Meet the 2019 Dance Magazine Award Honorees
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?
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.
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 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
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.
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.