Best Dance of 2019 – The New York Times

Best Dance of 2019 – The New York Times

In Twyla Tharp’s magnificent triple bill at American Ballet Theater last spring, the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House shook off its cobwebs. Along with “The Brahms-Haydn Variations” — it’s hard to forget Stephanie Williams’s gorgeous arms — and the rousing closer, “In the Upper Room,” the program featured the revival of “Deuce Coupe.” That 1973 work by Ms. Tharp, whose mix of classical and modern dance has led it to be considered the first crossover ballet, was resurrected for the current generation, who danced it with daring and aplomb, making it a hit all over again.

A choreographer who shuns press and curtain calls, Ms. Michelson — a 2019 MacArthur Fellow — is a different kind of dance artist, whose intellect, imagination and visual sense have been copied over the years but never replicated. As she considers the labor of the art form, from its physicality to its spirituality, her mind doesn’t quit; her excavation of contemporary dance has created a profound body of work examining both its history and its future. In her recent piece for the River to River Festival, “june2019/” — raw and abrasive yet not without humor — Ms. Michelson used her body as a canvas.

This New York City Ballet principal runs on adrenaline, or so it would seem. This year, especially, she pushed herself beyond the classical form to explore the larger world of dance, from musical comedy (she can be funny) to modern dance (where she is beyond daring). A highlight was her spectacular performance in “Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event” in honor of the modern master Merce Cunningham. Fiery and focused, she gave it her all — showing how searingly alive Cunningham’s repertory can be even when he is no longer around to see it.

New York City Ballet, the Royal Ballet, the Paul Taylor and Martha Graham companies — where has Ms. Tanowitz not made a dance this year? So far, she’s had nine and counting. (Bits and pieces are still going up here and there.) Her playful mining of steps and dance history enriched her works for Graham and Taylor, just as her percussive musicality challenged City Ballet’s dancers and audience — in good ways — with “Bartok Ballet.” But one of her most haunting works took place outdoors: As part of the River to River Festival, she transformed a waterfront park into a mystical field that was brimming with graceful bodies cutting through the fog.

With its evening-length “Inoah,” choreographed by Mr. Beltrão, this contemporary Brazilian hip-hop company presented a spellbinding, fully realized theatrical world in which 10 male dancers, enveloped in near darkness and shadows, melted into the floor, sprang up again and skirted the edge between turbulence and stillness. It was dark for all of the right reasons. It was penetrating. And on a Friday night after a hectic week, it calmed me right down.

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