Belle Redux

“Belle Redux,” choreographed by Ballet Austin artistic director Stephen Mills and premiered by the company in 2015, is a dark reboot of the 18th-century French fairytale “La Belle et la Bête” (Beauty and the Beast). The two-act ballet was commissioned by the 3M corporation as part of a program to fund innovation in the arts (as part of his research, Mills met with 3M researchers and engineers), so it’s no surprise that it is unlike Mills’s other story ballets.

A Fair Nutcracker

Your home is not your home. In its place, a dreamscape of flowers and snow, where dolls can transform into princes and sweets come alive. Victorian bouquets dance, characters travel by hot air balloon, and Christmas trees grow to envelop a stage. Though the story of “The Nutcracker” makes little logical sense, it doesn’t need to; in this fantastical, surreal territory, the strange is somehow familiar, and a little girl can unlock a portal into another world.

Local Gods

​There is no doubt that this year will go down as one of the strangest—and possibly saddest—in memory, at least politically speaking. And since the personal is political, with 2016 offering dashed dreams in terms of breaking the glass ceiling, the tragedy of Aleppo and the onslaught of so-called fake news, many of us, thankfully, continue to be consoled by art, with this writer particularly under dance’s spell for salvation. On that front, there was good news. Here, then—and in no particular order—are the dance highlights in what might otherwise be considered an annus horribilus.

Swing Time

And so, as I sit now before the keyboard looking back over what I have seen this year, the pieces I recall are those that conveyed honesty and “an energy.” Unfeigned, full-hearted, call it what you will. With my eye, Godard’s camera, my life coach, Graham, and the effortless hover and charm of Lucky and Penny only in dream, let’s look back at 2016.

A Hollow Spectacle

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night charts the turbulent romance between a woman beleaguered by psychosis (Nicole) and a man fixated on saving her (Dick)—a relationship modelled on the author’s marriage to Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald. Drama erupts: there’s incest, alcoholism, corruptive wealth and more, much of it arising from Dick’s dual role as Nicole’s husband and her psychoanalyst. Factor in the heady setting—a glam expat resort in 1920s France —and it’s rich material for a stage production.

Love-struck Pirates

Admirers of the classic ballets will welcome Ivan Liška’s restoration of Marius Petipa’s “Le Corsaire,” which made its North American premiere on Boston Ballet this past month at the Boston Opera House in Boston, MA. Boasting the drama of “Swan Lake” and the comedic wit of “Coppélia,” “Le Corsaire” takes to the stage with brilliant gusto, striking technique, and adventurous flair.

Swans of La Scala

When Ratmansky’s reconstruction of “Swan Lake” premiered in Zurich earlier this year, dancers were still taming a new vocabulary. Except for Viktorina Kapitonova’s sure-footed agility, the outcome was a bit messy on stage. It was hard to capture the essence of the new-old dance language that Russians could enjoy in 1895.

Leading Light

When Michael Smuin, founder of Smuin, passed away unexpectedly in 2007, Celia Fushille, dancer and then associate director for the company, had but a few days to gather her thoughts.

L.A. Tarantella

A Russian, a Dane and a Canadian—all choreographers—may never have walked into a bar together, but their works made for a magnificently diverse program presented by Los Angeles Ballet to kick off the troupe’s 11th season. The three dancemakers, George Balanchine, August Bournonville and Aszure Barton, represent three distinct styles, and showcased the company’s commitment to preservation as well as being cleverly hip in the moment.

The Food of Love

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, and the year has seen artistic tributes pour in from around the world: film festivals, art exhibitions, publishing initiatives, theatre takeovers. Birmingham Royal Ballet is responsible for one of the most extensive dance offerings: a dedicated Shakespeare Season featuring 80 performances of seven Bard-inspired ballets, including a new evening-length reworking of “The Tempest” from artistic director David Bintley.