Innovation, inspiration and perspiration characterised the year in dance. It was a year of inevitable departures and untimely deaths. It was the last go-around for Sylvie Guillem who danced into immortality with the modest but celebratory Life in Progress programme, while Carlos Acosta flexed his muscles on the stage of Covent Garden for the last time in Carmen. Acosta’s new projects include a new company in his native Cuba, but there will be a great Guillem-shaped hole in our lives for ever.
We lost Nureyev protegee Bryony Brind to a heart attack at the tragically young age of 55 and Jonathan Ollivier at 38 in a horrific road accident on his way to perform in Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man. We mourn them both.
There was good work all over the place. Wayne McGregor got everything right with his Woolf Works, enhanced by the luminous presence of Alessandra Ferri, coaxed out of retirement to dance the title role. Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter pulled off a quadruple whammy with @Hofest – four separate pieces in various venues – including the monster Political Mother: The Choreographer’s Cut, which shook the walls of Brixton’s O2 Academy. Two fabulous Swan Lakes from Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet kept the torch blazing for classical ballet danced properly. Tamara Rojo’s reign at English National Ballet continued to boldly go into new territory with the successful tour of First World War programme, Lest We Forget and an intriguing glimpse of new talent in Choreographies.
In Birmingham, David Bintley unveiled his tribute to the Sun King and the birth of ballet with The King Dances in which William Bracewell won deserved plaudits while Akram Khan and Israel Galvan returned to astonish us with Torobaka – a dance-off between a Kathak neo-classicist and a flamenco anarchist. Two virtuosos for the price of one.
There were surprises and delights elsewhere, particularly Carlos Pons Guerra’s Denada Dance Theatre programme at the Blue Elephant theatre and Crystal Pite’s blazingly original duet A Picture of You Falling, which formed part of the Associates triple bill at Sadler’s Wells. The sublime creative partnership of Russell Maliphant and Michael Hulls delivered a great programme featuring old favourites and new work with Conceal/Reveal late in the year while Paco Pena came up with the compelling and provocative flamenco show Flamencura.
Vivacious visitors brought light and colour to British stages, including the well-muscled and athletic company Baila Brazil, the endearingly eccentric Coup Fatal from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the eye-popping spectacle of Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. Last but by no means least, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo brought the audience to its feet at venues throughout the UK. The all-male Trocks may look like drag artists but they dance like divine divas. They have never been better.
Best and worst
BEST OF THE YEAR
Woolf Works (Royal Ballet)
Smartypants choreographer Wayne McGregor delivered his best work to date in this extraordinary extrapolation of three key novels by Virginia Woolf. A perfectly balanced triptych with a cast to die for.
WORST OF THE YEAR
Partita 2 (Sadler’s Wells)
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker teamed up with anti-dance iconoclast Boris Charmatz in a lamentable display of self-indulgent activity in an attempt to deconstruct Bach’s Partita No 2. Bach won.