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Critic: Mae G. Banner

Best of 2004

This year was the centennial of George Balanchineís birth and the near-demise of his New York City Balletís association with the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. SPACís president and board, in a fatal combination of arrogance and ignorance, claimed insufficient ticket sales were forcing them to banish NYCB after their 39th season here. They found out you donít mess with ballet fans.

A grassroots movement dubbed Save the Ballet took their fury to the community, the relevant state legislators and the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which launched an audit that uncovered years of sloppy business practices, mismanagement and outright deception regarding SPACís stated reasons for axing the ballet. Details of the audit are now being examined by the attorney generalís office. The ballet will be back in 2005, and SPAC will soon have a new president.

Dance lovers have been stressed by SPACís actions from Valentineís Day to Christmas, but, worrying about the fate of NYCB at SPAC made us appreciate all the more the amazing variety of dance we get to see all year round at regional venues. Among them, the Egg, Proctorís, Jacobís Pillow and SPAC presented dance from every continent and in a myriad of body languages.

1. New York City Ballet

Saratoga Performing Arts Center Week 2, July 13-17

>>>From principals to corps, they were all dancing out of their minds, as if it were their last day on earth (which, politically speaking, it nearly was). Superlatives in an outstanding week: James Fayetteís mating dance in The Four Seasons, Sean Suozzi as Melancholic in The Four Temperaments, and firebrand Teresa Reichlen, who stole the show in the Rubies section of Jewels.

Quirky and severe: Peter Boal & Company.

2. Peter Boal & Company

Jacobís Pillow, Aug. 8

Sublimely poetic and keenly intelligent, Boal and three pals from NYCB (Wendy Whelan, Suozzi, and Benjamin Millepied) danced a program of severe and quirky modern works. We may have to wait some time to see Boal again. Heís just been tapped to lead the Pacific Northwest Ballet; heíll retire from NYCB in June 2005 and head for Seattle.

3. Savion Glover in Improvography

The Egg, Oct. 29

A jazz player whose instruments are his feet, Glover, along with his combo, laid down scintillating grooves in a wise and generous concert that drew from the whole history of tap.

4. Dayton Contemporary Dance Company

The Egg, April 17

The Flight Project, DCDCís celebration of the centennial of the Wright Brothersí first flight, included newly commissioned dances from Bebe Miller and Bill T. Jones, but the pinnacle of the evening was Sir Warren Spearsí On the Wings of Angels, a tribute to the Tuskegee airmen of World War II. Pain, pride and comradeship shone through this all-male dance.

5. Les Ballets Trockaderos de Monte Carlo

Proctorís, Feb. 6

In this sterling drag troupe, all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the choreography is above average. Dancing under stage names like Ida Nevasayneva and Tamara Boomdeay, these gentlemen are parodists of high skill and deep commitment to classical form.

6. Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company

The Egg , May 1

Always game for the next step in a steadily building regional presence, Sinopoli shared the stage with jazz singer Laurel Masse and her quartet, giving us two fine shows in one. The bill included a premiere, Jamminí, that mixed í40s swing with modern dance; and Rising Low, an earthy dance for a sisterhood of lonely, gutsy women.

7. Virsky Ukrainian National Dance Company

Proctorís, Nov. 9

Brilliant costumes of red, green, white and black; dance patterns as intricate as the designs on Orthodox Easter eggs; and, above all, an indomitable spirit make this 85- member ensemble a joy to watch.

8. Doug Varone and Dancers

The Egg, June 11

Varone is to dance what Raymond Carver is to the short story. Collisions, separations, entanglements, and small, telling gestures keep us guessing, keep us involved.

9. Grupo Corpo

Jacobís Pillow, July 1

A Brazilian carnaval of slinky, repetitive movement, this thoroughly communal troupe manages to be sexy, soulful and satiricósometimes, all at once.

10. Rennie Harris Puremovement

The Egg, Feb. 13

Heroic male dancing/rapping from the streets of Philadelphia, soaked in tragedy, glinting with anger, crowned with hope.

 


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