Dance Magazine Awards, Ahhhhh

December 6, 2011

Joy and satisfaction wash over me every year when we do the Dance Magazine Awards. On Monday night, I was struck by how many of the award recipients said they couldn’t have done it without their mentors, their husbands, their wives. Everyone’s humility was really touching.

Dr. William Hamilton told us how supportive Balanchine was in developing his eye for dancers and their injuries. He also thanked his wife, Dr. Linda Hamilton, who of course is Dance Magazine’s advice columnist. (You can see Bill Hamilton’s latest article on dancers injuries here.)

Jenifer Ringer told us how deeply touched she was when James Fayette, long before they were dating, said he wanted to do Romeo and Juliet with her, even though she was out of shape. Nancy Bielski, her ballet teacher since she was 14, told her to come back to class, no pressure, even though she’d been away so long. She reminded us that we never do it all alone.

Alexei Ratmansky recalled how, growing up, he was told by his teachers that the Bolshoi Ballet is the best in the world. Stars like Plisetskaya “were showered with flowers for half an hour” during their bows. But when he saw Prodigal Son and Stravinsky Violin Concerto, the Balanchine ballets spoke to his eyes, mind, and heart. He also thanked his wife Tatyana, who was the dancer he tried out his early choreography on.

Yvonne Rainer said how glad she was that Merce Cunningham and John Cage opened things up for her after her run-in with Martha Graham. The story goes like this: One day in class, Martha told the young Yvonne that she would find her turnout only when she accepted herself as a woman! Yvonne also mentioned the nucleus of colleagues in Judson Dance Theater who were all questioning what is dance. They included Trisha Brown, Steve Paxton, David Gordon, and Lucinda Childs.

Kathleen Marshall thanked her teachers, her husband, parents, her brother, and (ahem) Dance Magazine for being her window into the dance world. She actually remembered a cover with Ann Reinking.

Watching from backstage, I was completely swept up in seeing the four NYCB dancers perform an excerpt of Russian Seasons. Jenifer Ringer, who created the role in this segment, had chosen it to represent her, but Jennie Somogyi was dancing it with Amar Ramasar, Jonathan Stafford, and Sean Suozzi. It was actually a double tribute because Ratmansky had decided this excerpt would represent him too. I used to like this section of the ballet, but now I LOVE it. Seeing the way the guys make arches and steps for her to swoon, reach, and step on while she seems almost oblivious of them…In the rehearsal earlier in the day, Alexei told Jennie (this was her first time performing it) that the lyrics to the Desyatnikov song were something like, “You’re reaching for something but you never get there.” And Jennie really did that—her reaching and looking into the distance were the stuff of poetry. Now I can’t wait to see Russian Seasons again.

Did I mention that Mikhail Baryshnikov was hilarious?! He presented to Dr. Hamilton (it’s common knowledge that Misha’s knees have been operated on many times by Dr. Hamilton) saying, “Just my standing up here in front of you is the best testiment to Bill’s expertise.” He then went on to imitate the way Mr. B pronounced the name—Veeelyom Gamilton. He also mentioned that Dr. Hamilton had trained a stable of younger doctors in dance medicine—and Misha knew this firsthand cause they had all worked on his body parts.

John Meehan, in presenting to Ratmansky, described him as quiet and introspective—hardly the type of personality required to run the notoriously difficult Bolshoi Ballet.

Sally Silvers chose to speak in the third person, as in “She ponders and struggles over how to make her introduction person…” At first this was odd, but when she said she found something Yvonne had written in this way, it was the key to this task for her. She later called Yvonne her idol, and the “anti-diva diva of the dance world.” She let out a stream of other vivid, intersecting descriptions of Yvonne and her work.

Sutton Foster, our December cover girl  talked about how hard Kathleen Marshall worked on Anything Goes and how she helped her find her character of Reno Sweeney—which was shown, larger than life, on our screen in the fabulous title number.

So…to get just a glimpse of some of this, see our instant video compilation. And we’ll have pictures on facebook soon. I wish you coulda been there.



James Fayette presenting the Award to his wife, Jenifer Ringer, who is pregnant. Photo by Clara Daly.