Last Night at The Bessies

October 20, 2014

Last night marked the 30th anniversary of The Bessies, or the New York Dance and Performance Awards, which annually salute the most outstanding work presented in New York City over the past year. Although the ceremony moved uptown to Harlem’s iconic Apollo Theater a few years ago, and flung open its doors to dance of all genres, it retains a charming DIY feel as well as a heavy focus on the downtown dance scene. This is a ceremony for dancers, by dancers, in celebration of dance itself. The audience had the energy of a giant family reunion, and several of the presenters and recipients spoke about how dance makes New York City worth living in. Performer Rebecca Serrell Cyr, for example, thanked all the dancers she’s worked with, and then all the dancers she’s seen, and then all the dancers she’s never seen. Even Chirlane McCray, wife of mayor Bill De Blasio, started off the night with opening remarks about her time studying with Frank Hatchett—and a confession that she believes dance to be the most beautiful of all the arts. There were some great performances—particularly Michelle Dorrance’s modern/tap mash-up Three in One—as well as some heartfelt tears from the winners (including an adorably overwhelmed Linda Celeste Sims). 


In addition to the previously announced honorees—Arthur Mitchell for lifetime achievement in dance, Chuck Davis for his service to the field, and Jessica Lang and Jen Rosenblit as emerging choreographers—the following artists took home awards last night:


Juried Bessie Award: 
choreographic duo Gerard and Kelly


Outstanding Production:
John Jasperse’s Within betweenOkwui Okpokwasili with Peter Born for Bronx Gothic; Akram Khan’s Desh; Mr. Tol E. RAncE by Camille A. Brown


Outstanding Revival
: Nora Chipaumire’s Dark Swan performed by Urban Bush Women


Outstanding Performance:
Stuart Singer in John Jasperse’s Within betweenRebecca Serrell Cyr in Donna Uchizono’s Fire Underground; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Linda Celeste SimsAakash Odedra in James Brown: Get on the Good Foot— a Celebration in Dance


Outstanding Music Composition:
Simphiwe Dana with Giuliano Modarelli and Complete Quartet for Exit/Existchoreographed by Gregory Maqoma; Nicholas Young at American Tap Dance Foundation’s Rhythm in Motion


Outstanding Visual Design:
Peter Ksander, Olivera Gajic, Ryan Holsopple, Chris Kuhl and Keith Skretch for This Was the End by Mallory Catlett