Dance: Reduced City Ballet presence felt at SPAC; ‘Sleeping Beauty’ a hit
In 2013, dance took a turn.
Saratoga Performing Arts Center shortened New York City Ballet’s stay to one week and filled out the dance-empty days with other troupes — National Ballet of Canada and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
As a result, attendance suffered. So too did quality. But Momix’s one-nighter at the outdoor amphitheater attracted a large crowd.
Proctors saw changes too. Rather than invite its usual run of second-tier ballet and modern dance ensembles, the Schenectady theater joined the circus. Several troupes crossed its stage, including Cirque Éloize, which had a three-week, mixed-reception summer stay.
The Egg, the busiest non-summer dance house, has regained its footing. While it didn’t offer as many shows, the ones that were booked in the financially challenged theater were of a higher caliber.
The Egg’s programing included Mark Morris Dance Group, which also made its annual appearance at Tanglewood. This visit demonstrated choreographer Morris’ shift toward opera, which is probably a wise move as it appears he is growing bored with the strictly dance realm.
Luckily, Jacob’s Pillow, the most important summer festival in the world, remains committed to the art form. As usual, it surpassed every theater with its breadth and depth of interesting dance. Jacob’s Pillow is a dance treasure trove that deserves to be cherished and revered.
Here are the top shows for 2013:
Matthew Bourne’s “The Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance” at Proctors. Choreographer Bourne remade this Tchaikovsky classic into one that included vampires and human sacrifice. This imaginative rendering was stunning and creative, while superbly respectful of the glorious score.
Compagnie Kafig at Jacob’s Pillow. Compagnie Kafig, the Brazilian/French hip-hop sensation, was explosive and charming in its repeat performance at the Pillow. The all-male ensemble revealed artists of astonishing talents in irresistibly unique dances, leaving its audience breathless and euphoric.
Pilobolus at The Egg. At 41 years old, Pilobolus has had its ups and downs. But in this Egg program, this collaborative ensemble looked better than ever in a meticulously rehearsed, brilliant nod to the quirkiness of humanity — a la Pilobolus’ singular style — of course.
New York City Ballet in Justin Peck’s “Year of the Rabbit” at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. This surprising ballet defied all categories with its six principals and corps de ballet in a churning and darting dance that shifted this atmospheric ballet into many delightful landscapes.
Slask Polish Song and Dance Ensemble at Proctors. This 80-member strong troupe filled the ears and dazzled the eyes with its highly choreographed renderings of its majestic folk arts. On its 60th anniversary tour, this troupe of singers and dancers led by a dynamic orchestra took the audience on a grand excursion through the fields, forests and mountain of Poland.
New York City Ballet in George Balanchine’s “Theme and Variation” at SPAC. This challenging ballet swept its audience up in a palace ball. It was danced with verve and august elegance by Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette.
Philadanco at The Egg. This contemporary ensemble of athletic, dynamic dancers demonstrated its versatility in a program that featured African-inspired dancing by the esoteric dance-maker Ronald K. Brown and street funk moves by hard-hitting, socially conscious Rennie Harris.
Traces at Proctors. This tight-knit team of acrobats presented a program of daring, gravity-defying beauty. These artists amazed with their leaps from stunt to stunt with effortless grace.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at SPAC. Even though this juicy contemporary troupe was diminished on the big stage at SPAC, it performed works by some of today’s hottest choreographers with its trademark guts and energy.
Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal at MASS MoCA. This urbane ensemble from the north heated up the theater with ultra-hip and ultra-stunning dances by choreographers rarely seen in these parts, proving once again that Les Ballets Jazz is a superior brand where extreme physicality is the shocking norm.
— Dance reviewer Wendy Liberatore