Highlights of the Bessies

October 18, 2010

After a one-year hiatus, Lucy Sexton re-booted the Bessies in collaboration with Dance/NYC. She welcomed us to Symphony Space (even gave pizza to those waiting on line outdoors) and told us this is a transitional year. She’s been meeting with various portions of the NYC dance world to come up with a new format that will honor a wider range of artists. Next year will have a bigger committee and new categories.


But last night was still The Bessies, with winners and losers and presenters, covering the last two years. I had a few purely subjective highlights of the evening. And, well, some low moments.


• First of all, it’s always a big, fun reunion to go to the Bessies. Because last night was free, there were even more people one might know from one’s past.


• Gus Solomons, jr talked about critics who claim NYC is too big to see everything, and so much of that everything is marginal. He declared that some of his students at NYU (and by extrapolation everywhere) are far from insignificant and would someday be making dance history.


• Keith Hennessy, accepting a Bessie for his solo Crotch, said, “For all you out there who got turned down for funds, I made this piece on $50.” He also thanked his last lover for leaving him because it gave him the shame, the intensity, the despair he used to make this dance.


• Jock Soto quipped, “After I retired, I discovered butter.”


• Tina Ramirez commended the Bessies on being so inclusive. “We lose something when we cut ourselves off from others.”


• Ishmael Houston-Jones presenting an award to… “my grandson, Miguel Gutierrez.” I got a big kick out of that, as some of us have been around even longer than Ishmael. Miguel returned the favor by calling him “abuelo.”


• Lucy and host Isaac Mizrahi had a live auction at the end which, I believe, raised some real money for next year’s Bessies.


There was no real low point (except one guy near me yelling at deafening decibels when certain people won). But there was an absence of any award for sustained achievement. When I was on the Bessies committee, we always gave awards for “body of work” and “sustained achievement.” In this last category were Merce Cunningham and Katherine Dunham. I missed the recognition for longevity in our field and am hoping it will be reinstated next year.


When you’re way up in the balcony, it matters whether people use the mic or don’t. Only Lucy Sexton and Elizabeth Streb really knew how to work the mic so we could all hear.



Anyway, kudos to Lucy Sexton for rethinking the whole process and getting as broad a swath of the dance community as possible involved. Plus, she’s a darn good host. I look forward to how she reshapes The Bessies.



Click here for this year’s Bessie winners.



Ishmael Houston-Jones presenting an award to Miguel Gutierrez & the crew of Last Meadow

Christopher Duggan/Nel Shelby Productions, Courtesy Bessies