Dance suffered a rough year
2012 will go down as a dismal year for dance.
First off, Saratoga Performing Arts Center once again reduced New York City Ballet’s residency. In 2013, it will only allow a one-week season. In the seven seasons since the new administration and board took over, with a pledge to preserve City Ballet’s stay, the ballet season has deteriorated from three weeks to one.
Dance fared poorly in other venues too. The Egg, a once reliable house for dance, booked fewer events this year. Of those it did book, two were canceled. Proctors trimmed its offerings of dance as well, showing just two ballets on the main stage all year. Kaatsbaan International Dance Center also struggled, presenting one-night only programs as opposed to the weekend-long showcases that it used to stage.
The dance gods were still smiling on Jacob’s Pillow, where devotion to the art and its audience remained firm. This can also be said for the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) in Troy, dedicated to the avant-garde, and PS/21 The Tent, which stayed faithful to its annual Parsons Dance Company residency.
Their secret: Quality programming and an unwavering trust in that quality. It might be more costly, but it built and assured a committed audience.
Here are the top shows for 2012:
New York City Ballet in “Romeo + Juliet” at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. With the first cast including Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild in the lead roles, Peter Martins’ Shakespearean tragedy was a completely rewarding experience.
Paul Taylor Dance Company in “The Uncommitted” at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. Set to haunting music by Avro Pärt, this was a heartbreaking dance about the hook-up culture and the emotional toll it takes.
Mimulus in “Por Um Fio” or “By the Thread” at Jacob’s Pillow. This enthralling and energetic contemporary ensemble from Brazil was marvelous with its seamless samba, tango and street dancing in a spellbinding salute to artist Arthur Bispo do Rosario.
New York City Ballet in “Symphony in C” at SPAC. Into this elegant, black-and-white delight, George Balanchine poured all that he knew of the classical ballet vocabulary. Each movement outdid the next for a memorable and regal performance.
Compagnie Kafig at Jacob’s Pillow. This all-male hip-hop ensemble from Brazil blended flash, strength and agility into a highly structured and eye-catching evening of contemporary dance.
Rodrigo Pardo’s “Flat” at EMPAC. Audiences lay flat on the stage floor below a suspended stage where a harnessed dancer skewed and questioned perspective and reality. With text, video and music, the dance was mysterious and fascinating.
Joffrey Ballet at Jacob’s Pillow. It took 50 years for the Joffrey Ballet to return to the Pillow. It reappeared with an impressive display that showcased its versatile talents beautifully.
New York City Ballet in “DGV: Danse a Grande Vitesse” at SPAC. Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, this was a mighty and majestic creation for 26 dancers that churned with a tireless force to demanding music by Michael Nayman.
Debra Fernandez’s “Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano” at Skidmore College. With the curtains opened onto the campus grounds, this dance set to John Cage’s composition for prepared piano was satisfying, running the gamut of tones: bright and dark, ominous and joyful, perky and remote.
Saratoga Dances at Skidmore College. This was a love fest between New York City Ballet dancers and its local fan base. It featured Justin Peck’s newest creation as well as a full rendering of George Balanchine’s masterpiece “Apollo” with the charming Ask la Cour in the lead role.
— Gazette dance writer Wendy Liberatore