The past year’s many exhilarations are here condensed into a month-by-month format. Let a veil of silence fall over the frustrations, and remember the yin and yang in everything, dance included.
January: Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, Marin Civic Center Auditorium, San Rafael. "Hungarian Concerto: Hommage à Béla Bartók," a brilliant presentation of traditional folk material, was choreographed within a sophisticated, contemporary setting that highlighted how the future and the past can coexist perfectly with each other.
February: Forsythe Company, Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley. Making a stunning debut with Three Atmospheric Studies, a piece that is as politically astute as it is formally challenging, William Forsythe’s new independent company confirmed his status as one of the most original contemporary thinkers about the role of dance in society.
March: Jess Curtis/Gravity, CounterPULSE, San Francisco. Under the Radar, Jess Curtis’s life-affirming cabaret, was probably the year’s single most inspired show, as poetic as it was inventive. The performers were as diverse as they come, and every one was top-notch. Radar did what good art always does: change our perceptions about who we are.
April: San Francisco Ballet, War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco. A rich month from the SFB, with the now-departed Gonzalo Garcia glorious in a slight work, Elemental Brubeck, and two of my SFB favorites, Kristin Long and Gennadi Nedvigin, in a problematic piece, Concordia. Julia Adam’s Night also returned. Adam’s choreographic voice is idiosyncratic and spunkily irreverent. Watch for her take on Sleeping Beauty this April.
May: Pick Up Performance Company, ODC Theater, San Francisco. David Gordon, who has been creating art for more than 30 years, is a master craftsman who works brilliantly with language and movement. In Dancing Henry Five he interwove formalized and pedestrian dance with Shakespeare’s language to stunning effect.
June: Joe Goode Performance Group, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. We may know what Goode thinks of the frailties of the human heart, but we continue to watch because he keeps exploring ways to express his loves and concerns. Humansville was a fine example of dance as installation.
July: West Wave Dance Festival, Project Artaud Theater, San Francisco. The best West Wave in years focused and straightforward was also the last under Joan Lazarus’s stewardship. Let’s hope that showcasing quality artists (think Amy Seiwert and Kate Weare) will be utmost in the minds of future organizers.
August: Zaccho Dance Theatre, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Beckett, Mass. Watching Joanna Haigood’s haunting Invisible Wings performed in a place that served as an Underground Railroad station was both chilling and inspiring.
September: Nora Chipaumire, ODC Theater, San Francisco. Always a stunning dancer, the regal Chipaumire returned to the Bay Area with equally impressive choreography, including Chimurenga, inspired by her life in Zimbabwe.
October: Oakland Ballet Company, Paramount Theatre, Oakland. Whether this company’s tale will become a rags-to-riches story remains to be seen, but watching the hundreds in the audience give the fledgling new troupe their rousing support was not be missed.
November: San Francisco Hip Hop DanceFest, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco. Treading a fine line between the community groups that form her primary base and the main-stage artists that are pushing the genre ahead, producer Micaya again put on a smart, well-paced, and highly enjoyable weekend of hip-hop dance.
December: Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, Project Artaud Theatre, San Francisco. Other Suns is the first piece in a trilogy that Jenkins is crafting with China’s Guangdong Modern Dance Company. If the remaining parts push as fiercely at the edges of the physically possible, they will be something to look forward to in 2009.