Dance
SOMETHING OLD, something new, something borrowed - the reliable old formula worked again. Yes, I did see something blue too, but that was not a highlight of my year.

The best of the old was Birmingham Royal Ballet's revival of Ninette de Valois's The Prospect Before Us, a huge hit during the Second World War but not performed for 50 years because everyone was afraid it would not work without its original star, the late, great Robert Helpmann.

Well, there isn't really anyone to match his comic exuberance, but the jokes now are given more as an ensemble effort, and how good it was to see David Bintley's company celebrating the centenary of their founder, Dame Ninette, by presenting such a lively, funny, unhackneyed piece, with a story which proved that in the 18th century dancers got up to just as many lively tricks as they do today.

My best new piece also had a female choreographer, Siobhan Davies, who never offers anything so old-fashioned as a story, but does make beautiful dances for her beautiful dancers. She called this work Eighty- eight because that's the year she started her company, and also because it is the number of keys on a piano. She set it to Conlon Nancarrow's highly individual music for player piano. Sometimes mysterious, sometimes jazzy, the outcome was so appealing I was drawnto see it again and again.

The reopening of the new, vastly improved Sadler's Wells Theatre brought joy to the autumn with a series of dance companies; among them William Forsythe's amazing company from Frankfurt. His choreography, taking classical ballet further into the next century than anyone else has attempted, was already admired here, thanks to the Royal Ballet, but for the greatest delight you need to see his regular dancers making its revolutionary innovations of shape, timing and texture look absolutely natural.

And while London borrowed from Germany, the Edinburgh Festival borrowed three dance companies from Holland to celebrate the highly original Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen. Best of all was the devastating originality of Live. This lets its female protagonist start on stage, accompanied by giant video projections of her face or hands before the cameraman pursues her into the street while the enthralled audience sits watching her image walk. So vulnerable, so brave; such magic.

Comments