Monday, December 30, 2013

Best Performances of 2013

Lists are always a fun, silly, ridiculous pleasure. How on earth could you possibly rank and compare performances when each one has its own goals and techniques? It’s always in the eye of the beholder, particularly for this critic, who is very peripatetic. This is a list of the top ten out of what I happen to have seen. Maybe you saw something better that just wasn’t in my line of sight. Nevertheless, I love ranking things, I love listing things, and I love sharing absurd opinions. Here it goes, the best performances of 2013 (in reverse order because FUN).

11. Stanislavsky Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theater Orchestra in Stone Flower  The Stanislavsky Orchestra is always fantastic, but their fiery brass section dealt a particularly bold performance of Prokofiev’s rarely heard score.

10. Ruslan Skvortsov in Onegin Skvorstov amply demonstrated why it’s such a triumph that this ballet is now performed in Russia; his interpretation of the eponymous main character was highly nuanced in both pantomime and dance sections.

9. Irina Zibrova and Artem Ovcharenko in La Sylphide Zibrova’s witch is delicious, multilayered evil. Ovcharenko responds with a conflicted, arrogant James. Together they have serious antagonistic chemistry.

8. Boston Ballet in Chroma The last note had barely sounded when the audience roared to its feet in approval. The choreography also challenges long-held stereotypes about what men and women should do onstage.

7. Nina Kaptsova and Dmitri Gudanov in Giselle Kaptsova and Gudanov work together to produce one image of grace and musicality, rather than two.

6. Laëtitia Pujol, Simon Valastro, Adrien Bodet, Mallory Gaudion, Adrien Couvez, and the rest of Paris Opera Ballet in Le Parc Maybe not as heart-poundingly exciting as the other performances on this list, but really thought-provoking nonetheless, particularly the haunting, suspended movement for the four gardeners and (seemingly unconscious) lead ballerina.

5. Béjart Ballet in The Rite of Spring The complete opposite of Number 6. Adrenaline pumping action and sex onstage. It might be the balletic equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster, but it's also the most engaging production of Rite of Spring I saw live in this anniversary year.

4. Misa Kuranaga in Sleeping Beauty She’s not as famous as some of the other people on this list, but for my money, Kuranaga’s one of the best dancers performing in the United States, maybe the world, today, and this Aurora amply proves why.  Her musicality is superb and the way she connects each movement leaves me a little breathless.

3. Bolshoi Ballet in Flames of Paris Viscerally exciting performances, intellectually stimulating take on the French Revolution, wonderful choreography.

2. New York City Ballet in Serenade When NYCB does Balanchine well, there’s nothing like it on the planet.

... and in the top spot:

1. Sergei Polunin in Swan Lake By a wide margin, my favorite performance of the year. For all his athletic prowess, it’s his natural grace, his acting skill, and his charisma that make Polunin such a memorable dancer.

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