My list in Sunday’s Chronicle:

“HIGH: San Francisco Ballet’s Maria Kochetkova in “Giselle” (Feb. 19): Tiny, delicate and irrepressibly sweet, the Russian-trained Kochetkova broke our hearts. Cutting through all the hype of San Francisco Ballet’s forward-looking 75th season, the company’s doll-like new principal gave a performance to remember for a lifetime.

LOW: Mark Morris Dance Group in “Romeo and Juliet: On Motifs of Shakespeare” (Sept. 26): Modern masters have their off years, too. Morris resurrected Prokofiev’s original score but didn’t show any feeling for the music. A handful of clever dramaturgical touches couldn’t bring passion to this star-crossed production.

MOST IMPROVED: Smaller Bay Area ballet companies: They had a banner year. The reborn Oakland Ballet Company charmed in family-friendly fare, Diablo Ballet danced Balanchine with fresh panache, and Company C Contemporary Ballet romped through the world premiere of a lost Twyla Tharp creation. With the Smuin Ballet also carrying on strongly, there was ballet for everyone.

MVP: Jessica Robinson. CounterPulse’s tireless executive director runs a tiny performance venue with a big impact, fostering new work by developing choreographers seemingly in all styles and genres – and just as important, promoting substantive dialogue among artists and their audiences.”

And a few selections from my top 10:

“Retrospective Exhibitionist: (Miguel Gutierrez, May 9) A fleshy naked man. Holding a backbend. Singing a Kate Bush song in falsetto as a lit candle rises near his bare derriere. Gutierrez, a Joe Goode alumnus now in New York, was outrageous – but his meditation on narcissism was oddly touching, too.

Craneway Event: (Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Nov. 9) Cal Performances presented the 89-year-old modern dance maverick’s timeless experiments in time and space at a former Ford assembly plant at Point Richmond. To see these superhuman dancers doing superhuman things – up close, inside a glistening palace of a warehouse perched on the edge of the sea – was heaven.

Axis Dance Company 20th anniversary season: (Nov. 15) Oakland’s trailblazing troupe for dancers with and without disabilities astonished us again with the intense chemistry between feisty Sonsheree Giles and Rodney Bell, lashed tightly to his wheelchair but spectacularly agile, in a duet by Alex Ketley.”

Click here for the full list.

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