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2010 in review: Dance

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English National Ballet turned 60 this year, but it wasn’t the only company marking an important milestone, says Kevin Berry

A year of significant anniversaries in the dance world. English National Ballet, which began life as London Festival Ballet, celebrated 60 years. The latter years, under Wayne Eagling’s leadership, have seen the company raise expectations and come firmly into the front rank of international companies. Performances of Michael Corder’s Cinderella began the anniversary celebrations in fine style and for this month Eagling’s brand new production of The Nutcracker looks a treat.

At The Place, where English contemporary dance came into being, there was a 40th birthday to celebrate. Visitors could see dance pieces created specifically for the celebrations and then take a look at the story of The Place, through dance and recollections, in a show directed by Aletta Collins.

Dance Umbrella helped celebrate the 40th anniversary of Trisha Brown’s company with the most comprehensive showcase of Brown’s work ever seen in the UK. Perhaps I should say ‘in London’ as everything seemed to be in the capital.

Leicester’s Curve theatre is to be applauded for commissioning Vertical Road from Akram Khan, an artist who enjoys creating and premiering work in the regions. Also in the Midlands, in Birmingham to be exact, DanceXchange did a splendid job in planning and presenting the British Dance Edition, the always exhausting biennial showcase of British dance talent. The next BDE will be held in London.

Company Chameleon was at the BDE with its young men’s group and those dancers were impressing all who saw them. The education work from this company is inspiring and life changing. RJC Dance and Ludus Dance are similarly deeply committed to education work but they rarely get the plaudits.

The Bolshoi Ballet came to Covent Garden for the first time since 2007. A highlight of what was a triumphant season was the performance of 21-year-old Ivan Vasiliev, already one of the great dancers, in the title role of Spartacus. Merce Cunningham’s company arrived in the UK to show the great man’s final work Nearly Ninety. Next year will be the last ever chance to see his dancers. Will it really come to an end that way?

Hofesh Shechter further strengthened his reputation with the premiere of his thunderingly percussive Political Mother. Choreographer, and Royal Ballet dancer Liam Scarlett’s Asphodel Meadows was premiered at Covent Garden and he was immediately being tipped for a Critics’ Circle Award.

Aerial dance is increasingly popular, with dancers who apparently enjoyed swinging from trees in their childhood. It took a significant step forward with the UK leg of the first European Aerial Dance Forum, which was held in Brighton. Organised by Lindsey Butcher, of the Gravity and Levity company and the good folk at South East Dance, the Forum had aerial companies from Ireland and France performing and taking workshops. Also attending was the aerial dance icon Fred Deb.

October came and at long last Northern Ballet could move into its new Leeds home, to be shared with Phoenix Dance Theatre. The relief is palpable. The joy will be seen in new work, from both companies, to be premiered in Leeds early in the New Year.

The old year drew to a close with the shock announcement from Scottish Ballet that Ashley Page, who rescued the company from near oblivion, will be leaving. The reasoning behind the announcement, and a consequent reaction from Page, remains confusing. Let’s hope there is clarity and a happy outcome fairly soon.

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