Arts review of 2011 - Dance: How ballet became a blast again

Wayne McGregor's fiery new work stepped out of dance's comfort zoneI and re-energised the form

It was a year when dance leapt from stage to screen and on to the news pages.

The film Black Swan – an enjoyable if lurid psychological thriller whose plot hung on a dancer's determination to conquer the lead role in Swan Lake – split opinion between those who felt it was high time ballet got a slice of the Hollywood cake, and others who thought it a howling travesty.

Thanks to staggered launch dates either side of the Atlantic, debate rumbled on for months, reviving after the Oscars with a squabble over the exact percentage of dancing done by Natalie Portman, who won Best Actress for her "transformation into a ballerina". Hmmm, said the people who dance for a living. The real howler in this critic's view was the "progressive" production of Swan Lake presented in the film, which was so dull it sorely undersold the art form. On stage, meanwhile, ballet companies devised other ways of reducing their appeal to a grown-up audience.

Four legs good

When funds are tight, don an animal costume. That seemed to be the response of most British ballet companies to the slashing of Arts Council subsidies. Aside from the usual Nutcrackers and Cinderellas, there were two Alice in Wonderlands, two Beauty and the Beasts, Peter and the Wolf and a Beatrix Potter. Less prettily, and for far too short a run at the Linbury Studio, Edward Watson put in an extraordinary performance as an insect, oozing brown juice, in Arthur Pita's take on Kafka's Metamorphosis.

More balls than a tennis match

Most tedious experience was without doubt Un peu de tendresse, a visiting show from Canada so desperate to get a reaction – any reaction – that it sent naked male dancers out into the stalls to sit on punters' laps.

Most baffling career move

In October, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow reopened after the most expensive refurb ever ($700m!), only to find that its most-prized principal ballet couple, real-life lovers Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, had jumped ship for a less prestigious outfit.

Best new choreography

As ever, Wayne McGregor seemed to find more hours in the day than other mortals. In May, he made a stunning contribution to a Royal Ballet triple bill with Live Fire Exercise, inspired by the controlled explosions used in military training. The dancers' movements, while more or less classical, were informed by the way soldiers are trained to deal with shell blasts. It's thrilling when ballet reaches out beyond its self-reflecting bubble.

Equally memorable was Akram Khan's Desh, a vastly ambitious, love-hate homage to his father's homeland, Bangladesh, in which Khan span yarns, climbed magic trees, and movingly played both himself and his dad.

Times past

Best revival of the year was Dance Umbrella's mesmeric restaging of Lucinda Childs's seminal Dance, from 1979, a non-stop head trip of running and twirling lines.

R.I.P.

In July, days before a season of his work at English National Ballet, the choreographer Roland Petit died at 87. In tribute, Russian star Ivan Vasiliev (see above) offered his services free to ENB, delivering a benchmark performance of Petit's Le jeune homme et la mort.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy