Best (and worst) dance

And what we're looking forward to in 2010.

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  • Ronald K. Brown. Photograph: Basil Childers

  • Merce Cunningham. Photograph: Richard Rutledge

Ronald K. Brown. Photograph: Basil Childers

The best | The worst | Best of 2010?

Julian Barnett
At Danspace Project, Sound Memory was a happy surprise: a rigorous work for three dancers that started with the notion of a mixtape—as in, the now-ancient audiocassette. It created an evocative world of dance theater about memory and imagination.

Ronald K. Brown
For Dancing Spirit, his fourth work for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Brown started off methodically and powerfully—gradually easing the audience into his world—and concluded with a resplendent dance that conjured the spirits of the past by bringing them into the present. Ronald K. Brown interview

Merce Cunningham Dance Company
The choreographer’s final year was momentous in terms of creativity, from the breathtaking Nearly Ninety (at BAM in April) and Evening Stars at Rockefeller Park (in August) to a series of Events at Dia: Beacon (one of the greatest places on earth). In October, Cunningham’s memorial, held at the Park Avenue Armory, let the work shine; it felt sad, as it should, but it also felt right. Merce Cunningham archive

Trajal Harrell
In the first version of his dance collection, Twenty Looks or Paris Is Burning at the Judson Church (S), the choreographer created a brilliant look-book for the ages (it will be shown again on Fri 8). Trajal Harrell interview

Raimund Hoghe
The German choreographer made an auspicious New York debut with a dazzling doubleheader: Bolro Variations (Dance Theater Workshop) and L’Aprs-Midi (Danspace Project). Raimund Hoghe interview

Jodi Melnick
One of New York’s most beloved dancers, Jodi Melnick employed her articulation and fine delicacy as a choreographer in two works: Fanfare, a collaboration with visual artist Burt Barr, and the harrowing Suedehead.

Sarah Michelson
Marking her return to the Kitchen, Sarah Michelson delivered Dover Beach, the most enchanting dance of the year: With a cast of 12 and a sweeping score by Pete Drungle, the evening-length production was all about movement—giving it shading, nuance and rhythmic punctuation, and rendering it pure. Sarah Michelson interview

Dean Moss and Yoon Jin Kim
With carefully cultivated audience participation and a marvelous all-female Korean cast, two choreographers—one American, the other Korean—explored ideas of sincerity and isolation in the chilling Kisaeng becomes you.

Ohad Naharin
The Israeli choreographer made us go gaga with a pair of related dances: Max, for the Batsheva Dance Company at BAM, and From Max and Three, a masterful mash-up of two works for the students of the Juilliard School.

Alexei Ratmansky
As American Ballet Theatre’s artist in residence, Ratmansky has already taken substantial steps in rejuvenating the company with two major works under his belt—On the Dnieper and Seven Sonatas; he’s the best thing to happen to ballet (and ABT) since Twyla Tharp.

Paul Taylor
In honor of his company’s City Center season, Taylor brought back his 1963 work Scudorama—it remained a searing demonstration of darkness and desolation.

Honorable mentions:
Pam Tanowitz’s Be in the Gray with Me; Douglas Lee’s Lifecasting for New York City Ballet; Mark Morris’s Romeo & Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare; Miami City Ballet’s season at New York City Center; Rennie Harris’s Philadelphia Experiment for Philadanco; Melissa Barak’s A Simple Symphony for New York City Ballet; and Replica (Jonah Bokaer, Judith Snchez Ruz and Daniel Arsham).

The best | The worst | Best of 2010?

See more Best and worst of 2009

The best | The worst | Best of 2010?

Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Beyond the dreadful choreography, here’s a burning question: In a group called Complexions where are the black ballerinas?

Individual dances from hell
Lightfoot Len’s Softly as I Leave You, for Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company, and David Parsons’s Remember Me.

Lincoln Center Festival
The dance category just gets more and more horrid. Thanks, Nigel Redden, for making dance irrelevant on a festival scale.

New York City Ballet
If a company is going to, say, lay off a bunch of dancers—not so unjustifiable given the economic times—it probably shouldn’t also hold on to the director’s son.

Report card

The plus is largely due to Sarah Michelson and Alexei Ratmansky. Bravery needs to make a comeback. Final grade: B+

The best | The worst | Best of 2010?

See more Best and worst of 2009

The best | The worst | Best of 2010?

Yasuko Yokoshi (Mar 17--20)
The choreographer continues her fruitful collaboration with Masumi Seyama—the master teacher of Kabuki Su-odori—in Tyler Tyler, which features a cast of American and traditional Japanese dancers at Dance Theater Workshop.

Platforms 2010 (Apr 15--17)
As part of Danspace Project’s enticing new series, Ralph Lemon curates a new production for Maria Hassabi and Robert Steijn at Danspace Project.

Alexei Ratmansky
His dance card is full! Along with a premiere for New York City Ballet (May 5, 8, 9 and 12), Ratmansky will choreograph a new Nutcracker for American Ballet Theatre, where he is artist in residence, to premiere at BAM (Dec 23).

American Ballet Theatre (June 8, 10, 12, 30)
For its Met season, ABT presents an all--Frederick Ashton program, featuring his 1956 Birthday Offering.

Recommendation for 2010

Bring back the Bessies, but change everything about it—no more touchy-feely community crap, no more so-and-so has been plugging away for so long and deserves it... Rename the award “The Phyllis.” In honor of Phyllis Lamhut—in other words, give it some fire.

The best | The worst | Best of 2010?

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