The best (and worst) of 2010

Tharp, Bel, Osipova, Ratmansky and glass dildos: It wasn't dull.

  • Photograph: Stephanie Berger


    Ralph Lemon

  • Photograph: Paul Kolnik


    Sara Mearns in Namouna

  • Photograph: Mark Domage


    Christian Rizzo

Photograph: Stephanie Berger


Ralph Lemon

The best

Luciana Achugar
Puro Deseo, a duet with longtime collaborator Michael Mahalchick, heralded a more sophisticated side of Achugar in a work that exposed the eerie side of the theater.

Cdric Andrieux
French choreographer-director Jrme Bel created a stellar portrait of Andrieux—the former dancer with Merce Cunningham and the Lyon Opera Ballet—that was strangely tender (and tenderly strange).

Mikhail Baryshnikov
Baryshnikov danced his ass off in Unrelated Solos and looked great doing it. But who could forget his bow at the opening night of American Ballet Theatre? He left the company on shaky terms; his mischievous, twisted smile was comedy gold. 

Cecilia Bengolea and Franois Chaignaud
The duo made its awaited New York debut with glass dildos (Pquerette) and sensory-depravation body bags (Sylphides). But beyond the outrageousness, their work is enthralling in its playfulness.

Come Fly Away
Twyla Tharp reconfigured her Sinatra material for a short-lived Broadway show—really a ballet disguised as a musical—that invested everything it had into actual dancing. In choreographic terms, it was the story of Tharp: The men are the way she moves; the women—Karine Plantadit in particular—are who she is.

Deborah Hay
Perhaps it was just a relief to see Hay interpret her own work. In No Time to Fly, the choreographer brought the ephemeral nature of dance to life, channeling Audrey Hepburn along the way.

Ralph Lemon
In his evening-length work, How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?, and the accompanying installation, Meditation, Lemon offered an unrelenting look at love, loss and grace.

Trisha Brown Dance Company
Lately Brown's pieces have been everywhere, but none have been so incredible as her seminal Man Walking Down the Side of a Building, performed at the Whitney.

Companhia Urbana de Dana
Fall for Dance has become stale in its formulaic presentation, but the debut of this all-male Brazilian hip-hop company was a bright spot. In Id:Entidades, choreographer-director Sonia Destri made the in-between moments of hip-hop and street dance matter.

Ishmael Houston-Jones
The choreographer returned to P.S. 122 with musician Chris Cochrane and writer Dennis Cooper to stage the revival of Them, a profound, theatrical snapshot of life in New York City in the 1980s.

Mark Morris Dance Group
Morris showed a mesmerizing side of himself in Socrates, a work of almost unsettling beauty set to music by Erik Satie. Subtle and pure, the dance was at once daring and calming, the sort of piece you can't wait to see again.

Namouna, a Grand Divertissement
Last spring, in the vein of crazy and magnificent, Alexei Ratmansky choreographed one of his finest works for New York City Ballet, a company for which he has a special affinity.

Natalia Osipova + David Hallberg: Romeo and Juliet
Dancing her first Juliet opposite David Hallberg, the Russian dancer Natalia Osipova offered a scintillating debut at American Ballet Theatre. No matter the role, she is a thrill, but her Juliet was ebullient and tragic.

Ballet Preljocaj
Angelin Preljocaj returned to BAM with his exceptional Empty moves (parts I & II); set to a live recording of John Cage's Empty Words, the work for four was shrewd and sensual, examining the simplicity of the body with meditative clarity.

Christian Rizzo
The French choreographer and designer carved an intricate theatrical world in his fascinating b.c, janvier 1545, fontainebleau, a sleek and refined solo work for the lissome dancer Julie Guibert.

Robert and Maria
Robert Steijn and Maria Hassabi transformed into something like sculptures in their mesmerizing duet at Danspace Project.

Winona Ryder
She was the only one in the overwrought Black Swan to jump off the screen; channeling the rage of her past ten years into the part of an aging ballerina, Ryder was fantastic.

Ann Liv Young
In Cinderella, Ann Liv Young—trusting her instincts completely in a dual role—created her most ambitious work to date.

Honorable Mentions
Pavel Zustiak's Bastard; Saburo Teshigawara's Miroku; Eiko & Koma's White Dance and Raven; Nomie Lafrance's Melt; Neil Greenberg's (like a vase), especially Paige Martin; Noche Flamenca; Yasuko Yokoshi's Tyler Tyler.

The worst

Architecture of Dance
The New York City Ballet created a lot of nothing with its overhyped season featuring the designs of architect Santiago Calatrava.

Now that Christopher Wheeldon has left the company (good for him), Morphoses' cofounder and director Lourdes Lopez has named Luca Veggetti resident artistic director for the 2011--2012 season. Great! He creates some of the most generic dances imaginable.

New York Live Arts
It's probably terrible to say that the merger between Dance Theater Workshop and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company is a terrible idea, but I'm saying it anyway.

Report card

With special thanks to Lili Chopra of Crossing the Line and Judy-Hussie Taylor of Danspace Project, the good far outweighed the crap.

Final grade: B+

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