For dance devotees, the summer of 2011 was nothing short of phenomenal. New York City Ballet saw a 6.6 percent jump in patronage at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. And audiences flocked to Jacob’s Pillow for its international lineup of stellar artists who frequently sell out the festival’s two houses. Better still, the Pillow’s year started with a great honor, with President Barack Obama bestowing the National Medal of Arts on the Berkshire dance farm.
Yet outside of the summer, one wonders about the future of dance in the Capital Region. Attendance faltered at the regular venues in the winter, spring and fall.
It was most noticeable at The Egg, once the region’s busiest dance house, as it has turned from big-name modern dance troupes to a lineup of lesser or little-known soloists.
Proctors, too, experienced a big dip in ticket sales, mainly because the Schenectady theater has eschewed large international ballet ensembles for modest modern troupes.
Also troubling was the death of dance icon and matriarch Pat Peterson. A student of Martha Graham and founder of the Emma Willard School dance program, she was the dance community’s guiding light. Her presence at every performance, everywhere, as well as her wise critiques and her tireless behind-the-scenes championing will be sorely missed.
Below is a list this year’s best shows:
1. American Ballet Theatre at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College. One of the world’s best ballet companies dazzled with its staging of two Twyla Tharp masterpieces, “In the Upper Room” and “Sinatra Suite.”
2. Ballet Mirabor in “Radio and Juliet” at Proctors. Choreographer Edward Clug paired Shakespeare’s tragedy with the somber and sobering sounds of Radiohead in a riveting production.
3. New York City Ballet’s Robert Fairchild in “Apollo” at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. In only his second appearance in the title role, Fairchild was transformative as he depicted the young god’s coming of age.
4. New York City Ballet’s Janie Taylor in “Serenade” at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Taylor transported audiences to another dimension with her fine, fragile and beautiful dancing in this George Balanchine staple.
5. Tero Saarinsen Company at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College. Choreographer Saarinen hypnotized in his rendering of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” in the shadowy and intense tour de force solo “Hunt.”
6. ZviDance at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center. In “Zoom,” this ground-breaking ensemble smashed the fourth wall by exploring the current obsession with cellphones, revealing deeper connections and alienations.
7. Limón Dance at the Arthur Zankel Music Center at Skidmore College. The company still exudes an indescribable magic that brought it to the forefront of American modern dance so many years ago. Here, they performed Limón’s great work “There is a Time” and new works that unleashed their gravitas.
8. LDP/Laboratory Dance Project at Jacob’s Pillow. This all-male ensemble, which combines modern dance with hip-hop and martial arts, served up a kinetic rush of testosterone that surged with emphatic drama.
9. Parsons Dance at PS/21. This annual event pleased once again with David Parsons’ straight-up, dynamic dances, including the irresistible “Nascimento.”
10. Ballet du Grand Theatre du Geneve in “Romeo and Juliet” at Jacob’s Pillow. Choreographed by Joelle Bouvier, this modern, stripped-down spin on Shakespeare churned in cinematic and dreamlike fashion.
— Gazette dance writer Wendy Liberatore