Dance Magazine Awards

Meet the 2019 Dance Magazine Award Honorees

Clockwise from top left: Angel Corella photo by Arian Molina Soca, courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet. David Gordon and Valda Setterfield photo by Luc Delahaye, Courtesy Gordon and Setterfield. Sara Mearns photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB. Masazumi Chaya photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy Ailey

The 2019 Dance Magazine Awards are here! A tradition dating back to 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards have long celebrated living legends who've made a lasting impact on dance. These days, we go even further with our recently added Chairman's Award for distinctive leaders behind the scenes, and Harkness Promise Awards, a grant for innovative young choreographers.

So who's included among this year's honorees?


Sara Mearns

Ever since Sara Mearns performed her first Odette/Odile at age 19, it was clear she was destined to become one of New York City Ballet's stars. Renowned for her monumental attack and powerful risk-taking onstage, she has stretched the limits of movement in classic Balanchine and Robbins works, and become a high-velocity muse to choreographers like Justin Peck and Alexei Ratmansky. She's also expanded beyond the ballet world: She's taken on classic modern techniques like Cunningham and Duncan; created new work with everyone from downtown dancemaker Jodi Melnick to hip-hop duo Wang Ramirez, and tried her hand at musical theater with a starring role in I Married an Angel, choreographed by her husband, Joshua Bergasse.

David Gordon and Valda Setterfield

"Witty" may be dance critics' favorite word to describe David Gordon and Valda Setterfield. The pioneering director and dancer are renowned for the poignant humor of their work together—his uncanny sense of irony has found the ideal vehicle in her straitlaced, British facade. Former participants in Judson Dance Theater, they have led multifaceted careers both together and on their own. As much a playwright as a choreographer, Gordon has deftly used text, gesture and repetition in lauded works for his own Pick Up Performance Co(s) as well companies like American Ballet Theatre. Setterfield, a standout performer in Merce Cunningham Dance Company, has brought her elegant presence to everything from Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite to a recent gender-bending Lear.

Angel Corella

As a star of American Ballet Theatre, Angel Corella performed with such crisp, precise virtuosity that he regularly brought audiences to their feet. From 2008 to 2014, he directed Barcelona Ballet in his native Spain. Today he's back in the U.S. as artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet, where he's expanded the repertory to include everything from Trisha Brown's O złożony / O composite to new work by Andrea Miller, while never losing the troupe's historic Balanchine base.

Masazumi Chaya

Masazumi Chaya in jeans and white button down, stands behind the curtain showing a movement to a dancer while giving notes

Masazumi Chaya at the dress rehearsal for Alvin Ailey's The Road of the Phoebe Snow (which he restaged in 2007)

Paul Kolnik, Courtesy Ailey

If Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has had a behind-the-scenes secret sauce for the past two and a half decades, it's Masazumi Chaya. He began dancing with the company in 1972, directly under Alvin Ailey himself, and was appointed associate artistic director by Judith Jamison in 1991. In this role, he's served as an invaluable connection to the past and an exceptional resource for the dancers and artistic team alike. Feeling that it's time to pass along the baton, he recently announced he will be stepping down in January, handing his current role to longtime dancer Matthew Rushing.

Chairman's Award: Linda Shelton

Courtesy The Joyce Theater Foundation

Our 2019 Chairman's Award goes to Linda Shelton, executive director of New York City's The Joyce Theater and Foundation. Over the course of her career, Shelton has been a role model for so many women who dream of becoming leaders in the dance field. A former company manager for The Joffrey Ballet and tour planner for Bolshoi Ballet, she has also been a National Endowment of the Arts panelist, a Dance/USA and Dance/NYC board member and a Benois de le Danse judge.

Harkness Promise Awards: Bobbi Jene Smith and Caleb Teicher

Caleb Teicher leaps over his feet, hands up in the air, a smile on his face. Bobbi Jene Smith in a black dress holds her two hands in fists up near her face.

Jayme Thornton

The Harkness Promise Awards, which offer a grant for innovative young choreographers, will go to Bobbi Jene Smith and Caleb Teicher. This award is funded by proceeds from the Dance Magazine Awards ceremony.

Be sure to check out Dance Magazine's December issue to learn more about each of these incredible honorees.

A ceremony to celebrate them will take place on Monday, December 9, at the Ailey Citigroup Theater in New York City with performances and presentations for each honoree.

Stay tuned for more information on tickets. Contact dmawards@dancemedia.com with any questions.

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