The best dance of 2022

Exhilarating highlights this year ranged from tech-savvy ballet and a juggling celebration of Merce Cunningham to a daring flamenco Rite of Spring

More of the best culture of 2022

10. Johannes Radebe: Freedom

When Strictly’s Johannes Radebe sashayed across the stage in a costume made from flags of all the countries where homosexuality is illegal, it was clear there was more to this touring show than glamour and cosy chat. Executed with the Latin champ’s megawatt warmth and charm, even hardened critics were on their feet. Read the full review LW

9. Kyle Abraham: An Untitled Love

At the Edinburgh international festival, US choreographer Kyle Abraham put a house party on stage, soundtracked by the music of R&B star D’Angelo. It’s rare to find dance that’s more human, more natural, with Abraham’s dancers seemingly moving on instinct. This wasn’t a piece built on great statements but small moments, connections and a lot of groove. Read the full review LW

8. Rambert: Peaky Blinders and triple bill

Rambert have emerged from the pandemic looking very strong. Their touring dance version of Peaky Blinders was a surprising and unashamedly commercial move, but they pulled it off with a ton of energy. Their triple bill was even better, supremely versatile dancers moving from glitching robots to lyrical flow to comic theatrics with aplomb. LW

7. Matsena Productions: Shades of Blue

Brothers Anthony and Kel Matsena’s piece about power structures, police violence, stop and search, and being black in the UK was a potent piece of dance theatre at Sadler’s Wells. The messaging was direct, but there were layers to be found in the tormented anxiety of the movement, and the way they played with the conventions of theatre. Read the full review LW

6. The Rest of Our Lives

A low key but utterly life-affirming show that was full of silliness, a great soundtrack and both poignancy and humour on the subject of getting older. Jo Fong and George Orange were brilliant company, connecting everyone in the room, and in an Edinburgh festival morning slot, getting us all on the dancefloor before lunchtime. Read the full review LW

5. English National Ballet: The Forsythe Evening

A night of pure kinetic pleasure at Sadler’s Wells, London, from American choreographer William Forsythe, who seems to be specialising in joy in the later stage of his career. The soundtrack was James Blake, Barry White, Natalie Cole, Khalid; the dancers of ENB – men especially – elated to be skimming through Forsythe’s speedy steps and deliciously crisp lines. Read the full review LW

4. Gandini Juggling: Life

Sean Gandini and his troupe bring a choreographic sensibility to the art of throwing and catching, and in this gem of a show at London international mime festival they paid tribute to godfather of modern dance Merce Cunningham. The jugglers made rhythm visible, just like Cunningham did, in abstract puzzles with a lot of human heart. Read the full review LW

Dazzling … Scottish Ballet’s Coppélia at Festival theatre, Edinburgh.
Dazzling … Scottish Ballet’s Coppélia at Festival theatre, Edinburgh. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

3. Scottish Ballet: Coppélia

A remake of a 150-year-old ballet that actually managed to feel current and relevant, turning the toymaker Dr Coppélius and his mechanical doll into an ego-driven entrepreneur a la Elon Musk, meddling with artificial intelligence. A smart, funny, tech-savvy ballet at Edinburgh international festival from choreographic duo Morgann Runacre-Temple and Jessica Wright. Read the full review LW

2. Lost Dog: Ruination

Director Ben Duke continues his run of great form in this dance-theatre meta-commentary on the Greek myth of Medea. The reinvestigation of her story set in an underworld court had compelling performers, many LOLs, a few tears, a fab soundtrack, clever construction and dance crackling with emotional static. Read the full review LW

Joining forces … Israel Galván in La Consagración de la Primavera.
Joining forces … Israel Galván in La Consagración de la Primavera. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

1. Israel Galván: La Consagración de la Primavera

Many choreographers wrestle with Stravinsky’s mighty Rite of Spring. Most are overpowered by its sheer force and its weight of history. In his audacious staging at Sadler’s Wells, London, flamenco iconoclast Israel Galván proved a worthy match – abetted by musicians Daria van den Bercken and Gerard Bouwhuis playing the score in its elemental, two-piano transcription. Soundboards intensified Galván’s arrhythmic footwork, the music surged through the pianos’ strings and hammers. Everything – costume, choreography, iconography, scenography, sound – felt as if it could break apart under its own tension. Nothing did. Galván didn’t beat Stravinsky’s score (who could?), he joined forces with it. SR


Lyndsey Winship and Sanjoy Roy

The GuardianTramp

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