Natalia Osipova as Juliet with The Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, London
Osipova, an ex-Bolshoi ballerina with thrilling stage presence, joined The Royal Ballet in autumn 2013. Her first Juliet with the company was electrifying, both for the lush power of her dancing and for powerful dramatic insight. Osipova has The Royal Ballet’s rich dramatic repertory ahead of her: I can’t wait.
Rocío Molina, "Danzaora", Sadler’s Wells
One of the world’s greatest flamenco dancers, Molina is an utterly individual talent. In this solo show, she’s fierce, funny and commanding. In one scene, she dances around a wineglass, delicate feet brushing over the top – then stamping it to smithereens and rattling over the fragments.
"Dracula", Mark Bruce Company
The superb Jonathan Goddard made an animalistic vampire, as far outside human morality as a shark or a wolf. Around him, Mark Bruce’s production conjured a creepy, funny fin-de-siècle setting, using the atmosphere of venues such as Bristol’s Tobacco Factory and Wilton’s Music Hall in London.
"24 Preludes", The Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, London
Alexei Ratmansky’s first work for The Royal Ballet is romantic and highly distinctive. Danced to Jean Françaix’s odd arrangement of Chopin, it shows off its dancers’ strong personalities in shimmering, mercurial dances.
"Mark Morris Dance Group", Sadler’s Wells, London
With seven UK premieres, this repertory season was a chance to catch up with one of the world’s best-loved choreographers. Highlights included A Wooden Tree, a delightfully daft romp to comic songs by Ivor Cutler, and the remarkable Socrates, which hides mysterious depths beneath a limpid, classical surface.
Discovery of the year
The Bolshoi Ballet’s young star has a moonlit glow to her dancing. Two years after graduating from ballet school, she’s already a fully fledged ballerina, long-limbed and elegant in La Bayadère and Diamonds. As the Bolshoi recovers from a year of scandals, Smirnova is one of its hopes for the future.
Turkey of the Year
"Midnight Express", Peter Schaufuss Ballet, London Coliseum
Sergei Polunin pulled out of this horror at the last minute – and though he’s getting a reputation for vanishing acts, it was hard to blame him in this case. Schaufuss’ prison ballet was embarrassingly bad, with disco brutality and aerobics-class angst.