Dance 2010: Blazing Sadler's gallops home

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The Independent Culture

Most Cheering Statistic of 2010 Flying in the face of every gloomy prediction about personal spending, last season Sadler's Wells reported its biggest audiences ever, with 600,000 people turning out to see 136 shows – predominantly of contemporary dance.

A second record was broken earlier this month, as the 300-year-old London theatre rejoiced in its biggest ever advance booking – for its current run of Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, set in the Blitz. Not only is Sadler's Wells head honcho Alistair Spalding right on the money (most of the time, anyway, see below). The public seem to have pretty good taste, too.

Sizzling Couple of the Year

Ever since Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev did or didn't get it on in the mid-1960s (and no one will ever know), ballet audiences have had a soft spot for real-life couples. Over the past year, perversely, the Royal's three principal pairings have rarely been cast together, leaving the field to the visiting Bolshoi. Lovers Natalia Osipova (24) and Ivan Vasiliev (just 21) were the undisputed stars of the Russians' summer season, with her Coppélia as radiant and cheeky as his Spartacus was visceral and virile. Together in Don Quixote, they were pheromonal dynamite.

Hippest Name to Drop in 2010

Once again, it was a toss-up between the home-grown Wayne McGregor and Israel-born Hofesh Shechter, now installed at the Brighton Dome. McGregor, remarkably, has lost no street cred whatsoever in being co-opted to the Royal Ballet's staff. FAR, premiered by his own company Random, bore all his radical hallmarks – slicing angles and whiplash curves that flicker through the dancers' limbs – yet it also contained one of the most purely beautiful duets made by anyone, anywhere. Shechter, meanwhile, produced the ground-shuddering but nebulous Political Mother – an experience so powerful and downright loud that no one who was there could have remained indifferent, in spite of not knowing what was going on. (Obliquely, it was the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is probably a first.)

Best Immobile Dance Event

Have you seen the Diaghilev exhibition at the V&A? There's still time, if you're quick. Mounted to mark the 100th anniversary of the Ballets Russes – a phenomenon that put a bomb under staid 19th-century traditions of theatrical dance – the show is intended for a general public, not ballet buffs. What's more, it's multi-sensory, enveloping the visitor in a welter of music, coloured light and exotic stage sets, as well as a fantastic range of artworks and costumes that, together, leave you not just informed, but aglow.

Most Potent Influence

Hip hop and other street styles yet again proved hot to trot. What's stopping them from taking over is only their short attention spa ....

Most Ill-Judged Project

In August, Sadler's Wells premiered Shoes, a dance-musical about, yes, footwear. Dismally reviewed, it is nonetheless due to transfer to the West End in the spring. Then we'll know whether it really has legs.