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The Best Dance of 2016 | Eiko + Koma

The Best Dance of 2016

  • The New York Times, December 7, 2016

Luminosity in Two Generations

The Oscar Wilde quote on Indiana Woodward’s Instagram account could be about her dancing: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Ms. Woodward, who turns 23 this month, isn’t just another rising member of New York City Ballet but also a dancer with the kind of freedom of expression that causes your breath to catch in your throat. Her performances over the past year, most memorably as the winged sprite in “La Sylphide” and as the female protagonist in Lauren Lovette’s “For Clara,” demonstrate things you just can’t teach: spirit, generosity, the meeting of artistry and artlessness.

A member of the corps de ballet since 2012, Ms. Woodward was born in Paris. She has a look and verve similar to those of Violette Verdy, the beloved French-born City Ballet principal who died this year, but Ms. Woodward is also a ballerina of her time. As the Sylph, Ms. Woodward radiated a mischievous warmth with jumps that hovered in the air. In the effervescent “For Clara,” she was more herself, epitomizing strength, independence and joy. She flies through choreography with glee, as if she were running barefoot through a forest.

Many blocks downtown, there was another original at work this year: Eiko, the Japanese-born dance artist and subject of Danspace Project’s Platform 2016: “A Body in Places.” For part of it, Eiko, 64, performed a series of intimate solos, in East Village locations, that braided together painstakingly slow movement and stillness with spurts of abandon.

During one performance at Middle Collegiate Church on Second Avenue, a thrashing Eiko darted through the sanctuary’s front doors and landed on the sidewalk. It had been raining, and like an East Village Mary Poppins, she pounced into a puddle. The combination of such vulnerability and daring as strangers — some truly mystified — stared had the effect of transforming her seemingly frail body into something otherworldly. Eiko and Ms. Woodward may be generations apart and practicing vastly different dance forms, but each moves as if there were no tomorrow.