Several imported attractions bore postmodern dance's latter-day influence. Les Grands Ballets Canadiens of Montreal brought Ohad Naharin's adaptable collection of showpieces, Minus One, to the Cutler Majestic. In this collage of endurance, ritual, attitude, and audience participation, the performers get to — or have to — reveal things about themselves they've never told in public.
Bill T. Jones brought his Jones/Zane company to the ICA in two theater pieces with socio-political themes. In February there was Chapel/Chapter, about crime and accountability, and in October Another Evening: Serenade/The Proposition, about America's racial trauma. Both evenings certified Jones's expertise as a director who can shape dance, design, music, sound, and media into performance pieces that are beautiful and thought-provoking.
Postmodernism's eclectic range, along with the cross-cultural effects of globalization, could be seen in the Irish-Scottish-bluegrass music and dance of James Devine and his Celtic Tap collaborators, fiddler Duncan Wickel and drummer Paul Jennings. Black Grace from New Zealand fused traditional dance and music from the Pacific Islands with modern dance and pop-culture references. And New York–based Taiwanese choreographer Nai-Ni Chen's program at John Hancock Hall drew on modern-dance technique blended with gorgeous Chinese-derived visual design and imagery
Kinodance experimented with light, projections, and electronics in two mysterious pieces, Behemoth and Fuse, at the ICA. Koozå, from Cirque du Soleil, proved that fabulous performers don't need sophisticated media to transport us into fantasy.
For fabulous performers we can also count on World Music's annual Flamenco Festival, and this year's standout was Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca. The passion that drives Barrio and her musical partners takes us to the darkest corners of experience, even though we might not know the actual source of their pain.
The ballet world celebrated the centenary of the English-American choreographer Antony Tudor this year, and both Boston Ballet and Boston Conservatory's dance department mounted revivals of his 1937 masterpiece Dark Elegies, to Gustav Mahler's Kindertotenlieder. Tudor reworked the idiom of classical ballet, transforming that basically impersonal lexicon to express deep emotions and nuanced character. Alongside Dark Elegies the Conservatory showed two lighter pieces that Tudor made for his students at the Juilliard School, Continuo and Little Improvisations.
Boston Ballet continues to revive ballet classics in addition to fostering new choreography. On the same program with the Tudor in May it did George Balanchine's wonderful Concerto Barocco (1941) and Twyla Tharp's 1986 post-minimalist crowd pleaser In the Upper Room. This month's newly dusted-off Nutcracker gave a preview of what the company's repertory will look like when it leaves the Wang Theatre next fall to take up regular residence at the Opera House. I look forward to that.
Master choreographies present important challenges for student dancers, and Boston Conservatory set two modern-dance favorites this year, Josû Limón's 1958 Missa Brevis (Kodaly) and Martha Graham's 1936 Steps in the Street, the latter reconstructed in 1989 by the choreographer and long-time Graham dancer Yuriko, who came to Boston to coach the students.
Traditional ballet and modern dance are still the bedrock on which dance performance depends, even when they become fused with each other. At Jacob's Pillow and this month at the Tsai Center at BU, Lar Lubovitch's company worked the expressive side of modern dance to perfection. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at the Pillow did a program of high-technique contemporary dance by a group of choreographers influenced by William Forsythe.