Standout Performances of 2023: Readers’ Choice

December 29, 2023

It’s that time of year again…Introducing your 2023 Readers’ Choice Standout Performances!

From Nutcracker to romantic classics, exciting world premieres, and more, a variety of performances by dancers and companies made this year’s list. We love learning what has made an impression on you and why.

Thank you to everyone who nominated, whether via email or through a social media shout-out. (Entries have been edited for length and clarity.)

A male and female dancer perform "Serenade" onstage in deep blue costumes. He holds her hand as she does a huge arabesque facing him, her long gauzy skirt flying up behind her.
Artists of Orlando Ballet in Balanchine’s Serenade. Photo by Michael Cairns, courtesy OB.

Orlando Ballet in Serenade

“It was the most beautiful rendition of Serenade I have ever seen. The sweeping score as performed by Bach Festival Society of Winter Park made us weep before the curtain had even risen…Orlando Ballet is at the top of its game right now with its roster of dancers and I am happy I was able to witness it.” —Dakota

Atlanta Ballet in La Sylphide

“I was amazed when I first saw it a few years ago and found even more delightful details this time around. Every dancer was allowed to demonstrate their artistry to the fullest and go beyond the steps. This time we had the extra treat of getting to see [Johan] Kobborg himself in the role of Madge. It’s been fascinating to see [the dancers’] growth, and seeing them alongside a star like Kobborg made me feel even more amazed at how far they have come as a company and as individuals.” —Rosi

American Liberty Ballet’s Allie Hutchins as Giselle

“Her stage presence, acting, pure classical lines, and mad scene took my breath away. I did not watch Allie Hutchins dancing as Giselle, but the Giselle. Hutchins has that star quality and thing you really, truly cannot teach, a tangible passion that has been missing from a lot of ‘bigger’ artists; she is one to keep your eyes on.” —Alexandria

The Royal Ballet in Sleeping Beauty

“In general, I’m not a fan of Petipa’s choreography, and have been bored by large sections of any production of The Sleeping Beauty I’ve seen. This production was so flawless and gorgeously done that I loved every moment of it. The costumes and sets were beautiful, and the dancing was superb. There was no question coming out of it that they are one of the best ballet companies in the world.” —Zachari

Calvin Royal III lifts SunMi Park as she tucks her right leg under and extends her left forward. They look at each other lovingly, she in a light blue dress and he in a tan suit.
SunMi Park and Calvin Royal III in Christopher Wheeldon’s Like Water for Chocolate. Photo by Marty Sohl, courtesy American Ballet Theatre.

St. Louis Ballet’s Olivia Cornelius as Giselle

“The delicacy of her port de bras and clarity of her movement were truly astonishing as she embraced and fully embodied this iconic role. Her balances en pointe, both during her first act variation and the second act pas de deux, were sustained and impossibly floaty—what she achieved was beyond human.” —Elaine

Indiana University’s new Nutcracker

“It was hands-down the most magical version of The Nutcracker I have ever seen. The changes that Sasha [Janes] made make the two acts seem more cohesive and complete. It had just enough new tweaks to make it exciting and magical and yet was missing none of the parts of the traditional Nutcracker that keep it nostalgic.” —April

Malandain Ballet Biarritz in L’Oiseau de Feu

“With an exceptional dancer, Hugo Layer. Keep an eye on this young man!” —Anne

Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre

“Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre has had a solid season, especially with Ana Maria Lucaciu’s Long Ago and Only Once. This show should be an example for what dance theater performance can be, touching on big subjects without isolating the audience. Their rep shows have also been quite remarkable. Most notably a collaboration with Atlanta Ballet company member and latest star choreographer Darian Kane, which featured a pregnant Rachel Van Buskirk in a family saga set in WWII from a woman’s perspective. Terminus brings the dance community of Atlanta together and it’s impressive to see the quality of work they are able to produce while being a small company.” —Rosi

Jonathan Breight lifts Amanda Morgan and turns her around, she in a low attitude position, her head thrown back and her dark hair flying.
Jonathan Breight and Amanda Morgan in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Lacrimosa. Photo by Michael Henninger, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

Amanda Morgan and Jonathan Breight in Anabelle Lopez-Ochoa’s Lacrimosa at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

“This choreography and these dancers were like nothing I have seen before; they danced truly as one, and the iconography of the piece just struck my heart strings. Amanda and Jonathan took risks and made myself and the whole audience gasp, she leaping many feet away backwards trusting he would catch her without a beat of hesitation from either of them. Truly a memorable performance!” —Steve

Michael Pink’s Hunchback of Notre Dame at Milwaukee Ballet

“A virtuosic tour de force of a gorgeous series of pas de deux by principal artists Parker Brasser-Vos as Phoebus and Marize Fumero as Esmeralda…magical chemistry!” —V. Jean

American Ballet Theatre in Like Water for Chocolate

“With Claire Davison as Mama Elena. I loved the music composed by Joby Talbot and orchestrated by Ben Foskett. The beautiful story [was] told so clearly with wonderful choreography by Christopher Wheeldon. I hope ABT continues to commission new story ballets.” —Ana Claire

In front of a bright teal green backdrop, lit in the middle, a male dancer lifts a female dancer above his head. She screams and reaches toward the audience, posing in arabesque, and a cluster of other dancers pose together by a brown angular set piece on stage right. A big golden orb suspends from the ceiling mid-stage.
Artists of Alberta Ballet in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s BOTERO. Photo by Nanc Price, courtesy AB.

Other Favorites

Alberta Ballet in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s BOTERO

American Contemporary Ballet’s Nutcracker Suite

Astana Opera Ballet’s new Swan Lake

BalletCollective’s The Night Falls

Ballet Frontier’s Carmen

Boston Ballet in Don Quixote

Carlos Acosta in Carlos at 50, at the Royal Opera House

Charlotte Ballet in Jennifer Archibald’s HdrM

Eugene Ballet’s Koki Yamaguchi as Petrushka in Suzanne Haag’s Petrushka

Joffrey Ballet in Anna Karenina

Los Angeles Ballet in Melissa Barak’s Memoryhouse

On a darkly lit stage, a male dancer stands behind a female dancer, reaching toward her arm as she extends it forward.
Artists of Charlotte Ballet in Jennifer Archibald’s HdrM. Photo by Taylor Jones, courtesy CB.

Madison Ballet’s Innovation program

Natalia Osipova’s City Center Show, Force of Nature

New York City Ballet in Serenade

New York City Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty

New York City Ballet in The Times Are Racing

Oregon Ballet Theatre in Swan Lake

Pacific Northwest Ballet in Petite Mort

The Royal Ballet in The Cellist

The Royal Ballet in Don Quixote

Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Snow White

San Francisco Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella

Turn It Out with Tiler Peck and Friends at Sadler’s Wells, in London

Victorian State Ballet in Giselle