the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Performing Arts Complex,. Info: 303-837-8888 or coloradoballet.org.

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Denver Botanic Garden, April 30-Sept. 11

The Denver Botanic Garden continues its long tradition of amping up its summer art offerings with this show of large, cedar sculptures by artist and historic figure Ursula von Rydingsvard. Born in Germany in 1942, von Rydingsvard’s works are informed, directly and indirectly, by her earliest years, which were spent in refugee camps at the end of World War II. The show feels right for DBG, with natural materials at its core and the opportunity for deep contemplation in its soul.

At DBG’s main headquarters, 1007 York St. Info: 720-865-3500 or botanicgardens.org.

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