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The Best & Worst of 2012

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Since it is the time for year-end lists, I thought people might be interested in this topic.

For me, the bests included:

- The rare visit to New York City of the Paris Opera Ballet. The company has many remarkable artists, and we didn't even get to see all of them on the tour! Let's hope that we don't have to wait another 15 years to see them again here in NYC.

-Wheeldon's DGV. Yes, I know it premiered a few years ago, but it was new to me when it finally came to New York in 2012. Every time I saw it I was able to discern nuances and details in the choreography that I had not previously noticed. I hope this one comes back in the NYCB rep soon. It was very inventive. Kudos to NYCB for staging an All Wheeldon evening. Let' s hope there are many more.

-Sara Mearns in Russian Seasons. In her debut as the girl in red, she danced with absolute abandon. That performance has stayed in my mind for many months.

- ABT. There were so many highs. The magnificent second Swan Lake performance of Hallberg and Semionova. The Gomes-Vishneva Onegins. The Cojocaru-Vasiliev Bayadere. The Corella and Steifel farewells. The Corsaires with Osipova, Vasiliev, Gomes, Cornejo and so on. Too many excellent performances to even mention. Also the new Ratmansky ballet, Symphony No. 9. I can't wait to see it again.

-Emerging Pictures films. These broadcasts of Bolshoi performances are fascinating and give us the opportunity to see world class artists. Keep them coming!

-Olga Smirnova: I've only seen her once live, at the Stars of the 21st Century gala a few months ago. I seen her on video too. This woman seems to have it all. I can't wait to see more of her.

-Legends in Dance Gala honoring Makarova. There were so many great dancers on that stage dancing at full tilt to pay honor to one of the greatest ever.


Australian Ballet Swan Lake.

Sylvie Guillem at the Koch Theater

Ratmansky's Firebird.

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Part/Gomes Bayadere, ABT

Staging of Lichine's Graduation Ball, Ballet Etudes Florida

Ballet Imperial, MCB

Jeanette Delgado's Coppelia, MCB

Moradillo/Carreno's Giselle

Being at the Garnier during Ashton's Fille, POB.

Being able to see the Bolshoi's opening online. Hallberg's Desiree-(not Zakharova's Aurora), BB.


Scalet's Viscera

Wheeldon's Liturgy

Tharp's In the Upper Room

Ratmansky's Symphonic Dances

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Above and beyond anything else, Kondaurova's lush Swan Lake in Berkeley.

Maria Kochetkova's lovely Tatiana, SFB

Gennadi Nedvigin's Lensky, SFB About as close to perfection as you're likely to see.


Vanessa Zahorian's bland Tatiana, SFB Technically proficient as always, but beyond that, she just didn't get it.

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1) Paris Opera Ballet (POB) tours the United States after an absence of nearly twenty years. Better still, the programming consisted of dances by choreographers (Bausch, Bejart, Lifar, Petit) whose works are largely unknown to US audiences.

2) POB revived Merce Cunningham's Un jour ou deux for only the third time since its creation for the Opera in 1973. The Opera shows leadership in preserving Cunningham!

3) ABT cast its revival of The Moor's Pavane from strength -- Marcelo Gomes, Cory Stearns, Julie Kent and Veronika Part.

4) Limon Dance Company has survived 40 years since Jose Limon's death.

5) Breaking Pointe

6) Alastair Macauley


1) General sense of rudderlessness at ABT. Spackled together principals roster, lackluster productions, throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-if-something-sticks artistic direction, etc., etc. (Time for a change at the top.)

2) Simkin promotion

3) Angel Corella given a shove out the door.

4) Karl Paquette having to perform Don Quixote a dozen times in Paris. Disgraceful and irresponsible on POB management's part.

5) Cunningham repertory already in decline and he hasn't even been gone three years.

6) Antony Tudor repertory on the edge of extinction.

7) Martha Graham Dance Company continued its descent into unwitting, Trocks-like, self-parody.

8) Alastair Macauley

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6) Alastair Macauley


8) Alastair Macauley

As a dance critic, I think I can say that Macauley would be tickled to appear in both categories here!

But I think this entry really gets to the central point...

Best - being alive to see dance

Worst - not seeing more of it

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um, can we perhaps post a prominent note that reminds members of the spelling of the surname of the chief dance critic for the NYTimes?

the 'a's have it: ALASTAIR MACAULAY - there are no 'e's in his name, anywhere.

My bad -- I should have checked, instead of copying.

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For me - Best:

Tiler Peck & Joaquin De Luz - Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux

In fact Tiler Peck in anything

Teresa Reichlein - Rubies

Daniel Ulbricht - Tarantella

Cojocaru & Kobborg - Romeo and Juliet

The Moors Pavane - the fact of it as well as the Gomes, Part, Kent, Stern cast.


Daniil Simkin - Stars & Stripes ppd - his partnering made it hard to watch.

ABT's continued lack of real leadership.

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Best (of my rather limited ballet going):

1)Ashton's Dream at ABT--all three casts, but special mention to Herman Cornejo's Puck,Gillian Murphy's Titania, and (a Titania at a different performance) Julie Kent's magical balance in the final pas de deux -- out of nowhere, not really a balance at all: she just stopped time.

2)Ratmansky's Firebird at ABT--All three casts (minus Copeland due to injury): but special mention to Herman Cornejo's Ivan

3)The Balanchine-Stravinsky Festival program at NYCB w. Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Monumentum/Movements, Duo Concertante, and Symphony in Three Movements--both casts I saw, but special mention to Sterling Hyltin in Symphony in Three Movements and Robert Fairchild in Stravinsky Violin concerto

4)Osipova-Gomez sailing across the stage in perfectly attuned tour jetes in the classical divertissement of Bayadere Act I.

5)Osipova-Hallberg Giselles (Chicago and New York)

6)Cojocaru's Nikiya

7)Twyla Tharp's The Princess and the Goblin with the Atlanta Ballet

Overall, a very fortunate ballet-going year for me and I am leaving several excellent performances off the list because I consider it cheating if one includes everything one liked!


1)Missing the Paris Opera Ballet's visit to the U.S.-- though, more precisely, that would be my biggest regret

2)I have seen several movements of Symphony in C and Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet at NYCB in better shape and remember a time when, at ABT, the Golden Idol in Bayadere was something of a highlight and the corps, whatever their weaknesses, did not make silly mistakes in the Shades scene.

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Best (in no specific order)

1)The Royal Ballet's double bill of Ashton's Dream and Macmillan's Song of the Earth (particularly Edward Watson as the messenger of death and Marianela Nunez's emotional debut as the lead woman)

2) Cojocaru/Kobborg in Romeo and Juliet and La Sylphide

3) Alina Cojocaru's Natayla in Ashton's Month in The Country.

4) Natalia Osipova in The Royal Ballet's Swan Lake

5) Nunez/Acosta in Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardee- pure joy!

6) Steven McRae's James and Romeo.

7) David Bintley's Far from the Madding Crowd for Birmingham Royal Ballet

8) Scottish Ballet's A Streetcar Named Desire

9)Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin bringing the house down during the Raymonda Act III Pd2 as part of the Russian Ballet Icons gala.

10)San Francisco Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour

11) The Royal Ballet Live Broadcast


1) Liam Scarlett's Sweet Violets

2) The Revival of Macmillan's Prince of the Pagodas

3) Diana and Actaeon by Liam Scarlett, Will Scarlett and Jonathan Watkins.

4)) Ivan Putrov's Men in Motion programmes.

5) Irina D and Maxim B in Splendid Isolation 3.

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The Best

By far the best of all was Thomas Lund's final performances as James in "La Sylphide" and the Teacher in "The Lesson." (With the bonus track of his King Didon in Alexei Ratmansky's "The Golden Cockerel" the night before.) There outpouring of love and respect the company and audience gave him in his final performance as a Solodanser was like something I've never seen before and thought I never would.

Jonathan Porretta as Gamache -- like Johnny Depp, only more beautiful, and an extraordinary balance of vanity, humor, and hysteria -- and Sancho Panza to Otto Neubert's Don Quixote in Alexei Ratmansky's "Don Quixote," about as opposite a pair of characters as it comes, and each one of them a combination of pathos and humor.

Carrie Imler as Kitri in Ratmansky's "Don Quixote." To say that she was born for the role is an understatement, but then, when she dances Lilac Fairy, I feel the same way. She was light and charming, which, combined with her characteristic technical command was a joy. As icing on the cake, she was an innkeeper's daughter: as much as she loved Basilio, she had a head on her affectionate shoulders, and if Basilio's friends thought they were going to get a lifetime of free haircuts, they had another thing coming.

Leta Biasucci as Swanhilde in Balanchine's "Coppelia." It's always great to see a young dancer take the reins and excel, but it's whole other level when he or she owns a part, filling it with detail, nuance, and expert dramatic arc as Biasucci did last June.

Lucien Postlewaite and Seth Orza, back-to-back in "Apollo." Postlewaite's was exquisitely fine-tuned and musical, and in it, Orza's was the most dynamically and musically alive I've seen him.

Lucien Postlewaite's performances in the PNB season-ender Encores program. In Pas de Deux from "Prodigal Son" with Laura Gilbreath, he reprised the role in which he burst to prominence years before as an injury replacement. In the film excerpt from "Cylindrical Shadows" he was a member of the ensemble in a co-commission with his husband, Olivier Wevers', company Whim W'him. In Maillot's "Romeo et Juliette" "Balcony Pas de Deux," he danced with long-time partner and friend, Kaori Nakamura. Nakamura and he didn't perform this work with each other until an injury to Postlewaite's partner, Carla Korbes, caused them to pair up in the PDD in the "Love Stories" program in Fall 2011, but both then and in this final performance, they showed us what we had missed. Korbes had been too injured to perform Terpsichore when "Apollo" was performed last April, but in she danced with Postlewaite as if they had performed the roles together their entire lives. There was Boal's discovery at 14, as Terpsichore to his Apollo, dancing with a man at the beginning of his prime on his way to new adventures in Europe. The whole evening was verklempt-making.

Bruce Wells' "Snow White" for students at Pacific Northwest Ballet School. The choreography and story-telling were top-notch, with opportunities for dancers across a wide range of ages and expertise and roles that made the leads look like stars.

The March 2012 triple bill. "Cylindrical Shadows" didn't transfer from the smaller Intiman Theatre to the McCaw Hall main stage, but Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz, with their long lines and ability to express drama through movement in the heart-breaking central pas de deux was breathtaking. David Dawson's "A Million Kisses to My Skin" was like a crucible: not every dancer found it energizing, but for the majority that did, the wattage that projected from that stage could have lit up Seattle Center for a week. Victor Quijada's "Mating Theory" was not ballet, and although I enjoyed the movement vocabulary, what I found so great about the work were the clarity with which the social relationships were portrayed and how they evolved and morphed from one section to the other. Peter Boal considered a contemporary, non-traditional version of "Giselle" a few years ago, and I think Quijada gave it to him last season, through the prism of Robbins' "The Cage." It's as if Quijada took it one step further and asked, "What would happen if Giselle out-Myrtha'd Myrtha instead of dying?" and Rachel Foster answered that question in a tour de force performance.

Ballet Arizona in "Episodes."

The deepening partnerships of Tzu-Chia Huang and Astrit Zejnati and Natalia Magnicaballi and Ilir Shtylla.

The La Scala Ballet DVD of the reconstructed "Raymonda."

The Worst:

Thomas Lund retiring. But it's the best news for the students of the Royal Danish Ballet School.

Lucien Postlewaite leaving for Monte Carlo. But it's the best news for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo's audiences.

Not being able to get to NYC to see Paris Opera Ballet or California to see the Mariinsky Ballet.

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1. POB and ABT here in Chicago! Osipova, Hallberg, Part, Gillot, Dupont!

2. Watching Olga Smirnova's rise thanks to Youtube. She is remarkable. Shapran too, though there was less documentation of her -- hopefully this will change.

3. Victoria Jaiani in the Arabian dance from the Joffrey's Nutcracker.


1. Not getting to see more dance.

2. Unjutified promotions.

3. The ladies of the corps in the Joffrey Nutcracker... (Though the gentlemen were dashing and capable.)

4. The Joffrey's lackluster hometown programming in general. I'm too young and broke to travel to see everything I'd like, so it would be nice if my city's big company gave me more reasons to support them.

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Olga Smirnova's debut in Diamonds (Jewels). A great young ballerina blossoming before our eyes.

Natalia Osipova's Gamzatti in ABT's La Bayadere.

David Hallberg's and Herman Corenjo's Romeo and Mercutio in ABT's R&J.

And a special shout out to the Ballet Alert meet up at ABT's La Bayadere with Part/Gomes/Osipova. It was wonderful to meet cubanmiamiboy, canbelto and so many other friends that evening.

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My Best of 2012 short list:

  • POB's "Giselle" run.
  • Long overdue & deserving promotions to Principal Dancer that finally happened - specifically, Kondaurova at the Mariinsky, Obraztsova's (to) the Bolshoi, and Ould-Braham to Etoile at POB.
  • Nina Ukhova - for her continued stellar coaching of the Mariinsky's corps de ballet.
  • The Bolshoi's Semyon Chudin and his interpretation of Siegfried and Apollo.
  • Kondaurova's Odette/Odile
  • Olga Smirnova going from strength to strength
  • Daria Pavlenko for her fortitude and courage; and for her uber romantic "Cinderella" at Kennedy with her husband Sasha Sergeev during the Mariinsky's Fall U.S. tour.

The Worst (fill in the blank here) of 2012. I nominate:

  • Alastair Macaulay
  • Kevin MacKenzie
  • Yuri Fateev
  • Maestro Valery Gergiev
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If I were to mention all the marvelous things I saw for the very first time in this, my first year of ballet addiction, the result would probably be a list of my Top 100 Margot Moments, followed by my nomination of Violette Verdy for Best Person Ever.

Instead, off the top of the head of a person who has been relying only upon recordings rather than live performances, three favourite things which actually happened in 2012:

* Yulia Stepanova's promotion to coryphée and her debut as the Lilac Fairy.

* Ekaterina Kondaurova in Nikiya's death scene (which may not have been from this year, but I'm pretending it was, because I want to list it almost as badly as I want to see more of her).

* The third recording I saw of Olga Smirnova in the "Diamonds" PDD. (That is, the one from the Bolshoi Ballet television competition. It rose somehow above the other two, or at least I think it did. I'm not the most informed or impartial observer.)

My favourite new releases from 2012 -- all from ICA Classics, tireless purveyors of the Good Stuff.

* The 1962 "La Fille mal gardée" with the original 1960 cast of Nadia Nerina, David Blair, and Stanley Holden. Arrived in the post on my birthday. What more can I say?

* "Tchaikovsky Ballet Masterpieces" with Dame Margot and Michael Somes in selections from "The Sleeping Beauty", "Swan Lake", and "The Nutcracker". Admittedly I've only seen five or six other Nuts, but for me this second-act recording is without question the most magical. I hadn't understood how beautiful the Sugar Plum Fairy's choreography could be -- now I only have to hear the first few notes of the PDD and I start sniffling embarrassingly.

* The one with Nerina's "Coppélia" and "Les Sylphides", and, more importantly, eighteen glorious consecutive minutes of Dame Margot and that Russian chap of hers in the second act of "Giselle", filmed in 1962 at the very beginning of their partnership. I'd seen parts of this recording in a documentary (and some enterprising YouTuber excerpted the bits shown therein into a single video), but seeing it all I feel as though I've stolen fire from heaven.

I don't like to say "worst", but in my opinion the most senseless and redundant recordings of the year -- all courtesy of Bel Air Classiques.

* Svetlana Zakharova's Aspicia has already been released on DVD and Blu-ray, so... we needed a new version from Ballet in Cinema? When they could have given us, say, Maria Alexandrova?

* Svetlana Zakharova (yes, again) flings her legs about everywhere and doesn't understand Petipa, so... we needed her Aurora on disc? When they could have given us, say, Evgenia Obraztsova?

* Yet another "Giselle", a ballet recorded possibly even more frequently than "Swan Lake", and this one no great addition to the genre. When one thinks of the things they've filmed for cinema release which have *never* been available commercially, one could scream.

Villain of 2012 (and quite a lot of other years actually): Yuri Fateyev.

Heroine of 2012: Daria Pavlenko.

Why, God, why? of 2012: Oxana Skorik.

Little ray of sunshine of 2012: Ksenia Zhiganshina.

Special wish for 2013: the collapse of the Balanchine Trust.

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this, my first year of ballet addiction

Welcome to our world.

When one thinks of the things they've filmed for cinema release which have *never* been available commercially, one could scream.

I find this applicable in many places, in all dance -- we lose bits and piece of our heritage every day.

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. . .

Special wish for 2013: the collapse of the Balanchine Trust.

Ouch! I think most of us value their work in preserving the Balanchine legacy, as with sending out dancers with Balanchine experience to stage his works around the world. The frustration is the narrow-mindedness in releasing his work digitally for the many dance lovers who have no realistic way to see his work in the theater.

We understand that releasing the extensive archival material is difficult, because they would have to go back and get permission from every artist and union involved. But why not use the new technologies at the Koch theater to start now going forward? Get the necessary permissions for future releases and start taping and releasing the Balanchine repertory as it is performed. Every artist should get fair compensation of some kind, of course. If physical media such as DVDs are cost-prohibitive, then look into digital downloads on iTunes, etc.

I'm not saying this would be easy, but why not start trying to make this a priority?

I fell in love with ballet in the 50s because (1) Balanchine was generous in showing his work on live television and (2) the Soviet Union was generous in circulating films of the Bolshoi Ballet across American movie theaters as part of the earliest cultural exchanges. It was many years before I had the opportunity (and the financial resources) to see Balanchine ballets in the theater. How many other little girls around the world find themselves now in the same situation? NYCB is making a huge effort to market to younger audiences. Can the Trust get on-board with this?

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London Ballet scene hasn´t had a good year, but Kevin O´Hare may yet prove to be the new lease of life the RB so desperately needs.

No touring companies of note because of the wretched Olympics.

The sacking of Wayne Eagling was a disgrace and those involved should hang their heads in shame.

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About the Balanchine Trust -- What California said. tiphat.gif


Most of my live ballet viewing is with MCB nowadays. It is only with MCB that I get to see and compare multiple performances of the same program. This this is reflected in my "Best" choices.

Best News Story of 2012. Miami City Ballet's triumph in at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris; 3 weeks of performing 12 challenging ballets -- heavy on Balanchine.

Saddest News Story of 2012. The infighting that led to Edward Villella's resignation as MCB Artistic Director, on his 25th anniversary..

Most Gracious Public Statement of 2012: Villella's resignation letter, which paved the way for Loudes Lopez to take complete charge a year earlier than anticipated..

Happiest Ending of 2012. The grace, confidence, and sheer competence with which Lourdes Lopez has moved into her new role as MCB Artistic Director. This has had a most positive impact on dancers, staff, audience, donors We can breathe -- and hope -- once more.

Best performances by a female dancer: Mary Carmen Catoya in Ballet Imperial , Coppelia, and Apollo..

Best performances by a male dancer: Renato Penteado in everything he did, from Balanchine to Tharp and Taylor.

Most fun in 2012:: Jeanette Delgado and Renato Penteado, Mambo-ing their hearts out in "Almendra" from Mambo No. 2am.

American Dancers I've seen only on video and would most like to see live, preferably in Balanchine: Tiler Peck. Sarah Mearns.

Best writing about ballet in a major newspaper or magazine: Alistair Macaulay.

Best on-going resource in ballet history: DanceView's series of reports about the taping sessions of the Balanchine Foundation's Interpreter's Archive series. (Most recent review, Leigh Witchell: Suki Schorer Coaching La Source; Jillana and Conrad Ludlow Coaching Liebeslieder Walzer. Winter 2012.). Honorable mention: Ballet Review.

P.S. I'd like to second Shirabyoshi's nomination of Violette Verdy as "Best Person Ever." Long may she flourish.

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. . .

Special wish for 2013: the collapse of the Balanchine Trust.


Yes, that was a harsh way to put it; I'm sorry. Perhaps "a revolution in the Balanchine Trust" would have been better. Ascribe it please to my crankiness over being a new ballet fan who is having a hard time learning about Balanchine. This is the 21st century; there are so many ways in which Mr B could be out there in the world, fostering the love of ballet among people who will never see the inside of the Lincoln Center, ensuring his works and his reputation will last a thousand years, but they won't LET him...

Recordings are an inadequate substitute for live performances, I agree, but they do better than anything to create an audience for live performances. Not many people have the time and the wherewithal to travel to another city or another country to see a thirty-minute ballet they've only read about.

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Perhaps "a revolution in the Balanchine Trust" would have been better. Ascribe it please to my crankiness over being a new ballet fan who is having a hard time learning about Balanchine. This is the 21st century; there are so many ways in which Mr B could be out there in the world, fostering the love of ballet among people who will never see the inside of the Lincoln Center, ensuring his works and his reputation will last a thousand years, but they won't LET him...

Nicely put, Shiraboyshi. The original mission of the Trust was to protect the work, and those in charge were vigilant about what they did. The world has changed since then, and this includes technology and the nature of the global "audience." Just about everyone else in the world has managed to find ways to settle conflicts over "rights," fees, permissions, union contracts, and that sort of thing. Alll the evidence shows that making the work available, far from harming a legacy, tends to enhance it.

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Nicely put, Shiraboyshi.

Thank you. smile.png

The original mission of the Trust was to protect the work, and those in charge were vigilant about what they did. The world has changed since then, and this includes technology and the nature of the global "audience." Just about everyone else in the world has managed to find ways to settle conflicts over "rights," fees, permissions, union contracts, and that sort of thing. Alll the evidence shows that making the work available, far from harming a legacy, tends to enhance it.

One of the many modern concepts which should be explained to them is: redundant data storage. The best way to protect information, if you're truly concerned about its survival rather than its secrecy, is not to keep it in one place with a great big lock on it, but to put as many copies as possible in as many places as possible.

If Balanchine's choreography was in the mind and heart of every ballet fan in the world -- not to mention constantly creating new ballet fans, as it surely would -- keeping his legacy alive would not be a problem. You couldn't even kill it if you wanted to.

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