In many respects the key word for the dance scene in Washington this past year was "return." Perhaps the most conspicuous and certainly one of the most gratifying instances was the return of the matchless New York City Ballet to the Kennedy Center in October, after an absence of several years -- a direct result of the new dance flooring designed according to George Balanchine's specifications and installed in the Opera House.

The return visit of the Royal Danish Ballet to the same house in June bestowed upon us not only a wealth of charming, hitherto unseen Bournonville pieces like "A Folk Tale," but also a brilliant new generation of dancers, including the remarkable young world-class ballerina Lis Jeppesen.

Merce Cunningham and his company returned to the area for the first time in more than a decade, with a stunning performance of one of his multilayered "Events" at the University of Maryland. A return of another sort was the reconstruction of Bronislava Nijinska's 1923 "Les Noces," staged by the Oakland Ballet at the University of Maryland; perhaps the most profound ballet ever created, it made a deep impact despite a spotty performance.

The Alvin Ailey company was also back in town after several seasons' hiatus, as was the Twyla Tharp troupe, this time in the Kennedy Center's Dance America series; the company made its highest waves in Tharp's dramatically turbulent "Short Stories."