SUJATA MOHAPATRA Every year many superlative dancers come to New York. If I had to choose one to single out this year, it would be Ms. Mohapatra, the illustrious Odissi dancer who opened the Drive East season at Dixon Place in August. I have seen Ms. Mohapatra dance in India and in New York, but too seldom. The layers of communicative beauty in her dancing are innumerable.
Five other dancers, previously out of my orbit, opened up new zones of interest.
MOLLY LIEBER AND ELEANOR SMITH Sometimes naked — or rather nude (I thought of Degas’s female bathers) — Ms. Lieber and Ms. Smith made their hourlong “Basketball” at the Baryshnikov Arts Center a suspenseful study of symbiosis.
SALLY SILVERS “If You Try” and “Tenderizer” at Roulette, arresting works of consequence, claimed attention because of footwork, eyes, balance, projection and mystery.
DIMPLE SAIKIA Ms. Saikia made me a convert to Sattriya, a style of Indian classical dance rarely seen outside its native state, Assam. In her performance at the Erasing Borders festival, dance and mime converged in a tale of the young Krishna, with her footwork, torso, arms and spiraling turns wafting the gestures into the sublime.
CHRISTOPHER GURUSAMY Born in Australia and based in Chennai, India, Mr. Gurusamy is a practitioner of Bharatanatyam, the best known of India’s classical genres. At the Drive East festival, he subordinated himself to tradition with touching humility — and yet the power of his jumps, the pliancy of his torso and the acuity of his rhythm gave it new and electrifying force.
ROMAN MEJIA This prodigy is now an apprentice with New York City Ballet. At the Vail Dance Festival this summer, dancing Balanchine’s “Tarantella” pas de deux and a Matthew Neenan world premiere, he blew his audience away with speed and brilliance, charm and nonchalance.
A best-of sampler, in alphabetical order.
‘BRAND NEW SIDEWALK,’ BETH GILL This meticulous triptych is Ms. Gill’s most spellbinding work yet. In it, she turns time on itself, from the opening solo, for Danielle Goldman and layers of fabric, to the spooky unison in the middle section, with the astounding Kevin Boateng and Joyce Delores Edwards, to the concluding solo for Maggie Cloud, wrapped in swaths of white gauze.
‘LAYLA AND MAJNUN,’ MARK MORRIS Mr. Morris has always had a way with romance, but in his magnificent staging of the opera by Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli — it’s somehow both earthy and elegant — he has found an even deeper way to get to its essence. The tale is tragic but moving in the most celestial way.
‘NEW WORK FOR GOLDBERG VARIATIONS,’ PAM TANOWITZ AND SIMONE DINNERSTEIN Ms. Tanowitz can make stringent steps that turn into phrases that turn into dances. But in this collaboration with the pianist Ms. Dinnerstein — she performed center stage with the dancers moving around her — Ms. Tanowitz’s choreography loosened up in the best sense. It became free and effortless, with a certain innocence inside its rigor.
‘THE TIMES ARE RACING,’ JUSTIN PECK Dan Deacon’s music ignited Mr. Peck’s choreographic imagination: This heady ballet, made for New York City Ballet, is about liberation, no matter who dances it. Over the past year, Mr. Peck has shown that it has casting malleability: He chose Ashly Isaacs for Robert Fairchild’s role in the tap duet and, more recently, turned the main pas de deux into a same-sex duet for Daniel Applebaum and Taylor Stanley.
‘WORK/TRAVAIL/ARBEID,’ ANNE TERESA DE KEERSMAEKER Ms. De Keersmaeker’s five-day exhibition (that’s how she viewed it) in the atrium of the Museum of Modern Art transformed an hourlong dance, her 2013 “Vortex Temporum,” into a nine-hour cycle; every hour featured different choreography, both robust and subtle, and new combinations of dancers and musicians. Dance in museums doesn’t always work, but this was a stunning exception: The vast atrium space at MoMA has never felt so peaceful or intimate.
Here are the five works that thrilled and surprised and moved me the most, starting with the most intense.
‘LAYLA AND MAJNUN,’ MARK MORRIS The music would have been ravishing enough. A Silk Road Ensemble adaptation of the Azerbaijani opera recounting a classic tale of thwarted love, it started out impossibly gorgeous and somehow grew more so. But Mr. Morris’s choreography, abstracted yet bursting with emotion, was like that, too. I kept feeling that it couldn’t get more heartbreaking, and then it did.
‘BRAND NEW SIDEWALK,’ BETH GILL A dancer steadily removes layers of frumpy clothing, occasionally getting stuck in odd positions. Two others, dressed somewhat like speed skaters, move in slow and undramatic unison. Yes, Ms. Gill’s latest work demanded a lot of trust and attention from viewers, but it exerted a fascination strange and rare. It was exhausting, but it was exhilarating.
‘NEW WORK FOR GOLDBERG VARIATIONS,’ PAM TANOWITZ AND SIMONE DINNERSTEIN A dance to Bach’s “Goldberg” variations could be a slog, but Ms. Tanowitz’s collaboration with Ms. Dinnerstein, an intuitive pianist, was refreshingly unlabored. Ms. Tanowitz met Bach’s daunting invention with her own, finding fresh and serendipitous-seeming paths through the score. Yet the work’s most unexpected virtue was its relaxed warmth, new for this formally brilliant artist — and winning.
‘WORKS & PROCESS ROTUNDA PROJECT,’ MICHELLE DORRANCE AND NICHOLAS VAN YOUNG Asking today’s leading tap choreographer to make a work for a space (the Guggenheim Museum’s rotunda) with acoustics that practically preclude complex tap choreography might have been a setup for failure. But Ms. Dorrance and her collaborators overcame the obstacles with terrific ingenuity. Watching the floor-bound spirals of the b-girl Ephrat Asherie from five stories above was the year’s most vertiginously revelatory dance experience.
‘THE TIMES ARE RACING,’ JUSTIN PECK Viewed as political or topical art, this work for New York City Ballet was no more substantial than the words (“Unite,” “Protest”) imprinted on its costumes. More significant was its unembarrassed youthfulness, its update of the ballet-in-sneakers tradition. The mixing in of silent tap and gestures from hip-hop, though perilous, felt unforced, a reflection of how young people move. And the way the work grew during the year, incorporating gender swaps in its casting, proved it a ballet for our times.
How to define “best”? I chose works I couldn’t stop thinking about, listed here in order of when I saw them.
‘MINOR MATTER,’ LIGIA LEWIS Of the many unorthodox events at January’s American Realness festival, this enthralling trio for Ms. Lewis, Jonathan Gonzalez and Hector Thami Manekehla left the most lasting impression. In wrestling matches, balancing acts and other feats, the intrepid group all but tore down the black-box theater walls, offering an urgent exploration of love, rage and where they meet.
‘THE TIMES ARE RACING,’ JUSTIN PECK Arriving a week after the presidential inauguration, Mr. Peck’s ballet in sneakers, for New York City Ballet, captured a hopeful spirit of protest. Humberto Leon’s costumes may have been a little on the nose, emblazoned with “Defy” and “Shout,” but that didn’t detract from Mr. Peck’s strikingly inventive steps or his boldness in creating gender-neutral roles for two central duets, a rarity in ballet and a refreshing statement.
‘EVENTS,’ MERCE CUNNINGHAM The Walker’s vast exhibition “Merce Cunningham: Common Time” merited a visit to Minneapolis and many hours of browsing. But no object or video on display could rival the live “Events,” collages of Cunningham’s choreography adroitly arranged by Andrea Weber and thrillingly danced by Dylan Crossman, Silas Riener, Jamie Scott and Melissa Toogood.
‘WHAT REMAINS,’ WILL RAWLS In collaboration with the poet Claudia Rankine, the filmmaker John Lucas and four performers, Mr. Rawls created a haunting, slippery meditation on surveillance in relation to the black American experience, part of Bard College’s We’re Watching exhibition in April. Its complexities called for multiple viewings; keep an eye out for more performances next fall.
‘BRAND NEW SIDEWALK,’ BETH GILL With her longtime collaborators Thomas Dunn (lighting) and Jon Moniaci (sound), Ms. Gill seems always to be pushing at the limits of what she knows. Each of her finely wrought dances bristles with new questions, and this one, at Abrons Arts Center in September, was no exception. What will she do next?