Misty Copeland opened the 2018 Dance Magazine Awards. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Misty Copeland at the Dance Magazine Awards: "Dance Unifies, So Let's Get to Work"

What does it mean to be human? Well, many things. But if you were at the Dance Magazine Awards last night, you could argue that to be human is to dance. Speeches about the powerful humanity of our art form were backed up with performances by incredible dancers hailing from everywhere from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to Miami City Ballet.

Misty Copeland started off the celebration. A self-professed "Dance Magazine connoisseur from the age of 13," she not only spoke about how excited she was to be in a room full of dancers, but also—having just come from Dance Theatre of Harlem's memorial for Arthur Mitchell—what she saw as their duty: "We all in this room hold a responsibility to use this art for good," she said. "Dance unifies, so let's get to work."

That sentiment was repeated throughout the night.


Dance Magazine Awards 2018 www.youtube.com


Michael Trusnovec

Michael Trusnovec and Parisa Khobdeh in an excerpt from Paul Taylor's Promethean Fire. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

After giving a luminous performance of Paul Taylor's Promethean Fire with Parisa Khobdeh, Michael Trusnovec admitted that it might have been a "crazy idea" for him to choose to dance right before accepting his award. (For the record, we asked him to. Or, more accurately, we gave him the option in the hopes that he'd perform.) But he explained that he'd agreed to perform because dancing is "why I'm here—standing here—but also why I'm here, in general."

Most moving was when Trusnovec, a paragon of cool, collected strength, choked up when talking about what it feels like to know that there will no longer be any more "Taylor-made dances," sharing—in the most heartfelt way—what it's meant to him to have taken part in Taylor's genius.

Crystal Pite

Hubbard Street's Andrew Murdock and Michael Gross performed an excerpt of Crystal Pite's The Other You. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

In accepting her award, Crystal Pite told a story that most of us had never heard before: In the late 1970s, her mother and a friend traveled five hours by bus and ferry to see the Ailey company perform in Vancouver. When they got back to their room at the Holiday Inn, they spent the night reenacting their own version of Revelations.

Her mom's description of Judith Jamison sparked Pite's desire to dance. Later, when she was 13 or 14, Pite made her first solo for herself, and her mom sewed the costume: A long-sleeved white leotard and a floor-length white skirt with ruffles at the bottom. "I spent hours alone in the studio trying to channel the spirit of Judith Jamison and Alvin Ailey." It was what made her want to be a choreographer.

Last night, since she was coming to the house of Ailey, Pite brought along a photo of herself in that solo to give to Jamison. After the party, she sat on the floor of the studio in a second position straddle, writing a personal note to go along with it. Watching this insanely talented icon of our field pen a handwritten note to her idol (and how giddily excited she was to do it) reminded me of just how much dance artists can move each other, even when they don't realize it.

Crystal Pite holds up her photo of herself as a young teenager in the first solo she ever choreographed, in which she channelled the spirit of Judith Jamison. She brought it to give to Jamison herself, along with a personal note.

Raja Feather Kelly and Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie

Raja Feather Kelly and Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie accept their Harkness Promise Awards. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

The two Harkness Promise Awardees, Raja Feather Kelly and Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie, brought a blast of enthusiastic energy to the stage to accept their awards, which grant them each $5,000 and 40 hours of studio space. They gave a short joint speech, promising "we won't let you down."

Lourdes Lopez

Miami City Ballet's Tricia Albertson and Renan Cerdeiro performed an excerpt from George Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream in honor of Lourdes Lopez. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Until she said it, I had never realized that Lourdes Lopez was the first Latina principal dancer at New York City Ballet and is the only Latina artistic director of a major American ballet company. With her incredible poise and eloquence, she reminded us of the power of dance: "It widens your world, it broadens your perspective. It teaches you about life and how to live it," she said. "Dance is everlasting and all-inclusive, and all we have to do is serve it."

Ronald K. Brown

Ron Brown spoke about how dance has drawn him back to the studio over and over throughout his life. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

In presenting the award to Ronald K. Brown, his dancer and associate artistic director Arcell Cabuag spoke about how Brown's dances "take us away from technology and all the nonsense, and reminds us how human we are, and how much we all have in common." Having just watched Annique Roberts soulfully perform Brown's She Is Here, which seemed to heat up the theater with her incredible warmth, we knew exactly what he was talking about.

Nigel Redden

Members of Gallim, which has performed at Nigel Redden's Spoleto Festival USA multiple times, performed an excerpt from Andrea Miller's Stone Skipping in tribute to him. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

The last award of the night was a new Leadership Award, presented to festival director Nigel Redden. This addition is our way of recognizing "the people who make it possible for dancers to dance and choreographers to choreograph," as our CEO Frederic Seegal put it.

Redden ended the event by sharing a sentiment that seemed to sum up the whole ceremony: "Dance is what it means to be human, what it means to be truly alive."

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Courtesy Harlequin

What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance?

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and with it comes a light at the end of a hibernation tunnel for many dance organizations: a chance to perform again. While social distancing and mask-wearing remain essential to gathering safely, the great outdoors has become an often-preferred performance venue.

But, of course, nature likes to throw its curveballs. What does it take to successfully pull off an alfresco show?

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Dwight Rhodens "Ave Maria," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Keeping dancers safe outside requires the same intentional flooring as you have in the studio—but it also needs to be hearty enough to withstand the weather. With so many factors to consider, two ballet companies consulted with Harlequin Floors to find the perfect floor for their unique circumstances.

Last fall, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre invested in a mobile stage that allowed the dancers to perform live for socially distanced audiences. "But we didn't have an outdoor resilient floor, so we quickly realized that if we had any rain, we were going to be in big trouble—it would have rotted," says artistic director Susan Jaffe.

The company purchased the lightweight, waterproof Harlequin's AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and the heavy-duty Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl, which is manufactured with BioCote® Antimicrobial Protection to help with the prevention of bacteria and mold. After an indoor test run while filming Nutcracker ("It felt exactly like our regular floor," says Jaffe), the company will debut the new setup this May in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park during a two-week series of performances shared with other local arts organizations.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Open Air Series last fall. The company plans to roll out their new Harlequin AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl floor for more outdoor performances this spring.

Harris Ferris, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

In addition to the possibility of rain, a range of temperatures also has to be taken into account. When the State Ballet of Rhode Island received a grant from the state to upgrade its 15-year-old stage, executive director Ana Fox chose the Harlequin Cascade vinyl floor in the lighter gray color "so that it would be cooler if it's reflecting sunlight during daytime performances," she says.

However, for the civic ballet company's first performance on its new 24-by-48–foot stage on November 22, heat was less of a concern than the Northeastern cold. Fortunately, Fox says the surface never got icy or too stiff. "It felt warm to the feel," she says. "You could see the dancers didn't hesitate to run or step into arabesque." (The Harlequin Cascade floor is known for providing a good grip.)

"To have a safe floor for dancers not to worry about shin splints or something of that nature, that's everything," she says. "The dancers have to feel secure."

State Ballet of Rhode Island first rolled out their new Harlequin Cascade™ flooring for an outdoor performance last November.

Courtesy of Harlequin

Of course, the elements need to be considered even when dancers aren't actively performing. Although Harlequin's AeroDeck is waterproof, both PBT and SBRI have tarps to cover their stages to keep any water out. SBRI also does damp mopping before performances to get pollen off the surface. Additionally, the company is building a shed to safely store the floor long-term when it's not in use. "Of course, it's heavy, but laying down the floor and putting it away was not an issue at all," says Fox, adding that both were easy to accomplish with a crew of four people.

Since the Harlequin Cascade surface is versatile enough to support a wide range of dance styles—and even opera and theater sets—both PBT and SBRI are partnering with other local arts organizations to put their outdoor stages to use as much as possible. Because audiences are hungry for art right now.

"In September, I made our outdoor performance shorter so we wouldn't have to worry about intermission or bathrooms, but when it was over, they just sat there," says Jaffe, with a laugh. "People were so grateful and so happy to see us perform. We just got an overwhelming response of love and gratitude."

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Susan Jaffes "Carmina Terra," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

February 2021