It was the year of the long goodbye for Darcey Bussell. First, there was the farewell gala at Sadler's Wells, produced by her old stablemates, the Ballet Boyz. They cleverly combined what the public wanted for their ticket money (two hours of non-stop Darcey) with what was physically possible for one dancer six nights on the trot by interweaving live items with intimate filmed interviews. The result was not only neat, entertaining and surprisingly classy, but gave Bussell the run of her life. She'd rarely danced better. Less happy was her Covent Garden send-off when, broadcast live to a reported six million television viewers, she looked pale and stricken throughout Kenneth MacMillan's Song of the Earth a ballet all about death then sobbed and sobbed as she took a painfully protracted curtain call, which threatened to turn into a grisly episode of This is Your Life. Too bad it didn't end there. Bizarrely, the ballerina so determined to quit at the top of her game popped up only months later as a novice tap-dancer and variety artiste in the trashy Viva la Diva, beside glamour songbird Katherine Jenkins. Clearly it was a case of "Mmm, I've always wanted a go at that ...". But couldn't someone have stopped her?
It was a busy year for Carlos Acosta too, though he's not going anywhere but onward and upward. The high points were the publication of his book, No Way Home: A Cuban Dancer's Story, and his guest-spot with the Bolshoi, dancing Spartacus. The book didn't tell you much about ballet, but it was full of fascinating stuff about Acosta's poverty-stricken upbringing, his youthful kleptomania, and his energetic sex life. If you ever wondered how ballet males manage to keep their, ahem, cool, while manhandling young lovelies in the rehearsal studio, this book tells all. Performance-wise, it was a vintage year for Acosta-watchers. At the Royal Ballet he turned in searing performances as Romeo, as Onegin, and as the mad, bad Crown Prince in Mayerling. And at the Coliseum in Spartacus he proved his manhood in the tiniest of togas, launching himself into space with the fastest, highest and most gasp-provoking jumps ever devised. He reprised the effect in the heroic Corsair pas de deux which topped off his own show at Sadler's Wells in the autumn. Pity the rest was so short and slight. Fabulous as he is, Acosta is still on the learner slopes as a producer.
Meanwhile, Hofesh Schechter was the most exciting thing to happen in contemporary dance. In a short six months, his In Your Rooms graduated from playing at the 300-seat Place, to the 900-seat Queen Elizabeth Hall, to wowing a 1,500-strong crowd at Sadler's Wells. Each step saw the young Israeli upping the ante, expanding the work, adding more dancers and live musicians until what emerged had the buzz and the visceral clout of the very best rock gig, and a vision that touched on political. Other contemporary dance highs included Mark Bruce's rock-powered, woad-smeared Sea of Bones, and Klaus Obermaier's digitally interactive Rite of Spring at the Festival Hall, with the "action" projected on a screen above the LPO playing at full tilt an experience truly out of this world.Reuse content