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More than any year in recent memory, I was absolutely astonished by certain pieces, so I thought I would start with them.
Please keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive or objective (or orderly) in any way. It reflects only own reactions and is limited by where I was and what I saw.
Most Astonishing Works
• Dark Matters by Crystal Pite, Peak Performances@Montclair, NJ: For its menacing puppet and its wild, polymorphous, puppet-influenced movement vocabulary; also for the astonishing dancers of her company, Kidd Pivot.
• The Soul Project by David Zambrano, Danspace Project: A spirit possession of sorts, with each soloist digging deep into the soul.
• Tempest: Without a Body, by Lemi Ponifasio at Théâtre de la Ville, Paris: cataclysmic, primitive/elegant, and yet peaceful.
• I Can See Myself in Your Pupil by Andrea Gallim, at Fall for Dance: Bracing energy and fearless weirdness on the part of every dancer.
<• Two Faced Bastard by Gideon Oarzanek and Lucy Guerin of Chunky Move, at the Luminato Festival in Toronto: A brilliant idea (dividing the piece in half so no one saw both halves) made this absurdist psychodrama endlessly intriguing.
• Wayne McGregor’s Outlier, part of “Dance and Architecture” season at NYCB: Fascinating, slightly sinister, and utterly compelling.
• Charlotte Vincent’s Broken Cords and If We Go On, at Peak Perfrmances: Finding creativity in places of emptiness, lightened—or darkened—by shards of humor.
• MELT, by Noémie Lafrance: Eight women, pinned to a wall near the Salt Pile in Lower Manhattan, sweated, drooped, suffered, but also were totally inside their own sensuality.
• Lieu d’Etre by Annick Charlot, a the Biennale de la danse in Lyon: Enchanting use of an entire apartment complex, five terrific dancers, and an assortment of children and other residents of the building.
Most Amazing Performers
• Viengsay Valdés of Ballet Nacional de Cuba in Swan Lake: For her molten Odette and giddy, surprise-packed Odile, not to mention her mind-bending balances.
• Bridget Zehr of National Ballet of Canada in Wayne McGregor’s Chroma and in Robbins’ Opus 19/The Dreamer: Eccentric yet delicate, daring yet vulnerable.
• Kristen Foote of the Limón Dance Company: For her harrowing or joyful portrayals in excerpts from Donald McKayle’s Heartbeats and Limón’s There Is a Time.
• Robert Fairchild: For tearing into every role given him in NYCB’s “Architecture of Dance” season, and emerging as a character you want to know.
• Darci Kistler at her farewell performance: for her delightful, delighted Titania in A Midsummer Nights Dream.
• Nino Gogua of State Ballet of Georgia in Duo Concertante: A dancer who can wring your heart, she brings an unusual tenderness to this duet.
• Sara Rudner in the revival of Necessary Weather (made by Dana Reitz and Rudner in 1994): Luxurious, spontaneous, lit-from-within dancing.
• Maggie Small of Richmond Ballet: projecting a natural joy and freedom.
• Paul Singh in Risa Jaroslow’s The Partner Project: Sly, playful, a body that’s ready for anything, and eyes that are wide open with curiosity.
• Neal Medlyn in David Neumann’s Big Eater at the Kitchen: Cheerfully bizarre in every move.
• Michael Trusnovec in any Paul Taylor piece: Solid, like you can’t knock him over, and funny too.
• Matthew Rushing of the Ailey company: He moves me to tears with his mellifluous dancing. Thank goodness he still appears in Revelations, even though he is now rehearsal director.
• Dominique Mercy of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: An extraordinary blend of wryness and sincerity…as mournful as Eeyore one minute, as frisky as Tigger the next.
• Yuan Yuan Tan of San Francisco Ballet: For sheer exquisiteness of form.
Best Child Performer
Justin Souriau-Levine in ABT’s new Nutcracker by Ratmansky: In a cast of excellent children, this Little Mouse, who is 10 years old, stole the show with his crazed, near-comic energy and perfect theatrical instincts.
Best Dancer/Choreographer Solos
• The Beast by Steve Paxton, at Baryshnikov Arts Center’s “Unrelated Solos” program: In which he looks like a grizzled seafarer struggling to keep his sea legs…maybe Ahab with his eyes on the whale.
• Mom by Ellis Wood: Luscious, earthy, with a Cassandra-like quality of truth.
Best Original Music for Dance
• Gregory Spears “in the form of a requiem mass,” for Christopher Williams’ Hens’ Teeth at DNA Theater: Heavenly sound.
• The Crooked Jades for Kate Weare’s Bright Land: Country twang, soulful singing.
Best Company Premieres
• The Hunt, by Robert Battle, on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
• Wayne McGregor’s Chroma, on National Ballet of Canada.
Duets of Note
• Most Lovable Eccentrics: Billy Siegenfeld and Brandi Coleman in his Poppy and Lou at Columbia College Chicago Dance Center: A doddering pair in a sweet end-dance that catches at your heart.
• Best Brother-and-Sister Act: Soleá, choreographed for Angel and Carmen Corella by María Pagés: With her elegance and his bravura, they made us happy to see them dance together.
• Most Dreamily Performed Duet: ABT’s Hee Seo and Sascha Radetsky in Ashton’s Thaïs Pas de Deux: His ardor and her pristine beauty together sustained the fantasy.
Best Anniversary of a Choreographer
• Trisha Brown’s 40th anniversary, with performances at Dia:Beacon, the Whitney Museum, and Baryshnikov Arts Center: Celebrating the adventurous spirit and divinely simple structures of Trisha Brown’s early works.
Most Terrifying Walk
• Stephen Petronio (and Elizabeth Streb, though I didn’t see her do it) walking down the side of the Whitney Museum as part of the above anniversary.
Most Courageous Broadway Musical
• The Scottsboro Boys, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman: Bringing a horrendous episode of American racism to light.
Most dance-packed Broadway Musical
• Tharp’s Come Fly Away, naturally.
Best Dancer/Actor in a Musical
• Karine Plantadit in Come Fly Away (She was on last year’s list, but this year it came to Broadway, and she was still ultra-dynamite.)
Most Intriguing Newcomer
• Vitolio Jeune of Garth Fagan Dance: Juicy, exuberant, imparting a slightly African flavor.
• Trisha Brown’s Opal Loop (1980): In which water vapor envelops the dancers.
• Pina Bausch’s Nelken (2005): The carnation-strewn piece with a droll humor, as seen in the Lyon Biennale de la danse.
• Behemoth (1990) by Mark Morris, at BAM: A continually interesting long dance in silence, an ode to Merce Cunningham.
• Forgotten Time (1989) by Judith Jamison, for the Ailey company: With a mystical feeling of ancient, earthy times, this created a captivating world of its own different from anything I’ve seen on the Ailey stage.
• How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? by Ralph Lemon at BAM: A drunken sprawl of a second act, finding the spontaneity that lies beyond exhaustion.
• The six Ailey men of The Hunt by Robert Battle: So ferocious in their pounding of the earth that it was amazing they were still standing at the end of it.
Best Dance Movie with the Least Buzz
• Mao’s Last Dancer, with great dancing from Chi Cao, and a true story of profound cultural conflict and courage.
Best Documentary Film
• Breath Made Visible by Ruedi Gerber: tracing, with humor and sensitivity, the evolution of Anna Halprin’s life as a visionary in dance and healing.
• Most Sane TV Appearance
Jenifer Ringer: Totally centered, relaxed, and generous as she addressed Alastair Macaulay’s charge of having eaten “one sugar plum too many.”