Looking back at 2009's top dance performances and events
The big surprise at the San Francisco International Arts Festival was the extraordinarily skilled and theatrically vibrant The Angel and the Woodcutter, South Korea's Cho-In Theatre's eloquent retelling in movement of a popular Korean fairy tale. It deserved a larger audience.
Suzanne Farrell Ballet's lecture-demonstration, The Balanchine Couple, served as a vivid reminder that Balanchine never ran out of ideas for pas de deux. The nine on this program could not have been more different — all of them first-rate. The program also brought home the painful truth that such finely detailed and musically phrased Balanchine interpretations are a rarity.
Sometimes it helps to look beyond the hook. The big deal about South African dancer Gregory Maqoma's Beautiful Me was that he used material from three other (cooperating) artists for his own choreography. Fair enough, but what left this audience member speechless was the grace, virility, and technical and emotional virtuosity with which Maqoma realized this portrayal of self.
Finally, the Performing Diaspora Festival was an ambitious project "featuring traditional forms as a basis for experimentation and innovation." It boasted an elaborate support structure of studio time, blogs, workshops, and symposia. In the two programs I saw, the work ranged from first rate to mediocre. Fortunately, this is a two-year project — so let's toast to 2010.