The ballet companies associated with Fort Worth dance schools, such as Ballet Concerto and Ballet Frontier, continued to up their quality in 2012, but not enough to outshine the formidable talent at Texas Ballet Theater or the gains by Fort Worth choreographer Bruce Wood, who has triumphantly returned to the scene.
Meanwhile, a snappy new company, Avant Chamber Ballet, consisting of former TBT and Metropolitan Classical Ballet dancers, made a big splash, thanks to something that's becoming a rarity in dance: live music.
Here are the top five dance happenings of 2012:
1. Bruce Wood Dance Project
Montgomery Arts Theater, Dallas (June)
Fort Worth choreographer Bruce Wood is back in a big way, and his group's two programs in the summer gave us haunting premieres by Wood (I Am My Brother's Keeper and The Day of Small Things); a whimsical work, Slump, by Joshua L. Peugh; and revivals of Wood's Follow Me and Lovett. You can catch an expanded version of Brother's Keeper in March, which -- hallelujah! -- will be the first of two BWDP productions in 2013.
2. 'The Nutcracker'
Texas Ballet Theater at Bass Hall (December)
Ben Stevenson promised a new Nutcracker, and boy, did he deliver. The new sets, costumes and high-flying spectacles were eye-popping, but that wouldn't matter if his company weren't the most gifted classical dancers in town. Stunning all the way.
3. Portraits Dance Festival
Texas Ballet Theater at Wyly Theatre, Dallas (April)
Over two weekends in Dallas, Fort Worth-based Texas Ballet Theater continued to show interest in its dancers' choreography, with new works by Carl Coomer (Evolving) and Peter Zweifel (The Finding), plus excellent revivals of Balanchine's Apollo, Ben Stevenson's Bartok Concerto and Val Caniparoli's Lambarena. Fort Worth audiences can see Lambarena at Bass Hall this spring.
4. 'European Crossing: Where Dance and Music Intersect'
Avant Chamber Ballet at LifeStage Theater, Grapevine (September)
Live music from soloists and a chamber ensemble greatly propelled the first nonfestival performance for this new group, whose members mostly come from the defunct Metropolitan Classical Ballet. But the short works -- Francaix Marelle, Prelude, Colloquy and Italian Suite -- showed great promise in choreography and performance. Can't wait to see what they do next.
5. Ailey II
Bass Hall (February)
The secondary company of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater showed its young talent with a thrilling performance that included Thang Dao's Echoes, Mina Yoo's Boulevard and Troy Powell's Reference Point.