PRINT December 2011

Dance: Best of 2011

David Velasco

Sarah Michelson, Devotion, 2011. Rehearsal view, The Kitchen, New York, January 12, 2011. Narrator (Rebecca Warner). Photo: Paula Court.

1 Sarah Michelson, Devotion (The Kitchen, New York, January 13–15 and 19–22, 2011) I saw this dance about dance and dance making three times in one week. Each time I held on to it thinking, “This is as good as it gets.” Nothing leaves you dumbstruck by the evanescence of performance like a Michelson dance.

2 Richard Move and MoveOpolis!, Martha@ . . . The 1963 Interview (Dance Theater Workshop, New York, March 30–April 2 and November 16–19, 2011) Martha Graham’s greatest legacy might just be her prodigious imitator Richard Move.

3 Michael Clark company, TH (Tate Modern, London, June 8–12, 2011) The grand stretch of the Turbine Hall made into casting studio, rehearsal space, and theater. Tate Modern did right by Clark with this commission, and in so doing raised the bar for institutions everywhere.

4 Yvonne Rainer (Dia:Beacon, New York, October 22–23, 2011) No artist has given us so many tools with which to think dance. No artist has made watching “thinking” dance such a pleasure. No artist insists on such attention to the propinquity of movement and thought. To the artist who showed us the generative potential of the word no, I say yes.

Yve Laris Cohen, Duke, 2010. Performance view, Dance Theater Workshop, New York, December 8, 2010. Yve Laris Cohen and Michael Mahalchick. Photo: Yi-Chun Wu.

5 Yve Laris Cohen, Duke (Dance Theater Workshop, New York, December 8–11, 2010) Cohen’s deliberate, formal compositions make both dance and art history their subject. How they do this without coming across as contrived or fusty or really anything but thrilling is a mystery to me.

6 Heather Kravas, The Green Surround (Performance Space 122, New York, May 4–7, 2011) “Over and over . . .” went the nine girls in Kravas’s killer, methodical burlesque of perfection. Best use of Sonic Youth at a performance about repetition since Seth Price and Kelley Walker’s Freelance Stenographer in 2007.

7 Pina (Wim Wenders) Wenders and his subject, the late Pina Bausch, bring out the best and worst in each other. All that unchecked sentimentality, gimmickry, and cloying theatricality: like sugarcoated cotton candy—i.e., the perfect 3-D art film.

8 Jeremy Wade, Fountain (Danspace Project, New York, October 6–8, 2011) “Is he serious?” was the question that seemed to plague Wade’s hysterical participatory exercise. But our uncertainty was also testament to his virtuosic command of the madman/shaman vibe. More to the point: Can he continue to make us nonbelievers believe without really believing?

Beyoncé vs. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.

9 Beyoncé vs. Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker “Beyoncé is not the worst copycat,” Keersmaeker wrote days after the release of B’s music video celebrating her single “Countdown,” which featured a soigné pastiche of, among other things, some of the legendary choreographer’s signature moves. “She sings and dances very well, and she has good taste!” Even when Beyoncé steals she does it with style. This polite imbroglio made for some of the year’s best dance conversations.

10 Mårten Spångberg, Spangbergianism (self-published) Sloppy, gossipy, narcissistic, Spångberg’s blog-cum-treatise is replete with contemporary Hollywood references and clunky but useful critical terms like “hope-for-the-best dance.” “It is time to stop the notion that a bad dance piece is better than no dance piece,” he admonishes. Imagine him with an editor or a Semiotext(e) contract.

David Velasco is editor of and a regular contributor to Artforum. He is currently working on his first novel.