Dance lovers complain about the lack of international dance artists hitting Toronto, but Jeanne Holmes managed to program lots of great acts for the New World Stage Series, which dominates this list. And the city's independent scene feels as fresh as ever.
1 RITE OF SPRING/RE
(Shen Wei Dance Arts/New World Stage, June 6 to 9)
There's been talk that the China-born Shen is the future of modern dance, and watching this jaw-dropping double bill made us see why. He has an innate sense of form, space and musicality, and he can pull off big, bold pieces like Rite and smaller, more intimate works like Re. Can't wait to see what he does for the Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies.
2 IT'S ONLY A REHEARSAL
(Zero Visibility Corp/New World Stage, February 7 to 10)
A lanky man and self-contained woman meet, fight, kiss, tear into each other and recite a tale from Ovid in broken English and French. Ina Christel Johannessen's startlingly fresh duet didn't offer up its meanings easily, but it did show what it's possible to communicate when two extraordinary artists (lovers, as it turns out) give shape to these ideas.
(La La La Human Steps, May 15)
Edouard Lock's deconstruction of two of the archetypal story ballets, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, explored the tension between classical and modern dance, and let us peek at the dark psychological and sexual undercurrents running beneath both works. Repetitive? Maybe. But what dancers! And Gavin Bryars's layered score felt like Tchaikovsky on ecstasy.
(Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie/DanceWorks, October 25 to 27)
Bill Coleman, Laurence Lemieux and their children Jimmy and Juliette captured the joys and frustrations of contemporary family life in Lemieux's ephemeral, poignant dance snapshot obviously inspired by real life. The fact that the company's now based in T.O. is cause to rejoice.
5 THE PASSENGER
(Sarah Chase Dance Stories/New World Stage, April 3 to 5)
Trinity Bellwoods Park circa 1830 met contemporary nomad life in yet another of Chase's spellbinding dance stories, this one filled with tales of passenger pigeons and recovering addicts, much of it told to the haunting refrain of a Neil Young song. Chase's choreography is like a semaphore of the soul.
6 THE SPINSTER'S ALMANAC
(DanceWorks CoWorks, March 14 to 17)
Susie Burpee's sprite-like creation added a touch of grace and whimsy to an otherwise cerebral dance season. Her bird-obsessed single woman took on dignity and weight as she channelled all her OCD energy into finding passion in the most unlikely places.
7 ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATRE
(Hummingbird Centre, February 16 and 17)
The historic dance company heated up a cold Toronto for a weekend of shows displaying the range of half a century of repertoire. This is dance for the people – those audience shout-outs were thrilling – and is never more soul-stirring than in their signature work, Revelations, performed to African-American spirituals and capturing the essence of struggle and survival.
8 ALICIA MARQUEZ
(Toronto International Flamenco Festival, August 10 and 11)
Flamenco sensation Marquez burned up the stage at the inaugural Toronto International Flemenco Fest with this colourful, foot-stamping show. Proud and extroverted, she commanded the stage, and was well-matched by her partner Nano, who was poised and slyly erotic in his bravura solos. Ole!
(firstthingsfirst productions/Crooked Figure Dances, January 10 to 14)
The future of independent dance seems secure with enterprising artists like Kate Franklin and Kate Holden around. The two rising stars, inspired by their mentor Kate Alton, mounted this diverse program of new and old works by a handful of the country's best choreographers to showcase their strengths. It worked, especially Laurence Lemieux's haunting work for Holden and D.A. Hoskins's psychologically rich ensemble piece for all three dancers.
10 LE DOUTE M'HABITE
(Compagnie DCA Philippe Decouflé/New World Stage, March 20 to 24)
French dance theatre sensation Decouflé married movement, film, music and good old-fashioned clowning around in this crowd-pleasing show that reminded us that the performing arts don't always have to be intellectual. They can enchant and make you smile, too. 3
MANGA Serge Bennathan's first big piece after leaving Dancemakers was shapeless and repetitive. And what did it have to do with Japanese manga?
PINA ENVY Once again, T.O. missed a Pina Bausch show. Do dance lovers have to keep travelling to Ottawa?