Brian Seibert on the Dance Highlights of 2013
International New York Times | December 13, 2013
This year in dance dawned with an ending. At the Brooklyn Academy of Music in January, the Trisha Brown Dance Company presented what were announced to be her final works. They weren’t her best, but the whole program, sampling from 45 years of choreographing, was of the quality that sets the high end of my critical scale.
Andrea Mohin/The New York Times | Chap Chamroeun Tola of the Royal Cambodia Ballet performing in Brooklyn in May.
That same week, Justin Peck held a premiere of “Paz de La Jolla,” the third piece for New York City Ballet from this choreographer who only just emerged from the corps de ballet. It wasn’t as good as his first two, but it was more than good enough — fresh, imaginative — to augur a major career.
The greatest comeback was that of Pam Tanowitz. “The Spectators,” presented at New York Live Arts in May, was a return to form for the modern choreographer after the misstep of “Untitled (Blue Ballet).” Exhilaratingly inventive, “The Spectators” was mysterious, too, accidental-looking but clearly constructed. The back story of Ms. Tanowitz’s artistic recovery only made it more thrilling.
For back stories, it’s hard to beat classical Cambodian dance: ancient origins, near extinction, restoration. The appearance of the Royal Cambodia Ballet at the Academy of Music in May, its grandest visit in decades, was a revelation of serene formality, a tradition preserved. “A Bend in the River,” by the Khmer Arts Ensemble at the Joyce Theater in April, and the entire two-month, citywide Season of Cambodia festival, showed that it is a tradition still evolving.
Another tradition evolving is tap dance. Michelle Dorrance, the most interesting tap choreographer to have sprung up in years, was all over the place — Danspace Project, Jacob’s Pillow, Fall for Dance — earning the spotlight.
The highest-profile street-to-stage transfer was that of the Memphis jooker Lil Buck at Le Poisson Rouge in April. He was marvelous and endearing, but there were equal wonders at the Breakin’ Convention at the Apollo Theater in June. The most extraordinary — there and at the Beat festival in September — was Storyboard P, a breathtaking, bewilderingly protean dancer whose talent seemed only partly realized, in search of the right conditions and format. Maybe next year.