The year 2011 was filled with show-stopping onstage moments and exciting offstage drama. Whether you were captivated by New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns’ 32 fouettés in Swan Lake or danced along in your seat as Sutton Foster led the Broadway cast of Anything Goes through a series of time steps, there’s no doubt you were entertained. Here are the people who kept us on the edge of our seats in 2011.

—Alison Feller

In Ballet

  • Sarah Lane. Photo by Gene Schiavone.

    When Natalie Portman won the Best Actress Academy Award for her role as a twisted-but-talented ballerina in Black Swan, she neglected to thank her dance double, American Ballet Theatre’s Sarah Lane, in her acceptance speech. Later, Lane stood up to the movie industry by demanding credit for her work.

  • New York City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer danced the Sugar Plum Fairy role in the company’s Nutcracker, last year, and while most gave her a standing ovation, New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay remarked in his review that it looked as though she’d “eaten one sugar plum too many.” Ringer quickly became a role model for women everywhere when she went on “Oprah” this February to discuss the critique and proclaim that she thinks her body is just fine. So do we, Jenifer. Rock on!

  • As if Alexei Ratmansky wasn’t already the busiest man in ballet, he just extended his contract as American Ballet Theatre’s resident choreographer through 2023.

  • Company tours are a lot of work. This year Ballet Nacional de Cuba embarked on its first U.S. tour in five years, hitting four cities along the way.

  • American Ballet Theatre principal (and star!) David Hallberg became the first American dancer to enlist permanently with Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet.

  • The Broadway production of Wonderland. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

    Everyone wanted to go down the rabbit hole: Productions of Alice in Wonderland popped up everywhere, from ballet stages (The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada and Royal Winnipeg Ballet all showed versions) to Broadway (Wonderland was short-lived, but the choreography by Marguerite Derricks was quirky and fun).

On Broadway

  • Apparently Harry Potter can sing and dance—or at least his real-life alter-ego can. Daniel Radcliffe drew massive crowds and rave reviews when he starred in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. No magic wand needed.

  • The Book of Mormon. Photo by Joan Marcus.

    The Book of Mormon was easily the most controversial debut on Broadway this year. The show, penned by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone with Avenue Q co-writer Robert Lopez and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, may have offended some audiences, but it impressed the Tony Award voters and took home nine honors, including Best Musical.

On the Comp Scene

  • Joe Lanteri, executive director of New York City Dance Alliance, changed 44 young dancers’ lives this summer when he presented $2.8 million in college scholarships. Go get those diplomas!

  • Selecting the DS Cover Model Search finalists is never easy, but this year there were three dancers who stood out: Kaitlynn Edgar, Maddie Swenson and Zoey Anderson. All three hail from the competition circuit, and all three were wildly impressive.

On TV

  • Melanie Moore won the title of America’s Favorite Dancer on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 8 and landed on the cover of DS!

  • When Beyoncé revealed her baby bump at the MTV Video Music Awards, she proved she runs the world—and so do her choreographers, Frank Gatson, Sheryl Murakami and Jeffrey Page. The trio won the VMA for Best Choreography for Beyoncé’s “Run the World” video.

  • When Laurieann Gibson wasn’t throwing together award-winning choreography for Lady Gaga, she was starring on her own TV shows on E! and BET. We’re not necessarily on board with her screaming fits and harsh treatment of her dancers, but we do respect her moves.

  • Amanda and D'Angelo on "Live to Dance." Photo by Monty Brinton.

    Paula Abdul’s “Live to Dance” wasn’t a hit, but it introduced us to D’Angelo Castro and Amanda Carbajales, who became the show’s champions. These tiny dancers won us over with their personalities and technique.

  • Lil’ Buck may have been the coolest guy to get us talking this year. He starred in Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope” video and helped make jookin’ mainstream. His “Swan” performance alongside Yo Yo Ma? Breathtaking.

On the Big Screen

  • Natalie Portman accepts her Oscar for Best Actress. Photo by A.M.P.A.S.

    She may not have done all the dancing as Nina, but Natalie Portman’s Black Swan performance was definitely Oscar-worthy. Plus, she met Benjamin Millepied, her boyfriend-turned-fiancé and father to her child, Aleph, on set.

  • While no one can truly replace Kevin Bacon, Kenny Wormald proved that he’s a stud with smooth moves in this year’s remake of Footloose. Plus, his onscreen chemistry with costar Julianne Hough made us want to drag our own boyfriends to dance class.

  • In First Position, audiences get a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes action at the Youth America Grand Prix finals in NYC. The documentary and its stars—Michaela DePrince, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Miko and Jules Fogarty, Aran Bell and Rebecca Houseknecht—received rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival.

In Modern Dance

  • Bill T. Jones + Dance Theater Workshop = New York Live Arts. We love a good collaboration.

  • When Judith Jamison retired as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Robert Battle was handed the reins to the prestigious modern company. We can’t wait to see what he does with the group in 2012.

You’ve memorized the moves from Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video—you’ve even mastered the iconic claw gesture. So who can you blame for your Gaga obsession? Laurieann Gibson, the star’s super-tough, super-talented choreographer.

Gibson has been dancing nearly her entire life, but she got her first on-camera speaking role when she choreographed for P. Diddy’s pop group Danity Kane on MTV’s “Making The Band” in 2005. She’s on faculty with The PULSE On Tour, has choreographed on “So You Think You Can Dance” and, of course, has spent the last whirlwind year by Lady Gaga’s side, acting as her creative director. Now, with a handful of awards under her belt, including an MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography for the “Bad Romance” video, Gibson’s giving the world an inside look at her life. We caught up with her after she pulled an all-nighter directing and choreographing a video for Keri Hilson to get the scoop on her new show, debuting this month on E!

Dance Spirit: Tell us about “Just Dance: The Laurieann Gibson Show.”

Laurieann Gibson: After “Making The Band” I developed an interest in reality shows, but there was nothing out there that was specific enough for me. Then Ryan Seacrest approached me and said he wanted to create a documentary about me and the dance community—how much of a fight it is to make it and what happens after you get the trophy. This isn’t “So You Think You Can Dance.” This is the aftermath. The show will follow me hiring dancers, working with artists and taking on some big new ventures. The dancers will be the main characters on the show.

DS: What’s it like working with Lady Gaga?

LG: I remember when I first met her a few years ago. In walks this skinny girl with brown hair—she was just so pure-looking. I listened to “Beautiful Dirty Rich” and “Paparazzi.” I had been trying to get creative with other acts I was working with, but everyone was afraid to take chances. But with her, I got this creative urge and she was willing to do whatever I wanted. So I began working with her and raising her like a dancer. I had her doing pas de bourrées and balancés, and with her natural, quirky movement, it became Lady Gaga.

DS: What do you look for when you’re hiring dancers?

LG: It’s about a spirit. Yes, I want an amazing dancer who is trained and can do everything. But to be in my tribe, I want to know what you can do after I teach you the movement. You need to be OK with not fitting in, and have an energy and hunger for dance.“

Just Dance: The Laurieann Gibson Show” premieres January 23 on E!

 

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