At the end of the Dance Magazine Awards last night, editor at large Wendy Perron summed up the event perfectly: "I feel so nourished," she said.
It was an exceptionally moving evening filled with heartfelt dances and profoundly honest speeches. What a treat it was to see awardee Tiler Peck perform "Fascinatin' Rhythm" from George Balanchine's Who Cares? up close where all the details of her musicality, breath and cheeky personality were right in front of us. And to watch Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Elisa Clark dance Robert Battle's touching 2010 solo For Carolyn, in honor of his mentor, awardee Carolyn Adams. And for awardee Lar Lubovitch to offer a sneak peek of what he's working on in preparation for his next work.
Robert Battle introduced Carolyn Adams by describing how, as a student, he would "wait like a baby bird for a gem" of wisdom from her. One of his favorite insights? "As you walk up to a door, part of you already sees yourself on the other side," Adams would tell her students. "Even when this job gets tough," Battle continued, "I see the other side, and there is Carolyn, dancing in the light."
Upon accepting her award, Adams spoke about how she believed dance was our birth right, and how, with the help of people like Paul Taylor, she'd dedicated her life to sharing it.
Damian Woetzel then told us the story of the first time he saw Tiler Peck dance: While warming up in the wings, he spotted a new corps member with a jazzy, nuanced musicality he couldn't take his eyes off of. Today, he and his wife Heather Watts jokingly call Peck "the magical unicorn princess" because of her exceptional talents.
A humbled Peck took the stage, admitting that she felt like she hadn't accomplished enough yet in her career to receive such a prestigious honor. But then she realized it was the perfect moment to celebrate her 10 years at New York City Ballet, and get inspired for many more to come.
To introduce awardee Lynn Garafola, writer Elizabeth Kendall posed the question, "Why does dance, an ephemeral art form, need a history?" She answered the question brilliantly, noting that what happened before creates what happens now. Garafola is not only a master of documenting what happened before (she has written or edited 10—soon to be 11—books), but also incredibly generous in helping anyone else trying to do the same.
"I like to think that I bring back performances and dancers for a new community," said Garafola, who was celebrating her 70th birthday. She spoke about features she'd written for Dance Magazine, from "Price-Tagging Diaghilev" to an interview with Maya Plisetskaya.
Closing out the night was Martha Graham Dance Company artistic director Janet Eilber presenting to Lar Lubovitch. She shared how, when she asked his advice for young choreographers, Lubovitch said, "Don't chase the newest trend," admitting that he's been in and out, in and out, in and out of style over the course of his career, yet always remained true to his vision.
For his part, Lubovitch told the quirky story of the first time he ever felt compelled to dance: Around age 3 or 4, the dime store across the street from his family's apartment caught fire, and the next morning, the water the firefighters had sprayed froze with the toys trapped inside, including a teddy bear. Without thinking, Lubovitch felt compelled to move: "Our bodies take over when something inexpressible happens." He spoke about the many reasons people have danced throughout history—from warriors to Salome and Mata Hari to Louis XIV. "Through the drama of line, shape and motion, we can say what is most truthful, and therefore most beautiful," he stated, adding that all of his work might be an attempt to recapture that moment of staring at the frozen teddy bear. He confessed that, as a lifelong "Trekkie," he's inspired by Captain Kirk's mission statement: "To boldly go where no one has gone before."
We congratulate all of the awardees, and can't wait to see where else they will boldly bring dance in the years to come.