Review of 2012: Dance

Anna Karenina brushed aside by a streetcar

Jenny Gilbert
Sunday 30 December 2012 01:00
The Olympic opening ceremony
The Olympic opening ceremony

Treat of a lifetime

Some will remember the summer of 2012 for the jitterbugging nurses in the Olympic opening ceremony. Others will remember Akram Khan's singular contribution to the same. But for many, 2012 was the year they finally learnt what all the fuss was about vis-a-vis the late Pina Bausch. World Cities 2012 offered 10 of her productions, each an ambitiously scaled reflection on a global location and culture. Curiously, though, it was neither the most spectacular, nor the funniest moments that lodged in the brain. It was the quiet repetitions, the folding and unfolding of an Indian dhoti in the Calcutta show, women gathering potatoes in their skirts in the one about Santiago, Chile, that seeped into your consciousness and stayed there.

Best and worst adaptations

Novels and plays might seem a gift to a choreographer stuck for a story, but the greater the source material, the greater the scope for disaster. From St Petersburg, the Eifman Ballet's lurid treatment of Anna Karenina had you longing for the blessed peace of those railway tracks. By contrast, Scottish Ballet's A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Nancy Meckler and choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, was pithy, imaginative, and thrillingly true to the spirit of the play.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Carbon Life – an over-hyped collaboration between the Royal Ballet's Wayne McGregor and DJ Mark Ronson – was a chaotic mess, not helped by distracting entrances from a very large Boy George. On the same triple bill, however, was Sweet Violets, a boldly old-fashioned second Royal Ballet commission for 25-year-old Liam Scarlett. His debt to Kenneth MacMillan was plain as he explored the grisly story of Walter Sickert, the Camden Town artist obsessed with murder. But it made you impatient to see more. Sure enough, Scarlett's contribution to the Royal Ballet's Olympic Titian project was also superb.

Musical chairs

Contracts departments have had a busy time. Monica Mason , artistic director of the Royal Ballet, retired in July after an illustrious 55-year career. Her successor, Kevin O'Hare, a popular internal appointment, suffered a minor wobble when, only weeks into the job, he lost his inspirational boss Lord (Tony) Hall to the BBC. Meanwhile, former principal dancer Tamara Rojo, 38, having failed to land the Royal Ballet job, now heads English National Ballet where she has vowed to continue dancing. This means, not to put too fine a point on it, that ENB's leading men are required, on a regular basis, to put their hand up the director's skirt. But if anyone could make that work, it's Rojo – tough, ambitious, and sharp as a tack.

Most misguided career move

When 22-year-old Sergei Polunin walked out of the Royal Opera House and didn't go back, he passed up the chance of being the next Rudolf Nureyev. Yes, we'll see more of this dragon-tattooed boy wonder. But his artistry is unlikely to get the careful nurturing it needs, and the projects he has undertaken since have a distinct whiff of vanity about them.

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