If 2017 is wrapping up as the Year of the Schmuck, it has also showcased the extraordinary strength of women, those who have endured mistreatment and those who have been calling men out on it. So maybe it’s cosmic syncing that the best performances in dance this year have featured strong women. Female strength is the foundation of the art form, naturally, and in recent months, an array of remarkable women have seized the spotlight. Namely:
Julie Kent, in her first year as artistic director of the Washington Ballet. Leading with a gentle touch, excellent taste and a rich base of knowledge, she has overseen an artistic rebirth of the company. Scattered throughout the past year were these especially fine accounts: “Giselle,” Alexei Ratmansky’s “Seven Sonatas” and “Bolero,” Frederick Ashton’s “The Dream,” Antony Tudor’s “Jardin Aux Lilas” (“Lilac Garden”) and Fokine’s “Les Sylphides.”
American Ballet Theatre’s raft of principal ballerinas, leading its week of “Swan Lakes” in January, with Devon Teuscher, not yet a principal at the time, making her beautifully measured debut in the leading role of Odette/Odile. She took on this rite of passage days earlier than planned, stepping in for an injured Gillian Murphy. Teuscher was promoted shortly thereafter. How exciting it was to see her poised confidently on the threshold.
Jacquelin Harris and Megan Jakel of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, in Artistic Director Robert Battle’s “Ella,” in February. In this tribute to jazz great Ella Fitzgerald, Harris and Jakel ricocheted around the stage in perfect synchrony, matching Fitzgerald’s scat singing with their own dazzling, full-body, frequently airborne execution.
Tiler Peck, the deeply musical star of two works by Justin Peck performed by the New York City Ballet in the spring: “Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes,” for 15 men and a single ballerina, and “The Times Are Racing.” Peck is playful, full of personality yet elegantly restrained, which gives her a sense of mystery. She comes across as both approachable and unknowable, as paradoxical as that sounds. It guarantees that we’ll stay interested.
Carmen de Lavallade, back in the public eye — hooray! — to receive the Kennedy Center Honors for her long and unparalleled career in the arts. With her sensitivity to drama, her ability to inspire choreographers including Agnes de Mille, John Butler, Lester Horton and her husband, Geoffrey Holder, her generosity to countless fellow artists and her ongoing example of industry and humility, de Lavallade epitomizes strength. At 86, she is timeless, peerless — and tireless.
Read more of our picks for the best of 2017: