High hopes for the new year

I’m anticipating a happy new dance year with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Australian Ballet, the 60th anniversary of the West Australian Ballet and tours to Australia of the Hamburg Ballet and English National Ballet.

As we think about new year resolutions, it’s always tempting to trawl over the good, the bad and the well, just ordinary moments of the past year.

I’d rather spend time thinking about the new year than the past as the Australian dance year in 2011 was a little too lacking in magic and a little too risk-averse, but briefly, the 2011 highlights for me were , MacMillan’s Concerto (Australian Ballet), Wayne McGregor’s Entity (Sydney Festival), Lloyd Newson’s Can We Talk About This (Spring Dance at the Sydney Opera House), Natalie Weir’s Helpmann Awards success, on screen, Wim Wenders’ Pina in 3D, and, during a visit to London, Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse Ă  Grande Vitesse and Sergei Polunin’s performance in Ballo della regina (Royal Ballet).

Polunin can be seen on screen in Australia this month (27-29 January and 1 February) in the Royal Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty, dancing with Lauren Cuthbertson (Palace Cinemas).

Watching Ballo della regina reminded me of how few Balanchine ballets are now seen in Australia on stage and there are none on the horizon this year. For a Balanchine fix, if needed, try the new DVD of Jewels danced by the Mariinsky in 2006 in St Petersburg and released last October.

The closest Australians are going to be to the Balanchine repertoire in 2012 is Who Cares? – the choreographer’s tribute to Gershwin – programmed by the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s artistic director Ethan Stiefel.

It’s part of a triple bill along with 28 Variations on a Theme by Paganini (Benjamin Millepied) and a new commission by Larry Keigwin and opens in Auckland at the end of February.

The high point of the RBNZ’s year is likely to be a new staging of Giselle, co-produced by Stiefel and Johan Kobborg, opening in Wellington in November, with Stiefel’s wife, Gillian Murphy of American Ballet Theatre as Giselle.

The most anticipated dance work in this month’s Sydney Festival is Babel (Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui) and at the Adelaide Festival in March I’m looking forward to Les Ballets C de la B’s Gardenia and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan’s Water Stains on the Wall.

At last, Onegin is returning to the Australian Ballet’s repertoire and for me, that will be a highlight of the national company’s year, along with the premiere of Stephen Baynes’s new Swan Lake in Melbourne in September and in Sydney in December, and a gala performance celebrating the 50th in Melbourne at the end of October and early November.

The Australian Ballet begins the year with Warumuk – the dark night, choreographed by Stephen Page. This collaboration with Bangarra Dance Theatre is on the same bill as a new Graeme Murphy work and Gideon Obarzanek’s There’s Definitely a Prince Involved which evolved from a vox pop in which the choreographer asked people what the ballet Swan Lake meant to them.

In 2012 Obarzanek hands over the reins at Chunky Move to Anouk van Dijk. She becomes CEO and artistic director in June. Expect major changes to the company that Obarzanek formed in 1995 with Garry Stewart.

At Sydney Dance Company, I’m keen to see Project Rameau, a collaboration between Rafael Bonachela and Richard Tognetti, artistic director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra (October).

Incidentally, three Royal New Zealand Ballet School graduates, Jesse Scales, Thomas Bradley and Alana Sargent, have been given contracts by the Sydney Dance Company for this year, according to the New Zealand news website, Voxy.

If no one leaves, there will be 18 dancers at SDC in 2012.

English National Ballet arrives in Sydney in June with an enticing programme, including Suite en Blanc, while the Queensland Performing Arts Centre will be home to a Hamburg-fest later in the year with the Hamburg Ballet, Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Hamburg State Opera all performing in Brisbane.

The ballet company will present two works by its artistic director, John Neumeier, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and, Nijinsky, the choreographer’s interpretation of the life and soul of the dancer whose L’après-midi d’un faune will be 100 years old this year.

Happy New Year!

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Water Stains on the Wall, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, photo © Liu Chen-hsiang

Ballo della regina, Sergei Polunin and Marianela Nuñez, photo © Bill Cooper

Yonah Acosta, Suite en Blanc, English National Ballet, photo © Helen Maybanks

Hamburg Ballet in Nijinsky. Photo courtesy Orange County Performing Arts Center

Ty King-Wall, Amber Scott, Swan Lake, Australian Ballet, photo © Georges Antoni