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Best of 2011

Once again my list is completely subjective, limited by what I happened to see. There were LOTS of good performances this year. Please know that the order within each category is fairly random.

Best Performances
• Dana Caspersen in I don’t believe in outer space by William Forsythe at BAM: gutsy, fascinating distortions of voice and body.
• Kristina Hanna, sexy as hell in Larry Keigwin’s Exit at the Joyce.
• Blakely White-McGuire, strong and sturdy in the Graham rep: searing in Cave of the Heart, funny in Maple Leaf Rag, and something of an elegant bag lady in Bulareyaung Pagarlava’s premiere.
• Kathleen Breen Combes of Boston Ballet: style and attack in Forsythe’s Second Detail, exquisite sensitivity to touch in Helen Pickett’s Parts I, II, and III.
• Susan Marshall’s three guys who’ve been with her for years—Luke Miller, Joseph Poulson, and Darrin Michael Wright—have their own vivid ways of being themselves, as in the reprise of Adamantine (2009) at Baryshnikov Art Center.
• Olivia Bowman-Jackson in Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Melting Pot at Central Park SummerStage: Fast, sexy, precise, galvanized.
• Megumi Eda in Armitage Gone! Dance, at SummerStage: technique and glamour to burn.
• Erick Montes in Continuous Reply and other works by Bill T. Jones in the “Body Against Body” program at NY Live Arts: Spunky and intense as he brought the Jones/Zane history alive.
• Houston Ballet’s Karina Gonzalez in the gorgeously slow central pas de deux in ONE/end/ONE by Jorma Elo, at the Joyce.
• Nina Ananiashvili’s The Swan: In Russia, it’s a tradition to perform Fokine’s gem twice—if the audience loves you. Ananiashvili made completely different choices the second time around.
• Wendy Whelan in Robbins’ In Memory Of… in which she embodies a mysterious drama with two very different partners, NYCB,
• André “Feijão” Virgilio of Brazil’s Companhia Urbana de Dança in ID:ENTIDADES by Sonia Destri, Peak Performances in Montclair, NJ: a certain kinetic charisma.
• The Kirov’s Islom Baimuradov, who played Karenin, Anna Karenina’s luckless husband, to both casts of Vishneva and Kondaurova, in Ratmansky’s Anna Karenina: He was more moving than either Anna, Lincoln Center Festival.
• Best Giselles: A tie between Vishneva and Cojocaru, both of them magnificent and moving.
• Joaquin De Luz in “Rubies” of Diamonds, NYCB: Energized classicism.
• ABT’s Sascha Radetsky for recklessly tearing into Tharp’s In the Upper Room, at City Center
• Simone Messmer in Demis Volpi’s Private Light, ABT at City Center: sexy, jagged, desperate.
• Matthew Rogers in Tere O’Connor’s Cover Boy at Danspace: wayward, intense, mercurial.
• The Joffrey’s Victoria Jaiani in Edwaard Liang’s Age of Innocence at Fall for Dance: exquisite, tremulous openness in the central pas de deux.
• Ailey’s Samuel Lee Roberts, wild and crazy in the solo improv of Naharin’s Minus 16.

Best Performances in Musicals
• Sutton Foster in Roundabout Theatre’s Anything Goes. She OWNS the stage.
• Jason Tam in Lysistrata Jones. He’s just such an indiVIDual out there!

Best Solos by a Dancer/Choreographer
• Lil Buck in The Swan at Fall for Dance: Spectacularly musical re-imagining of Fokine’s The Swan through hip hop.
• Kyle Abraham in his own work at Dancemopolitan 2011, DanceNow, Joe’s Pub: a voluptuous, complex mover with an inimitable style.
• Wally Cardona as a sweetly loopy wanderer in his and Jennifer Lacey’s Tool Is Loot, The Kitchen.
• Marcelo Gomes in his own solo, Paganini, on the Cisne Negro program at the Joyce: terrific rhythms that build in complexity, and he’s, well, he’s MARCELO!

Best New Choreography
• Eiko & Koma's Water in the reflecting pool in Lincoln Center Plaza: luminous, ancient figures parting the dark waters.
• Big Dance Theater’s Supernatural Wife, choreographed by Annie-B Parson, and co-directed by Paul Lazar, at BAM: disembodied, ridiculous, clever, and unexpectedly moving.
Cover Boy by Tere O’Connor at Danspace: Intriguing, sensual, androgynous; four men caught between vanity and vulnerability. The last duet between Rogers and Ingle nearly brought tears.
I don’t believe in outer space by William Forsythe at BAM. Fascinating from A to Z.
• Juliette Mapp’s The Making of Americans for bringing Gertrude Stein’s rhythms back, at DTW. Plus a sublime duet sequence on the floor.

Most Noticeable New Dancers
• Xiaochuan Xie of Graham, piquant in Robert Wilson’s Snow on the Mesa.
• Osiel Gounod and Grettel Morejon of Ballet Nacional de Cuba, in scenes from Coppélia, BAM: buoyant youthfulness.
• Rebecca Warner, giving Sarah Michelson’s relentless steps in Devotion some juice, The Kitchen.

Most Inspired Pairings

• Viengsay Valdés of Ballet Nacional de Cuba and Ivan Vasiliev of the Bolshoi at Youth America Grand Prix Gala: Sheer fireworks in Don Q.
• Tapper Jason Samuels Smith and pianist Harold O’Neal: His creamy piano sound meshing with Jason’s process from quiet scrapes to full-out hopping jumps and tiny hummingbird feet, at Under the Influence at the Museum of Art and Design.

Most Romantic Romeo:

• Guillaume Côté in Alexei Ratmansky’s new Romeo and Juliet for National Ballet of Canada.

Most Touching Juliet
• A three-way tie between Erica Cornejo and Misa Kuranaga of Boston Ballet and Elena Lobsanova of National Ballet of Canada (I didn’t see ABT’s R & J this year)

Most Welcome Streaks of Humor

Anybody Waitin’? by ponydance at an upstairs bar, Dublin Dance Festival: giddy gender play in a tight space.
• Ratmansky’s The Bright Stream elicited hilarious portrayals from ABT dancers Daniil Simkin, Isaac Stappas, Susan Jones, and others, at the Met.
• New artistic director Robert Battle brought to the Ailey season the wit of Paul Taylor’s Arden Court and the hilarity of parts of Naharin’s Minus 16.

Best Choreography for the Dancing It Unleashed

The Sweeter End by Trey McIntyre at Lincoln Center Out of Doors for giving dynamite solos to John Michael Schert, Chanel DaSilva, and Jason Hartley that allow them to blast out pure, smart energy.
Mambo 3XXI by George Céspedes for Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, at the Joyce: Wild, free, sexy dancing (in the second half).
• Ohad Naharin’s Three to MAX transformed Hubbard Street Dance Chicago into a collective of odd and daring performers at Fall for Dance.
• Rennie Harris’ Home for Ailey yielded fabulous dancing from Matthew Rushing (pure heaven) as well as Alicia Graf Mack, Linda Celeste Sims, Kirven James Boyd, Guillermo Asca, and newcomers Belen Estrada and Renaldo Gardner.
Stamping Ground by Kylián, performed by Aspen Santa Fe at the Joyce: nervy, neo-primitive skittering.

Best Curatorial Presentations
• Eiko & Koma’s retrospective including “Residue,” an installation at the Library of Performing Arts.
• MOMA’s performances in conjunction with its exhibit “On Line,” including works by Trisha Brown, Ralph Lemon, and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
• David Parker curating a tap show at Danspace with Michelle Dorrance and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards.
• Melinda Ring curating a platform of Susan Rethorst: Retro(intro)spective, at Danspace, including “wrecking” and a film night.

Best Design
• Video & projection by S. Katy Tucker for Paul McCartney’s Ocean’s Kingdom: a magical underworld of sunlight glinting through the ocean’s surface, NYCB at Koch Theater.
• Tony Orrico for John Jasperse’s Canyon at BAM: masking tape delineating the space of the entire theater, even outside the theater, in lines that meshed with the distressed walls; also a creeping white box that had a distinctly Eeyore-like quality.

Most Fun Controversy
• Appropriation: For her music video Countdown, Beyoncé outright lifted sequences from Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, outraging many people, but also making the Belgian choreographer’s work more visible.

Best TV Appearances
• Sarah Lane, sweetly demanding credit for her dancing in the movie Black Swan, for which she was a dance double. (Disclosure: It was my blog that ignited the furor that led to this appearance.)
• Jenifer Ringer, graciously offering Oprah a pair of pointe shoes.
• David Hallberg, telling Stephen Colbert that the cold war is over.
• Sasha Mallory, for her riveting, sharp-outlined dancing in every number on Season 8 of So You Think You Can Dance. (She was the runner-up.)

Best Book
I Was a Dancer by Jacques d’Amboise: Vitality, insight, and humor jumping off each page.

Longest, Saddest Goodbye
• Cunningham Legacy Tour at the Joyce (loved Quartet), the Merce Fair at Lincoln Center, and Merce Cunningham Dance Company at BAM (loved Biped). And finally the company at the Armory—sad, but also a profound reunion of people and ideas.

The Conversation
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Since its founding in 1999, more than 80,000 ballet dancers have participated in Youth America Grand Prix events. While more than 450 alumni are currently dancing in companies across the world, the vast majority—tens of thousands—never turn that professional corner. And these are just the statistics from one competition.

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Fabre is a celebrated Belgian multidisciplinary artist who has been honored as Grand Officer in the Order of the Crown, one of the country's highest honors. His visual art has been displayed at the Louvre and at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. According to The New York Times, his dance company, Troubleyn, receives about $1 million a year from the Belgian government.

But in an open letter posted to Belgian magazine Rekto Verso just a few months ago, 20 of his company's current and former dancers outline a horrific culture of sexual harassment, bullying and coercion. This comes on the heels of similar accusations at New York City Ballet and Paris Opèra Ballet.

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