Five top choreographers in the world today
Posted: Jun 01 2015
Picking five top choreographers wasn’t easy - so we decided to focus on five names to watch, spread across the world of contemporary dance, each of whom is using the dance form to expand what is possible in new and exciting ways. Here are our five choices:
Michigan born Sonya Tayeh’s dance style is described as ‘combat jazz’ - abrupt and aggressive, it challenges and confronts the viewer as much as engaging and entertaining them. Tayeh has a strong narrative style to her choreography, and in common with Britain’s latest hot dance talent, FKA Twigs, she learned her craft as a house dancer and at underground raves, but unlike FKA Twigs, Tayeh has become as famous for her choreography for others as for her own dance moves. Tay, now 36, is a choreographer for the Fox TV series So You Think You Can Dance, and has also choreographed the off-Broadway play Kung Fu about Bruce Lee. Considered to be one of the top 25 choreographers to watch in the USA she has brought her style of dance to leading musical talent including Florence and the Machine, Madonna and Kylie.
Wim Vandekeybus is best known for a single piece of work, but that one piece has stood the test of time better than almost any other contemporary dance. In the nearly 30 years since he premiered What the Body Does Not Remember this powerful and extreme work has become legendary for its physicality, subtle humour and provocative exploration of norms. Since 1987 when the work was revealed, it has been the standard by which contemporary performance dance has been measured. With it, Vandekeybus invented a new language of dance; chaotic, dark and brilliant behaviours that include the destruction of props, challenges to gender and even throwing bricks! Since this master-work he has produced 23 other works, many of which push the boundaries of art/dance and create transgressive narratives that involve photographers, musicians and actors along with his own extremely physical dance troupe.
When Alexei Ratmansky left the Bolshoi in 2008, his four year directorship had identified and honed a generation of dancers that went on to dazzle the world. Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev developed their signature styles under his tutelage, but Ratmasky, a shy and little known choreographer, is more than just a talent spotter. Recognised by Mikhail Baryshnikov as being the best of his generation, Ratmansky has a particular knack for restaging classical ballet for a new audience, whilst satisfying the demands of the most exacting balletomane. He clearly doesn’t care that ballet is hardly mainstream; as artist in residence at the American Ballet Theatre he has taken the opportunity to re-choreograph some of the world’s most famous ballets for new audiences - an daring behaviour that has won him as many fans for his personal audacity as for his superb choreography. His work with the UK’s Royal Ballet has won him a whole new audience, which has fallen in love with this cerebral dance designer.
Megan Batoon is a dancer you love or hate. 23-year-old Batoon has a massive YouTube following and her hip-hop choreography has divided the dance world. From her position as choreographer for the Collaboration Kids Dance crew, which took her all female crew to Hop Hop International in Las Vegas, she parlayed her way into a presenter role with World of Dance and appeared as a dancer in the Step Up Revolution film in 2012 which split the fan base that had loved Step Up when it was fronted by Channing Tatum. What makes Batoon so special is the way she’s learned to use YouTube to create an audience - with tight choreography and small troupes, cutaways to open and close her dances with light-hearted and often slightly risqué narratives, she’s become an all-star small screen choreographer before most dancers even knew there was a small screen to choreograph for.
If you ask a non dance fan to name a famous modern choreographer they probably can’t - but they are most likely to say ‘the one who did the swan ballet with only blokes’. They mean Matthew Bourne, often seen as the UK’s most successful choreographer and by no means a one-hit-wonder. As well as his all male Swan Lake, he has won four Oliver awards, and two Tonys: for best choreographer and best director of a musical. He is widely known for having staged Edward Scissorhands, which was considered ‘unstageable’ but has just undergone a successful revival from its hit season in 2005, and for being an enfant terrible of the dance form - pretty good going for a 54 year old who had no formal dance training until his twenties!