The Arthropologist

From Black Swan & Dancing with the Stars to Houston Ballet & other troupes, it was The Year Of Dance

From Black Swan & Dancing with the Stars to Houston Ballet & other troupes, it was The Year Of Dance

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Joseph Walsh and Emily Bowen, center, and artists of the Houston Ballet in "The Upper Room," choreographed by Twyla Tharp Photo by Amitava Sarkar
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Samantha Lynch in "Tu Tu," choreographed by Stanton Welch for the Houston Ballet Photo by Ron McKinney of Art Institute/Houston-North
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Noblemotion Dance in "Photo Box D," with artists Tristin Ferguson, Melissa Needler, Brittany Thetford, Jared Doster, Jesus Acosta and Shohei Iwahama Photo by Julian Grandberry
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Lucy Guerin Inc. in "Structures and Sadness" Photo by Jeff Busby
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From "Forgotten Land," Samantha Lynch and James Gotesky of the Houston Ballet Photo by Zuzana Leckova of Art Institute/Houston-North
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Rachel Meyer of Dominic Walsh Dance Theater receiving her Princess Grace Award Photo by Matthew Peyton/Getty Images for Princess Grace Foundation-USA
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News_Nancy_year in culture_Noblemotion Dance
News_Nancy_year in culture_Jacob's Ladder_Lucy Guerin Inc._in Structures and Sadness
News_Nancy_year in culture_Houston Ballet
News_Nancy_year in culture_Rachel Meyer_2010 Princess Grace Awards Gala

We end this year with ballet buzzing from every tree top.

Black Swan is creeping people out right and left. There's even an early Oscar fever over Natalie Portman's performance as the self-obsessed, bat shit bonkers ballerina. I win the prize for manic tweeting over a movie I actually was last to see. My colleague Debra Levine of Arts Meme has formed a Black Swan survivor's group, which includes merch! But don't miss her review, which is way more interesting than this feathered hot mess of a movie.

Then, there's the never-ending fervor over New York Times' chief dance critic Alastair Macaulay's flip remark on New York City Ballet's Jenifer Ringer having "eaten one too many Sugar Plums." Ringer, who suffered from eating disorders, even made it to The Today Show to talk about the demands of dancing. The comment caused an online firestorm.

My hope is that it will lead to two positive things: for critics to think more about art and less about weight, and for ballet to address the elephant in the room related to ideal body types. Portman, who lost 20 pounds for the role, even chimed in the Ringer/Macaulay brouhaha.

The fuss-a-rama points to some serious problems concerning the body in ballet.  Perfection is just so 2010.

Jennifer Homans declared ballet dead in her rigorously researched book, Apollo's Angels, and made the New York Times top five non-fiction books of 2010. Homans details ballet's numerous near deaths. The book is epic, thrilling, and would make a killer PBS series. Hello Ken Burns. Are you busy? Ringer could play Maria Taglioni, but she would have to gain 20 lbs.

Dance continues to dominate the airwaves with Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and soon Paula Abdul's new show, Live to Dance. Please don't suck, new show.

Even Kanye West couldn't resist the ballet urge in his Runaway vid. Kanye, you couldn't spring for real tutus?

This was a great year for dancing. Houston Ballet's Samantha Lynch moved like water in Jiri Kylian's Forgotten Land. Paired with the soulful James Gotesky, Lynch came into her own in Kylian's fluid contours, showing her understanding of the unfurling power of waves.

What a wonderful partnership the company has in Joseph Walsh and Emily Bowen. Walsh and Bowen had terrific seasons together and separately. They showed off their connection in La Fille Mal Gardee, Mark Morris' Sandpaper Ballet. and Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room.

Houston Ballet soloist Joseph Walsh shows off his Mark Morris moves in Sandpaper Ballet

Kelly Myernick made everyone quit breathing during her silent solo in Stanton Welch's Falling at the Kennedy Center as part of Ballet Across America. Jim Nowakowski's technical chops continue to amaze me. Newcomers, Jun Shuang Huang, Melissa Hough and  Karina Gonzalez, are an impressive lot. I look forward to getting to know their dancing better. 

Rachel Meyer had a stand out season at Dominic Walsh Dance Theater and has a Princess Grace Award to prove it.

Hope Stone Dance Company's Courtney Jones caught my eye in Lemonade Stand for her witty aliveness. When she  moves, all the oxygen molecules get out of the way. It's that exciting. And yes, it's the very same Courtney Jones who sings and acts in Panto Pinochhio at Stages Repertory Theatre.

Hope Stone artistic director Jane Weiner enjoyed a banner year, offering her first season ever with more to come in during Dance Month's Triple Focus at the Jewish Community Center.

In the choreography department, my eyes are on Amy Llanes of Rednerrus Feil Dance Company.  Her duet, Strong Moves Slow, held me spellbound with its punchy timing and innovative shapes.  Houston Ballet's Garrett Smith contributed the sleek Vivacious Dispositions, with a sinewy performance by Lauren Ciobanu, for the Jubilee. 

NobleMotion emerged as the dance company to gush about. Andy Noble and Dionne Sparkman Noble's collaboration with Jeremy Choate, Photo Box D, showed great promise. You can also catch this upstart troupe next at JCC's Dance Month Triple Focus.

Get a taste of all things NobleMotion

Further from home, I marveled at much of what I took in at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, but Lucy Guerin's Structure and Sadness, a kinetic exploration of the collapse of the West Gate Bridge, continues to perplex me for its clever mix of physics and pathos. Houston audiences remember her DiverseWorks show from a few years back. 

Lucy Guerin Inc. in Structure and Sadness


Editor's note: This is the eleventh in a series of articles CultureMap will be running this last week of 2010 on The Year in Culture. The stories in this series will focus on a key point or two, something that struck our reporting team about the year rather than rote Top 10 lists or bests of.

Other The Year In Culture stories:

Organic, sustainable, local: The words that now dominate food

Demolishing the doldrums: Office towers somehow keep rising in Houston

Less blockbuster, more indie surprises: A call for fewer Texas-sized art exhibits in 2011

Forget The Social Network, it's all about keeping mom off Twitter

On the store front: H-E-B's final plan for Montrose market has a neighborly attitude

Houston chefs turn into celebrity spouses and I find a new partner

It's the year of the "gaybie:" Elton John is the latest proud parent

One thing I learned in 2010: Not even the BP oil spill could rub out Louisiana's soul

Ka-ching! The return of million dollar fundraisers made for a bountiful year

Rick Perry, socialite spaniels & Speedos: Things that touched me in 2010. Literally.