The greater Boston area is saturated with strong dance performances, students and fans, including two resident ballet companies. Taking a look at the year in dance, we see high points and low points.

This year’s local dance scene showed once again that although dance has had a lower profile compared to pop and classical music, films or theater, the greater Boston area is still saturated with strong dance performances, students and fans.


Aside from the ballet studios in nearly every town that educate the next generation of performers, the region has been blessed with two resident ballet companies, the Boston Ballet and Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre; major producing organizations, the Institute of Contemporary Art and Celebrity Series and World Music, which import visiting companies; and at least two modern dance centers in Cambridge, Dance Complex and Green Street Studios. And that’s not to mention the multitude of college dance programs that offer training and performances, including the Boston Conservatory, Harvard-Radcliffe, Tufts University and Boston University. Even in a down economy, these organizations and their dancers continued to give fine performances. There were several performances and changes within the local dance scene this year that are worth looking back on before the new year of dance begins.


Boston became a hot spot for world celebration with last May’s events surrounding the 100th anniversary of the Paris debut of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, the crucible of 20th-century dance. The Harvard Theatre Collection held a three-day seminar in April, attended by 200 scholars and dance fans from around the globe, and mounted a large exhibit that ran through August. Boston University held a second symposium in May. That was followed by the Boston Ballet’s program of homage to the Ballets Russes, which featured several works from the Diaghilev repertory that made Vaslav Nijinsky a household name, including “Afternoon of a Faun” and the 1929 “Petrouchka,” choreographed by George Balanchine.


The Boston Ballet moved permanently from the Wang Theater to The Opera House in September after enlarging the theater’s pit to accommodate the company’s excellent orchestra. At that time, five dancers within the company were also promoted to principal dancer, including Kathleen Breen Combes and the high-flying James Whiteside. Two teenage newcomers joined the corps de ballet: Whitney Jensen and Jeffrey Cirio.


The surprise hit of Boston Ballet’s last season was the edgy program “Black & White,” an evening of works by Prague-born choreographer Jiri Kylian. These ballets took as much inspiration from contemporary life and movement as from the ballet studio, which provided a lure for young audiences.


In February, the long-awaited Boston premiere of Balanchine’s full-length ballet “Jewels” proved to be worth the wait.


Other notables included “Peter and the Wolf,” the first public program from the Boston Ballet’s Norwell Studio, now under the direction of Jared Redick. The Institute of Contemporary Art, often paired with World Music/CRASH ARTS program, continued to present the dazzle of cutting-edge performance. Elizabeth Streb and her company of daredevil, Olympic-type performers brought their machinery to the ICA in October.


Otherwise, Celebrity Series presented Mark Morris Dance Troupe in March, accompanied by Boston’s Emanuel Music Group and the Alvin Ailey Company, which was on its 50th-anniversary tour.


Dance also found its way onto TV programming, and not just the pop contests on the networks. The two-hour PBS-American Masters special on the life of Jerome Robbins, which aired last February, highlighted the American-born performer and choreographer, who worked both sides of the genre in musical comedy and ballet. Robbins produced such hits such as “West Side Story” and the ballet “Fancy Free,” which continue to be widely presented.


The current Broadway shows, on the other hand – “Billy Elliot” excepted – do not trade much on dance. Boston saw the stage version of the cult film “Dirty Dancing,” but other than pleasing the groupies, the musical did not impress. Locally, musicals are staged in such small spaces that the dance portions are mostly ignored, except for Spiro Veloudos’s production of “Kiss Me, Kate!” in September, which fielded a spirited ensemble in numbers choreographed by Ilyse Robbins.


Among the local choreographers who presented concert weekends were Nicole Pierce; Caitlin Corbitt, who recently returned from a Fulbright semester in Finland to offer her 25th-anniversary concert at Boston University; and Prometheus Dance. A boon for local modern dance choreographers continues to be Dance Complex’s semi-annual Shared Choreographers’ Concerts, a performance series that allows fledgling dance creators to show their works.


The Boston Dance Alliance continued its annual tradition of naming a Dance Hero who has made an impact on the local community. The 2009 choice was Marcus Schulkind, a choreographer and teacher who has trained many of the local professional dancers at Green Street Studio.


Unhappily, the year also brought its losses: the unexpected death of Michael Shannon, who held a full-time day job at Boston’s Children’s Hospital but managed to appear annually as Drosselmeyer in “Urban Nutcracker” and chair the Boston Dance Alliance board. Pamela Raff, a beloved tap dancer and teacher, also died in November.