The first issue of the year always looks back to the past, with the publication of our annual Critics’ Survey. Each year Dance Australia’s own team of dedicated critics, together with guest critics from around the country, nominates their highlights (and lowlights) of the previous year. As usual it is a fascinating overview of the Australian dance landscape. Categories include Most Outstanding Dancer, Most Outstanding Choreographer and Most Significant Event. See if you agree with their choices and see a sneak preview below of respected critic Deborah Jones's top picks.
National Dance Critic, The Australian
Blogging at deborahjones.me
Highlight of the year
Bangarra Dance Theatre performing Jiří Kylián’s Stamping Ground – superbly – as part of its 30th anniversary celebrations. So much dance history and homage packed into that decision and the program as a whole.
Most significant dance event
David McAllister, The Australian Ballet’s longest-serving artistic director, calls time and will leave at the end of 2020, opening the way for a fresh look at what classical ballet could be in the 21st century. Bangarra turned 30 and Sydney Dance Company reached its half century.
Most interesting Australian independent group or artist
Melanie Lane. WOOF. Says it all. Hats off to Sydney Dance Company’s Rafael Bonachela for giving it the wider platform it deserves.
Most interesting Australian group or artist
Amy Hollingsworth. Having taken over Expressions Dance Company at the beginning of the year she has just announced exciting plans (with more to come) and unveiled a new name for the company that plainly describes the way she intends to work: Australian Dance Collective.
Most outstanding choreography
Melanie Lane’s WOOF effortlessly made the transition from SDC’s New Breed in 2017 to the main program this year. Hofesh Shechter’s Grand Finale (Adelaide last year, Melbourne this year, Sydney 2020) stirs and shakes the soul – what more do you want?
Best new work
Brisbane Festival’s 2019 centrepiece, Invisible Cities by 59 Productions and Rambert, was far from perfect but Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s choreography was dazzling and the Rambert dancers unforgettable. It was exhilarating, mind-bending storytelling of exquisite sophistication.
Most outstanding dancer
Lucy Green, Queensland Ballet, Marquise de Merteuil in Liam Scarlett’s Dangerous Liaisons. She is one of the finest dancer-actors in the country.
Marcus Morelli, The Australian Ballet, Eros in Stanton Welch’s Sylvia. A shooting star.
Chihiro Nomura, West Australian Ballet, Alice in Septime Webre’s ALICE (in wonderland). Bright and funny while making light of some fiendishly difficult choreography.
Dancer to watch
Tyrel Dulvarie, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Stamping Ground and Unaipon. Eloquent movement matched with fabulous stage presence.
Mia Heathcote, Queensland Ballet, Romeo and Juliet. A radiant dancer whose technique and artistry are coming into full flower.
Sharni Spencer, The Australian Ballet, The Nutcracker. Her Snow Fairy at the Sydney Nutcracker premiere was glorious classical dancing, ethereal and magisterial all at once.
Alexa Tuzil, West Australian Ballet, Giselle. Making her debut, Tuzil delivered a passionate, fearless, greatly moving second act.
Greg Horsman’s La Bayadère for Queensland and West Australian Ballet companies was too often vulgar and insensitive. Yet again one despairs at the lack of experienced, disinterested dramaturgical intervention.
While most of the ballet world wrings its hands about the lack of diversity in companies, West Australian Ballet just gets on with it. A Giselle or Alice of colour? No problem when you have Dayana Hardy Acuña, recently elevated to principal artist, on board.
The full Critics' Choice survey is published in the February/March issue. OUT NOW! Buy Dance Australia at your favourite retail outlet, or online here or subscribe here to make sure you see all nominations!