How We Chose the Capezio A.C.E. Award Winners

July 28, 2015

The winner: Kirsten Russell’s Islands

There was major talent on display last night at the 2015 Capezio A.C.E. Awards here at the Dance Teacher Summit in Long Beach, California. Seventeen choreographers offered up works of contemporary dance, tap, musical theater, hip hop and everything in between for the chance to win up to $15,000 and their own fully-produced show. I was on the judging panel along with Mia Michaels, Ray Leeper and Julie McDonald of McDonald Selznick Associates. Although we only had a few minutes to come to an agreement on the winners after the performances, I think we were all excited about the promise of the pieces we chose.

1. The winner was Kirsten Russell for her contemporary piece, Islands. Mia put it best during our discussion backstage: This movement was by far the most original, with phrases and ways of using the body that we haven’t seen before. Personally, I also loved the dynamic use of musicality, and how Russell found surprising ways to play with counterpoint between individual dancers and larger groups.


First runner up: Andrew Winghart’s Heed the Call

2. First runner up was Heed the Call by Andrew Winghart, an intense, hard-driving number to a score that sounded like Middle Eastern-influenced hip hop. Winghart’s sophisticated use of group structure convinced the panel that this is a choreographer who could successfully create a complex evening-length work that would hold an audience’s interest for more than 60 minutes. His skillful choreography made us feel a sense of trust in where he was taking us.


Second runner up was a split. Here’s Marinda Davis’ Give.Me.Love.

3. Second runner up was split between Cat Cogliandro’s Ripe & Run and Marinda Davis’ Give.Me.Love. Cogliandro (standing on the left in the photo) impressed the judges with her theatricality and musicality, while Davis (on the right) won us over with her piece’s happy, effervescent energy that seemed to explode out of the dancers.

Congrats to all the winners!


All photos by Joe Toreno.