Looking back at the Best Dance 2015
In a year of megastars, mega-flops and feted returns, dance has been hitting the headlines. We look back over the best dance shows 2015 gave us, plus more memorable moments
By far the biggest news of 2015 was the retirement of Sylvie Guillem. The long-limbed ballet legend ends her farewell tour in Tokyo with a performance of Bejart’s Bolero ending at midnight on 31st December.
Another great ballerina kept retirement at bay to return to the stage at 52 - Alessandra Ferri showed her undimmed elegance and depths of emotion as the Virginia Woolf / Mrs. Dalloway figure in Wayne McGregor’s visionary Woolf Works. There were doubts McGregor, famously averse to narrative, could pull off a night devoted to the tricksy modernist author, but reviews were almost universally admiring.
Two younger ballet divas prepared for post-ballet life with varying degrees of success. Wendy Whelan, long-time principal of and recent retiree from New York City Ballet, illuminated the Linbury Studio in contemporary duets with the marvellous Royal Ballet principal Edward Watson in Whelan/Watson: Other Stories. Meanwhile Diana Vishneva, principal of the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg and American Ballet Theater, continued her foray into contemporary dance in Vishneva: On the Edge at the Coliseum. In spite of her technical perfection and liquid expression, the rather unfortunate choice of choreographers didn’t augur well for her post-ballet career…
Far more off-piste than these prima ballerinas was the arrival of French choreographer Boris Charmatz at the Tate Modern. Charmatz invaded the cavernous gallery with his Musée de la Danse. Exhibiting dance of every style, performances of Charmatz's own esoteric choreography and a disco night that shook the Turbine Hall, the weekend was a triumph of cross-medium arts.
Modern Masters, ENB
Tamara Rojo lead English National Ballet to further heights of success after their ravishing centenary programme Lest We Forget in an evening of entirely modern works. Modern Masters featured Jirì Kyliàn, John Neumeier and William Forsythe, and showed off the instinctual affinity of dancers like Alina Cojocaru and Begoña Cao for contemporary movement.
Richard Alston, a British choreographer whose avoidance of the mainstream hasn't lessened his wide appeal, celebrated the 20th anniversary of his company at their home venue The Place. The highlight of the immensely satisfying programme was the premiere of a duet to Chopin's Mazurkas, showing off the talents of company dancer Liam Riddick and magnetic former member Jonathan Goddard. The duet appears at Sadler's Wells in 2016, and is a gem not to be missed.
Personalities were indulged as Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter brought a month-long season of his works to the capital in the festival #Hofest. His debut as opera director of Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice met with middling reviews, and his new trilogy Barbarians a rather more negative response, but all was counteracted by the unqualified success of the restaging of Political Mother as a rock concert for the loud and captivated crowd at the O2 Brixton Academy.
Carlos Acosta's farewell
Finally, Carlos Acosta swam on through his final season at the Royal Ballet before retirement from ballet. Those who caught him in his final performance of La Fille Mal Gardéee breathed in the insouciant leap and twinkling sense of character that has taken his name far beyond ballet. His new setting of Carmen this autumn, supposed to be a swansong worthy of such a career, was however a titanic failure. Although critic Jann Parry was more indulgent than most, the Observer's Luke Jennings tweeted ‘Slap bang into the iceberg. No survivors.' We’ll look forward to better use of his supreme talents on his Classical Selection and next year's Elizabeth.