Here, in no particular order, are some of the highlights of the year in Boston dance.
Monica Bill Barnes & Company:: Take Sinatra and Otis Redding, baton twirling, a troupe of plucky, gifted ladies, and stir. Philosophy-student-turned-choreographer Barnes, who came to the ICA in June, puts humane humor at the center of seriously well-crafted dance entertainment.
Robert Battle at Harvard:: He's running the first dance company he ever saw — Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater — and could afford pretentions, but Robert Battle's bashful tale of how he finally, finally, got hired by then-artistic director Judith Jamison was intimate, eye-opening, and full of self-deprecating humor. Asked by Harvard dance director Jill Johnson to identify the characteristic he most dislikes in others, he thought for a moment and answered, "Apathy."
John Carrafa and Erin Gottwald's Dance House at Green Street Studios :: John Carrafa stopped dancing for Twyla Tharp 25 years ago, and went on to choreograph for television and films and to be nominated twice for Tonys. But when he and former Digby Dance member Erin Gottwald developed eight bopping side-by-side duets, they decided to debut them in front of an informal audience. No costumes. No lights. All terrific energy and connection.
Anna Myer and Dancers' Hoop Suite:: In bringing the classical musicians, dancers, and young rap poets of her Hoop Suite into the open air of a public-housing basketball court in Charlestown, Anna Myer demonstrated how dance can go beyond theatrical footlights to offer a sense of recognition, mutual respect, and healing.
Green Street Studios 20th Anniversary Gala :: A community is only as vibrant as its members, but for dance, the space to create that community is indispensible. With visiting friends like David Parker joining local dance makers and performers, this event underlined the fact that despite its underdog status and a chronic scarcity of financial resources, Boston's independent dance community remains lively.
The Men Dancers:From the Horse's Mouth at Jacob's Pillow :: The recipe is simple: a brief personal story, a structured improvisation, a diagonal sashay through a stream of light. But this exclusive, all-male edition of Tina Croll and Jamie Cunningham's long running oral history extravaganza featured elder statesmen Arthur Mitchell, Lar Lubovitch, and Gus Solomons Jr. demonstrating how much dancing men have achieved since the days of Pillow founder Ted Shawn.
Lar Lubovitch:: The path-breaking minimalism of North Star no longer seems new, but in his recent The Legend of Ten, Lubovitch is still able to summon a painterly panorama, while Crisis Variations' tableaux of disaster are studded with moments of beauty. At 69, Lubovitch, who brought his troupe to a Celebrity Series event in October, continues to produce at the top of his game.
Kyle Abraham:: The most celebrated dance maker of recent years, Kyle Abraham, brought his company, Abraham.In.Motion, to Boston for the first time, performing The Radio Show (at the ICA, presented by CrashARTS). The piece mourns the loss of two voices: the choreographer's father, stricken with aphasia and Alzheimer's disease, and a radio station that offered entertainment, counsel, and shared identity to Pittsburgh's African-American community. In Abraham's work, the decorum of ballet and the heft of hip-hop meet as equals, and it looked almost as gorgeous on his dancers as it does on the man himself.