DANCER OF THE YEAR : Sweet bird of youth: our newest Swan takes flight

The most popular film-maker in history got into history, and stayed popular. Glyndebourne rose again, handsomely. Pop ate itself, but survived. Steve Coogan was everywhere, and so was Hugh Grant; only one of them is praised here. The theatre had a thin time, but television drama serials made up for it. People defined themselves on Mondays at 9pm: were you for `Cracker' or `Chuzzlewit'? And again on Saturdays at 8pm: did you really believe that a 14m-1 shot would win?(Or did you do it for love of the arts?) It wasn't the best of years, but it had its moments. And here they are, in the fourth annual `IoS' Awards
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LAST MONTH, contemporary dance group Adventures in Motion Pictures named Royal Ballet principle Adam Cooper as the leading man of it's next major project - a radically revised version of Swan Lake to be choreographed by Matthew Bourne. Cooper, wh o joined the Royal Ballet in 1989, aged 18, is no stranger to Swan Lake: four years ago, while still a relatively inexperienced member of the corps, he made an unprecedented debut as Prince Siegfried. But in Bourne's production (scheduled for November 19

95), he returns to Tchaikovsky's ballet in another, more unusual capacity - as the Swan.

Although Cooper is one of the Royal's most versatile and gifted dancers - a rising star blessed with youth (he is 23) and boyish, yet saturnine good looks - Bourne's decision to place him at the heart of AMP's male-dominated Swan Lake is entirely apt foranother reason. Anyone who has seen Cooper dance can hardly have failed to notice the articulate beauty and truly classical grandeur of his arms, or the relaxed poise of head and neck which lends his movement an easy power and imbues his posture with analmost old-fashioned masculine elegance. With upper-body dance qualities like these, Cooper was born to be a swan.

And with the kinds of dramatic skills which he has already put to stunning use - as Romeo (in MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet); as Demetrius (in Ashton's The Dream); and, most recently, as Dorkon (in Daphnis and Chloe) - Cooper looks set to grow into one ofthe Royal's finest interpretative artists. All this is reason enough to select him as Dancer of the Year. But such an award also implies the honouring of a single, significant achievement. In Cooper's case, that achievement dates back to a performance of MacMillan's Mayerling last January. Called on to replace an injured Zoltn Solymosi, he found himself making his British debut in the formidable role of Crown Prince Rudolph at just a few hours notice. After his incandescent portrayal of the depraved and sadistic Rudolph, Cooper was duly promoted to principal.

On the independent dance scene, James DeMaria's topsy-turvy, feline prowess was deployed to supreme effect in Yolande Snaith's Five Lives and Laurie Booth's Wonderlawn. But Cooper and DeMaria aside, 1994 proved a year in which productions and companies rather than individual dancers triumphed. Particularly memorable was the unrelenting visceral and psychological intensity of Jonathan Burrows' Our, his most accomplished work to date. At the Edinburgh Festival, Miami City Ballet's pair of all-Balanchine bills proved a glorious credit to both choreographer and company. But the Mark Morris Dance Group in Morris's L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato must take the prize for most sublime experience not just of the Festival but of 1994.

And finally, thank you too, Michael Clark for O - his beautiful and perspicacious take on Balanchine's Apollo - but not for giving everyone the opportunity to call him a bad boy again, after his failure to complete his first Royal Ballet commission. If, as hoped, the work comes to fruition in time for the Royal's "Dance Bites" tour in January, it could well be one of the earliest treats of 1995.

Previous winners: 1991 Yelena Pankova (guest with ENB); 1992 Irek Mukham-edov (Royal Ballet); 1993 Yolande Snaith (Theatredance).