Press Release: 2020 Dance Magazine Award Recipients Announced


Media Contact: Nicole Buggé

(New York, NY) September 21, 2020Dance Media Foundation ( in conjunction with Dance Magazine, announced today the honorees for the 63rd annual Dance Magazine Awards: Carlos Acosta, Debbie Allen, Camille A. Brown, Laurieann Gibson and Alonzo King. The Chairman's Award will go to Darren Walker. The Harkness Promise Award recipients are Kyle Marshall and Marjani Forté-Saunders.

A tradition dating back to 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards have long celebrated living legends who've made a lasting impact on dance. A list of past recipients can be found here.

Given the deep reflections on racial equity that have taken place this year, the selection committee interrogated the bias in the choices for the Dance Magazine Awards: Over the past seven decades, the list of honorees has been overwhelmingly white. This year, to reckon with and start to take a step toward repairing that history the committee chose to honor all Black artists and leaders.

"In this challenging environment nothing is more important than recognizing the extraordinary careers of our awardees," states Frederic M. Seegal, CEO/Chairman of Dance Media.

The esteemed event will take place virtually on December 7, 2020, at 6 pm Eastern, produced by Nel Shelby Productions. Tickets are now on sale at, starting at $50 for general admission plus a one-year subscription to Dance Magazine; a $125 ticket also includes a pre-show experience with special guests; and a $1,000 ticket includes the above plus a donation to the Dance Media Foundation to fund the 2021 Harkness Promise Awards.

Previous Dance Magazine Award ceremonies have included superstar names such as Misty Copeland, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Tommy Tune, Alvin Ailey, Wendy Whelan, Ohad Naharin, Philip Glass, Chita Rivera, Fred Astaire, Bob Fosse, and more.


In addition to dancing with some of the world's most prestigious companies, including The Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Houston Ballet, Carlos Acosta has choreographed productions of Don Quixote and Carmen, plus a production of Guys and Dolls for the West End. Acosta established his own dance company, Acosta Danza, in 2016, in Cuba, and opened a dance academy there through the Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation a year later. He became artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in January 2020.


An internationally recognized director, choreographer, teacher, dancer and actor, Debbie Allen first made her mark on Broadway in revivals like West Side Story, for which she was nominated for a Tony. She became a household name with the movie-turned-television-classic "Fame," and has since directed and produced several series including "A Different World," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "Scandal." She has been artist in residence at the Kennedy Center for over 15 years. She founded the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, and is currently an executive producer as well as a director and actress on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy."


Camille A. Brown's prolific choreography merges her serious modern dance foundation with elements of African, social dance and musical theater to highlight deeply personal and complex Black experiences. In addition to being artistic director of Camille A. Brown & Dancers, she has been commissioned by companies like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Urban Bush Women, Complexions and Ballet Memphis. Her Broadway credits include Choir Boy (for which she was nominated for a Tony) and Once On This Island. She also choreographed Jesus Christ Superstar Live on NBC as well as The Metropolitan Opera's Porgy and Bess. Netflix's soon-to-be-released Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, directed by George C. Wolfe, will mark her feature film debut.


After training in Dunham, Horton and Graham at The Ailey School, Laurieann Gibson began her career dancing for Mary J. Blige. As a choreographer and creative director, she went on to work with such artists as Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Michael Jackson, Diddy and Katy Perry. She also choreographed the Universal feature film Honey, based partly on Gibson's personal experiences. In 2005, Gibson was the on-air choreographer of MTV's hit show "Making the Band." Most recently, she has appeared as a choreographer and judge on "So You Think You Can Dance."


Contemporary ballet choreographer Alonzo King is founder and director of San Francisco's Alonzo King LINES Ballet. In 1989, he opened the San Francisco Dance Center, offering weekly classes for professionals and community members alike. With more than 160 works to his name, his choreography appears in the repertoires of companies such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Royal Swedish Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.


A Chairman's Award, chosen by Dance Media CEO Frederic M. Seegal to honor distinctive leaders behind the scenes, will go to Darren Walker. As president of the Ford Foundation, Walker has been an instrumental leader in philanthropy, supporting the arts with an eye to social justice.


The Harkness Promise Awards, which offer a $5,000 grant and 40 hours of rehearsal space for innovative young choreographers in the first decade of professional work, will go to Kyle Marshall and Marjani Forté-Saunders. This award, conferred in partnership with the Harkness Foundation for Dance, is funded by net proceeds from the Dance Magazine Awards ceremony.

Kyle Marshall received the 2018 NY Dance and Performance "Bessie" Jury Award, is a NJ State Arts Fellow, and is presently a 92nd Street Y resident artist. He was the 2019 Harkness Artist in Residence at the BAM Fisher. His dance company, Kyle Marshall Choreography, sees the dancing body as a container of history, an igniter of social reform and a site of celebration.

Marjani Forté-Saunders toured for five years with Urban Bush Women. Forté-Saunders' artistic practice is informed by years of anti-racist organizer training and her experience as a lead facilitator with UBW Builders, Organizers and Leaders through Dance. Currently, she collaborates with her partner, composer Everett Asis Saunders, as 7NMS. The two direct ART & POWER, an emerging platform for artists, writers, scientists, spiritualists and scholars.

The selection committee for the 2020 Dance Magazine Awards includes Dance Magazine contributor Joseph Carman, The Dance Edit editor in chief Margaret Fuhrer, Dance Media publisher/CFO Joanna Harp, MoBBallet founder Theresa Ruth Howard, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre artistic director Susan Jaffe, Dance Magazine editor at large Wendy Perron, former American Dance Festival director Charles L. Reinhart and Dance Magazine editor in chief and Dance Media content director Jennifer Stahl.

For more information on the Dance Magazine Awards or to purchase tickets, please visit For sponsorship opportunities, media access, or interviews, please contact Nicole Buggé at


Dance Magazine was first published in June 1927 under the name The American Dancer. Produced by a Hollywood-based team of editors under the leadership of Ruth Eleanor Howard, it cost a quarter and was dedicated to readers who "love the dance." In the 1920s and 30s, the magazine offered monthly news of the changing dance world in Europe and America. Today, under editor Jennifer Stahl, the brand reaches students, professionals and dance lovers around the world through its many channels, spanning print, digital, social and more. Written by accomplished journalists and active dancers, Dance Magazine tells the stories behind today's most exciting artists and gives readers essential information on how the field is evolving and growing. Dance Magazine is owned by Dance Media, which also publishes Dance Spirit, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit and Dance Business Weekly. For more information, visit


The Harkness Foundation for Dance is a private grant-making foundation dedicated to invigorating and supporting the dance art-form, predominantly in New York City. Since 1959, the Harkness name has been synonymous with dance philanthropy. The Foundation carries forward the lifelong dedication to the dance art form of the great American dance patron Rebekah Harkness. Over many decades, this support has taken the form of funding, rehearsal and theater space, technical assistance, and guidance—an unrivaled legacy that has touched countless dance artists and companies in all dance styles and genres. With a broad focus that spans dance creation, presentation, education, medicine and other vital services to the dance field, from 1986 to the present the Harkness Foundation has contributed over $30 million to more than 590 organizations across the industry. For more information:

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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