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Best of 2015: Dance

Best of 2015: Dance

As funding opportunities narrow, as do audience wallets, the area dance scene is reverting back to i
Best of 2015: Dance
New York City Ballet's "La Sylphide" (Paul Kolnik)

It used to be that dance was a year-round pastime for the Capital Region. Major companies of every ilk — ballet, modern, contemporary and ethnic — passed through theaters big and small every month of the year.

But as funding opportunities narrow, as do audience wallets, the area dance scene is reverting back to its earliest days here — when summer was the only season when dance could be enjoyed.

Certainly, the Egg and Proctors remain committed to dance, but not at a level they once could. At both venues, some dance performances are relegated to their smaller and more dance-inappropriate theaters. And ancillary venues like the University at Albany, EMPAC and Skidmore College can hardly fill the voids of an empty dance card.

But even the summer can bring disappointments. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which originally hosted New York City Ballet for four weeks, congratulated itself for bringing the company here for two. Sadly, this was a triumph after a few years of a mere one-week residency.

Happily, Jacob’s Pillow, along with a few smaller presenters like PS/21 and Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, continued to enlarge capacity for dance.

Thank heavens for this slim glimmer of terpsichorean hope.

Despite dance’s continued losses, there was still quite a bit to savor in 2015.

Here are my top picks:

New York City Ballet in “La Sylphide” at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Peter Martins restaged this story ballet by Denmark’s ballet patriarch and greatest choreographer August Bournonville. Centered on a young man who falls in love with a fairy, the classic was an instant Saratoga favorite, blending perky dancing and dramatic storytelling with a lush and imaginative setting.

The performance represented the peak of City Ballet’s artistic perfection.

Daniil Simkins in “Intensio” at Jacob’s Pillow.

This crackerjack principal with American Ballet Theatre expanded his artistic horizons by gathering fellow ABT stars for a knockout showcase of four world premieres. Among them was a biographical solo for Simkins that showed his astounding technique topped off with a stunning display of petite allegro.

Lar Lubovitch Dance Company at SPAC.

Lubovitch remains one of the world’s top choreographers and he proved why in an evening of work including his newest, the gothic “The Black Rose.” A “Sleeping Beauty” that goes awry, the ballet is a rupture of shadowy vignettes that make for a thrilling, grisly and frightening ride.

“Shaping Sounds” at Proctors.

The pop stars from the hit TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” flaunted their chops in this hard-hitting and sexy showcase of fantasy dance. The electricity of the dancers left enthusiastic fans swooning and screaming for more.

Paco Pena at The Egg.

This was a surprise, as flamenco is an acquired taste.

But under the direction of guitarist Pena, his small band of dancers and musicians transported the entire audience to flamenco nirvana. It was achieved as each member of the octet surrendered body and soul to the music and the emotion it inspired.

New York City Ballet in Justin Peck’s “Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes” at SPAC.

Like the Aaron Copland score that accompanies it, this new ballet sports a big, open-air feel. Led by Sara Mearns, a cast of 15 men ate up the space as if charging across the plains.

“Rodeo” ends with an array of fiery pyrotechnics.

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