2013 was an exciting year of debuts, revivals, choreographic innovation and dancers regaining the spotlight as the true essence of artistic expression on the dance stage. Cut and paste the links below to read my Top 10 list based on events seen in Toronto this past year:
1. Mad, Sad and a Pleasure to Know: Nijinsky, the full-length ballet based on the life of legendary dancer Vaslav Nijinsky by John Neumeier, featuring outstanding performances by the National Ballet of Canada.
2. Age Has Not Withered Her: Independent dancer Claudia Moore is still going strong at age 60 as seen in her one-woman show, Escape Artist, the portrait of the artist as still vital force.
3. The National Ballet of Canada’s Innovation program presented three world premieres and one company debut by an assortment of leading Canadian contemporary choreographers, resulting in an evening of dance as daring as it was delicious. Superbly danced, too.
4. Christopher House’s Eleven Accords is Steve Reich filtered through a lickety-split choreographic style inspired in large part by the dancers of Toronto Dance Theatre, the company has been directing for 20 years. A notable anniversary gift.
5. The National Ballet of Canada’s Greta Hodgkinson had a banner year, performing a blistering solo in Guillaume Cote’s Being and Nothingness (Part 1) and also getting a welcome boost earlier in the season when partnered by guest artist Mathew Golding, the Canadian-born principal dancer with the Dutch National Ballet who joins the Royal Ballet in 2014. It was a partnership made in ballet heaven, helping to make Hodgkinson even that more brilliant and Golding a name to remember.
6. Margie Gillis is Canada’s answer to Isadora Duncan, a solo dancer who let’s it all hang out when dancing barefoot, often accompanied by her own sighs and plaintive breathing. 2013 saw the Montreal dance return to the stage, engaging as ever at age 60, in a body of new work created with other senior dancers as part of her Margie Gillis Foundation.
7. ProArteDanza is the little company that could. This year the Toronto-based contemporary dance ensemble took on Beethoven and did so imaginatively, underscoring the growing strength as choreographers of Robert Glumbeck and Roberto Campanella.
8. James Kudelka returned to the public eye in 2013, notably to the National Ballet of Canada with not only a world premiere (see #3 above) but a revival of his The Man in Black, a poignant piece danced in cowboy boots and set to a quartet of tear jerking songs by the late Johnny Cash. The National Ballet’s dancers, in particular Piotr Stanczyk and Stephanie Hutchinson, put grit into the steps, making the dance a true highlight of the year.
9. The Bolshoi ballet was consistently in the news this year, the famed Russian ballet company rocked by scandals that included the blinding of its artistic director, Sergei Filin, during an acid attack, the arrest of one of its leading dancers, Pavel Dimtrichenko, now serving jail time as a result of that assault against his former boss, and the departure of ballerina Svetlana Lunkina for a safe haven in Canada. The Bolshoi ballerina’s decision to leave Moscow for Toronto made international headlines. In late August, it was announced she had joined the National Ballet as a principal guest artist, a move seen by many as being a boon to Canadian ballet.
10. A Kiwi filmmaker whose first name translates as warrior, Toa Fraser made a film version of Giselle starring members of the New Zealand Ballet with American Ballet Theatre ballerina Gillian Murphy as the eponymous lead. The film, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, celebrates dancers perhaps more than it does its famous piece of choreography, and for that it is a dance film worth celebrating and remembering as one of the best dance experiences of 2013.