LEADERS OF THE PACK / Classic turns and high risks: Dancer Of The Year

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The Independent Culture
WHAT a year. Like Mohammed, the Bolshoi, the Kirov, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and the Mark Morris Dance Company came to our mountain. All were superlative. The Bolshoi found its form after a shaky start, while its St Petersburg rival, the Kirov, brought superb classicism. Baryshnikov, rising 46, is still the greatest. And Morris set the Edinburgh Festival alight with his musicality, wit and invention.

British-based dancers who stood out included Darcey Bussell of the Royal Ballet in her debut as Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. Her radiant purity defined the role for her generation. Marion Tait of the Birmingham Royal Ballet was a matchless Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Her passion and grace swept you along every step of the way. Jeremy James as Hamlet in Arc Dance Company's Antic expressed deep psychological conflict through neat, fleet dance. In Herman Schmerman, Adam Cooper of the Royal Ballet proved a strong partner for the divine Sylvie Guillem.

I am choosing not a dancer of the year but a dance company. The winner is Yolande Snaith Theatredance for Diction. Snaith assembled a strong group, including Lauren Potter, one of Britain's best contemporary dancers, for her richly visual piece. Diction takes you into a looking-glass world of upside-down logic in which dancers compete with each other to follow the cryptic diktats of unyielding gods. Snaith is a risk-taker: dancers take running leaps at each other, balance precariously on rungs of ladders, spill each other over by the thigh. Snaith's vision does not always coincide with reality as we know it; her physical theatre is ghostly, fantastic, thrilling.

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