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In the News > 2005 In Review

25 Dec 2005

2005 IN REVIEW Dance Rachel Howard Sunday, December 25, 2005 2005 In Review Films (Mick LaSalle) Films (Ruthe Stein) Art (Kenneth Baker) Pop Culture (Neva Chonin) Pop Music (Aidin Vaziri) Rock (Joel Selvin) Dance (Rachel Howard) Arts and Culture (Steven Winn) Classical Music (Joshua Kosman) Theater (Robert Hurwitt) Video Games (Peter Hartlaub) HIGH: Oakland Ballet's return Fighting back from near-bankruptcy and a canceled 2004 season, Artistic Director Karen Brown restarted this plucky little company with a roster of exciting new dancers and a perfect-size new venue. LOW: Lar Lubovitch's "smile with my heart ..." A depressing would-be valentine set to dour jazz arrangements of Richard Rodgers tunes, this downer by one of the dance world's most established talents opened San Francisco Ballet's 2005 season. It didn't look fun for the dancers, dressed in some of the most perversely unflattering costumes ever seen on the Opera House stage. MOST IMPROVED: Sarah Van Patten In 2005 we finally got a broader look at what young, recently imported San Francisco Ballet soloist Van Patten can really do. A full-bodied and lushly musical dancer with a naturally imperious air, she was eerie as the ghost in Jerome Robbins' "Dybbuk" and every girl's princess fantasy in the grand pas of Helgi Tomasson's new "Nutcracker." Her girlish, absolutely naturalistic heroine in "Romeo and Juliet" was the revelation of my balletgoing year. MVP: Kara Davis A short-statured blonde with formidable strength and technique, Davis dances with Janice Garrett + Dancers, Kunst-Stoff and Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. She can be cartoonish and quick or piercing and lyrical, but she is always fully present and fully herself. TOP 10 Chitresh Das and Jason Samuels Smith Two master "hoofers" -- one a guru of classical Indian dance, the other a star tapper -- riffed on each other's rhythmic imaginations. Das twirled and stamped with a jazz trio; Smith gave one of the world's fastest tabla players a run for the money. Compagnie Jant-Bi The highlight of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' ambitious new presenting initiative brought mesmerizing dance theater from Senegal, created in emotional response to the Rwandan genocide, that used sophisticated stage design and the bodies of five extraordinary movers to affirm the power of human connection. Tina LeBlanc and Gonzalo Garcia Dancing better than ever after a second maternity leave, San Francisco Ballet's sparkling technician LeBlanc has taken dreamy young principal Garcia under her wing, and their rapport shines. They complemented each other brilliantly in Balanchine's fiendishly challenging "Square Dance" and reached new levels of pathos as partners in "Giselle." Compagnie Marie Chouinard This Montreal provocateur was an eye-opener in her company's Bay Area debut, boldly imported by San Francisco Performances, with two absorbing (and scantily clad) works, one delightful and one horrifying. Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company Combine a classic short story by Flannery O'Connor and the kinetic intelligence of New York dance figure Bill T. Jones in "Reading, Mercy and the Artificial Nigger," and you have one of the most thought-provoking evenings of dance this year. Kunst-Stoff's "Les Sylphides" Avant-garde talent Yannis Adoniou rechoreographed a romantic fantasia for very unromantic times. No pointe shoes, no yards of tulle and no tongue-in-cheek here -- just a bold, chilling take on a classic. "Choreographers in Action: 24+Views" More than two dozen dancemakers each have a strict two minutes to show their stuff -- and did I mention the program is free? The perfect menu for jumping into the dance scene or discovering new talents. Diana Vishneva Russia's venerated Kirov Ballet brought a flawed, dated staging of "The Sleeping Beauty" to its Cal Performances engagement. But who cares about the trappings when you've got leggy, apple-faced Vishneva as Aurora, radiating warmth and virtuosity? Bay Area Rhythm Exchange This finale for the 2005 Bay Area Tap Festival let four top tappers strut their highly stylized stuff before an audience of whooping diehards, then brought "Lawrence Welk Show" veteran Arthur Duncan onstage to show 'em that old-school pizzazz. David Dorfman Dance This small but sophisticated company was chic and challenging in its overdue Bay Area debut as part of the Jewish Community Center's new performing arts series. I loved "Lightbulb Theory," with its poetic text, complex kinesthesia, bubbly pop moves and a heartbreaking solo by Dorfman himself. Rachel Howard is a freelance writer. This article appeared on page PK - 17 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Rachel Howard