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Performers sparkle

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When it comes to praise, dancers often find their contributions taking a back seat to the buzz about the latest choreographic offerings. In 2007, however, the spotlight beamed on dancers whose incandescent performances left an indelible impression.

Last winter, two of the most glorious artists of this generation — Kyra Nichols and Nikolaj Hubbe, both leading dancers at the New York City Ballet — gave their last Washington performances at the Kennedy Center. A couple of weeks later, they were followed there by two phenomenally gifted fledgling stars of the Bolshoi Ballet — Evgenya Obraztsova, 21, and Andrian Fadeyev, 18 — in a dazzling performance of "Don Quixote."

Miss Nichols and Mr. Hubbe have had careers touched with greatness. She gave a radiant account here as Titania in George Balanchine's "Midsummer Night's Dream"; he demonstrated his superbly elegant authority in the work's beautiful second-act pas de deux.

Miss Nichols later shone at an elegant farewell performance in New York; Mr. Hubbe's retirement will be celebrated in February at the New York City Ballet, after which he will become director of the Royal Danish Ballet, his hometown company.

In contrast to these Olympian artists, the Bolshoi dancers offered the exuberance and physical daring of youth. Miss Obra-ztsova's leaps seemed to float and hang suspended in the air; Mr. Fadeyev was fearless in his not-yet-polished but eye-popping pyrotechnics. They and their company will return to the Kennedy Center a year from now — a splendid prospect.

Another Washington highlight was a program by the Washington Ballet called "Noche Latina!" dreamed up by Director Septime Webre, who created a party atmosphere culled from his Cuban roots. Four Latino bands played sequentially as the audience entered the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater. One band marched down the aisle wearing huge sombreros and gaucho pants; another played Celtic and Mexican harps during intermission. Their liveliness was irresistible, and the audience responded with unusual zest. Oh yes, the dancing was infectious, too.

Later in the year, Christopher Wheeldon's exhilarating "Morphoses" to music of Gyorgy Ligeti showed a quartet of Washington Ballet dancers — Luis R. Torres, Sona Kharatian, Jared Nelson and Jade Payette — reaching new heights as they met its challenge.

The company's annual "7x7" program, given in its studio theater on upper Wisconsin Avenue Northwest produced two striking works illuminated by first-rate performances. This year the subject was Shakespeare, and Karole Armitage's "Gathering His Thoughts," based on Hamlet's troubled soliloquy, was given a mesmerizing account by Mr. Nelson. Trey McIntyre's driving "Queen of the Goths" found Jonathan Jordan, Jason Hartley and Miss Kharatian outdoing themselves.

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet played the Kennedy Center for two weeks instead of one in 2007 and continues to develop the refinement and daring that marked Miss Farrell's own dancing during her years as Mr. Balanchine's muse. Among many notable performances from the company, the dancing of Bonnie Pickard and Runqiao Du in "Scotch Symphony" captured its elusive air of romantic mystery.

At the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's annual visit, three dancers at three different points in their career were standouts: spunky Renee Robinson celebrated her 25th anniversary with the company, something of a rarity in this physically taxing group; Clifton Brown, at midpoint in his career, dominated the stage with his clean technique and warm, outgoing stage presence; and Alicia Graf, in just her second year with the Ailey, turned her beautifully strong, flexible body, trained in ballet, into a striking vehicle for the company's style.

A most unusual trio of dancers, this time with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, was a shining example of "The messenger Is the message." In "Ferocious Beauty: Genome," seen in spring at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Northeast, some of the most affecting moments were created by performers who exemplified the broad humanity at the center of Miss Lerman's work: Suzanne Richard entered in a wheelchair, which she alternated with a skilled use of crutches, moving in ebullient interaction with the group; Martha Wittman and Thomas Dwyer, both senior citizens and skilled performers, offered sometimes wry comments on the process of aging and decay. In addition to the brilliance and beauty to be found in dance, the concept of "Ferocious Beauty: Genome" added depth and insight to the human condition.

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