Clive Barnes Awards

January 26, 2015

Clive Barnes loved dance and theater. And Dance Magazine readers loved following him in our pages for 20 some years.

When he died in 2008, his widow, former Royal Ballet soloist Valerie Taylor-Barnes, decided to establish an annual award in his name. She stipulated that one award go to a young, emerging performing artist in dance and another in theater.

As my colleague Kristin Schwab observed last month, just being named a nominee is an honor. 

This is an award with a difference. As former winners of this award attested yesterday at the fifth annual awards event, they felt cared for all year long by Taylor-Barnes, receiving encouraging emails at every notice of a new role or promotion. “Nurture your talent,” advised Taylor-Barnes when she took the mic. “You are a credit to your teachers. And remember that the Clive Barnes Foundation will always have your back.”

This year the dance award went to Russell Janzen, a soloist at New York City Ballet who was an “On the Rise” in October. (The other nominees were Harrison Ball of NYCB, Chris Bloom of Ballet Hispanico, and Devon Teuscher of ABT.) Alex Sharp, star of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, won the theater award.

It was a nice touch to have past awardees speak too. Lloyd Mayor, the Martha Graham dancer who received the award in dance last year, addressed this year’s bunch directly: “Cherish your weaknesses and imperfections…there’s a beauty in groundlessness and unsettledness.”

This was not only a time to celebrate today’s young talent but also a time to remember Barnes’ contribution as a writer. He certainly had a memorable way with words. About the premiere of Antony Tudor’s 1964 Echoing of Trumpets, he wrote in The New York Times that it was “a profoundly anti-romantic ballet about war—a ballet that is real, terrible, and yet still beautiful in the scarlet way of tragedy.”

He could be deliciously wicked too. About the Bolshoi’s production of Massine’s Les Présages (1933) in 2005, he wrote in Dance Magazine, “Instead of restoring Andre Masson’s striking expressionist scenery and costumes, the Bolshoi commissioned new designs from a young Russian couturier, Igor Chapurin, whose pretentiousness was outmatched only by his tastelessness.”

Although he was highly revered in dance and theater circles, Barnes did not have an inflated view of the critic’s role. “Critics are taken far too seriously,” he said in this interview, later cited at “Dancers and artists should pay little attention to critics.” It was announced that all his original reviews are now collected at the Library of Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

Taylor-Barnes definitely has a bit of charm herself. While giving out the checks—$5,000 for each awardee and smaller checks for each nominee—she turned to the audience and quipped, “I do it for the hugs.”

I conclude with the inspiring words of ABT ballerina Julie Kent (a Dance Magazine Award recipient in 2012), who presented the award in dance. To the young artists gathered, she said, “We begin each day with the will to improve…the pursuit of what is not yet known. Make every moment an opportunity to grow and develop. Fill it with grace and integrity because that is the real reward.”