Mae G. Banner
Fusion was the overriding impulse that drove choreography
in 2003. Sometimes, it worked marvelously, as in George Piper
Dances’ (aka Ballet Boyz) risky, visceral brew of edgy modern
dance and classical ballet, seen in October at the Egg; or
in Akram Khan’s amazing meld of modern with classical North
Indian Kathak, a U.S. premiere shown in August at Jacob’s
Both the Ballet Boyz and Khan’s troupe are based in London.
Does that mean innovation is healthier across the Atlantic?
Not necessarily. New York City-based companies drew on their
international roots in the three-pronged merger of rural Southern,
Trinidadian and West African dance in Reggie Wilson’s Black
Burlesque Revisited (The Egg, Oct. 18) or Flamenco Vivo
Carlota Santana’s bullfighter ballet, Mano a Mano (The
Egg, Nov. 15).
We benefit from proximity to New York, which remains the dance
capital of the world. Troupes from Wilson’s Fist and Heel
to the Martha Graham Dance Company tried out new shows at
the Egg before presenting them in the big city, so we felt
the souped-up energy of several premier performances.
Ten of the year’s best shows from an exceptional dance calendar:
Martha Graham Dance Company
Egg, Sept. 12
A double thrill. This was the reconstituted company’s first
concert since it won legal rights to perform the late Graham’s
magisterial repertory after a three-year court battle with
her sole heir. Couple that victory with the thrill of seeing
today’s Graham dancers re-create her Chronicles from
the 1930s—a stark antiwar dance shaped like a Russian constructivist
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Theatre, March 7; Jacob’s Pillow, Aug. 23
Now directed by Jim Vincent, this supple troupe has come a
long way from its jazz-pop origins. At both venues, the company
danced lambent works by former Vincent colleagues, Jiri Kilian
of the Netherlands and Nacho Duato of Spain. But the best
was their rousing delivery of Minus 16, part Passover
counting song, part defiant searchlight on Auschwitz, choreographed
by Israel’s Ohad Naharin.
Compania Nacional de Danza (CND2): Dances by Nacho Duato
Pillow, July 27
Duato’s many-hued choreography set to music of Villa-Lobos
or Debussy can be fierce, tender, or quirky, but is always
unusual and beautiful.
George Piper Dances (Ballet Boyz)
Egg, Oct. 30
Happy defectors from the Royal Ballet in Britain, these good-humored
hunks and their international troupe are now branching out
into daring, rule-breaking dances by rising choreographers,
including New York City Ballet’s Christopher Wheeldon and
American exile William Forsythe. Free-flying dances based
on solid ballet technique.
Akram Khan Dance Company
Pillow, Aug. 17
A Brit of Bangladeshi heritage, Khan’s U.S. debut was Kaash
(If), a knife-edged minimalist work that refined the warp-speed
and intricate gestures of Kathak dancing in a cauldron of
Megan Fairchild as Coppelia, New York City Ballet
Performing Arts Center, July 22-25
Only 19 years old and a corps dancer, Fairchild has the charm
of a soubrette, the stamina of a long-distance runner, and
the understanding of a seasoned actor. Going on for the injured
principal dancer Alexandra Ansanelli, Fairchild nailed the
demanding role (she’s onstage in all three acts) and then
did it again for three more performances. Brava!
Savion Glover and Ti Di
Egg, Sept. 26
His feet are his instrument, and he’s now playing Coltrane
with a live jazz combo. For those who thought tap was all
“shuffle and roll,” Glover’s work is an education in jazz.
Sara Pearson/Patrik Widrig and Company, The Return of Lot’s
College Dance Theater, Feb. 7
The silenced woman as suburban housewife. Satirical and provocative
dance theater, with rivers of salt.
Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company
Egg, April 12
Sinopoli’s troupe celebrated the Egg’s 25th anniversary with
a collaborative concert showcasing live musicians from Siobhan
Quinn to Maria Zemantauski that was a fusion of fans as well
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana
Egg, Nov. 15
a Mano employs flamenco spirit in the service of narrative
ballet to dramatize the rise and too-early fall of the legendary
torero Manolete. Hemingway would approve.