Lots of Our Faves Won Bessies Last Night
"I love awards," declared the inimitable Judith Jamison last night at the Bessies. "But then I've had a lot of practice." Presenting alongside Amar Ramasar—who couldn't help giggling at her—Jamison lit up the entire theater with her enthusiasm.
Awards are always great when they're going to the people you love and admire most. And last night's New York Dance and Performance Awards, known as the Bessies (after beloved composition teacher/mentor Bessie Schonberg), felt like a parade of Dance Magazine favorites.
The first award of the night went to Molly Lieber, who was on our March cover as one of New York City's most successful freelancers in the experimental dance scene. (The DM staff fell for her at our cover shoot when she endearingly got so into improvising that she kept forgetting to face the camera.)
The other Outstanding Performer awards went to tapper Kazunori Kumagi, b-girl Ephrat Asherie (who we recently chatted with in this Choreography in Focus video) and Ailey's Jamar Roberts, who was on our December 2013 cover with fellow company member Rachael McLaren.
One of the night's biggest applauses erupted when Ralph Lemon's Scaffold Room won for Outstanding Production. Lemon recently made the dance world proud when he received a National Medal of Arts from President Obama. (Read his reaction to that honor here.)
The other Outstanding Production awards went to Souleymane Badolo for Yimbégré, Maria Hassabi for PLASTIC at the Museum of Modern Art and Pat Graney, whom editor at large Wendy Perron has described as "Seattle's beacon of feminism," for Girl Gods.
DCDC in Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder, photo by Yi-Chun Wu
With the election only three weeks away, its little surprise that politics made its way to the stage, mostly in cheeky references by host Adrienne Truscott. But powerful performances also spoke for themselves. Outstanding Emerging Choreographer Joya Powell (whom we profiled last April) presented her company Movement of the People in a work highlighting different races' reactions to the Black Lives Matter movement. And Donald McKayle's iconic chain gang piece Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder, which won Outstanding Revival, was given a moving performance by the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.
Joya Powell's Song and Dance You, photo by AK47 Division
Judith Jamison wrapped up the night by encouraging the audience to not shy away from politics or challenging works that highlight it: "Tell the truth, that's what we do as artists: We tell the truth. And that's all."
See the full list of winners at bessies.org.
Alicia has died. I walked around my apartment feeling her spirit, but knowing something had changed utterly.
My father, the late conductor Benjamin Steinberg, was the first music director of the Ballet de Cuba, as it was called then. I grew up in Vedado on la Calle 1ra y doce in a building called Vista al Mar. My family lived there from 1959 to 1963. My days were filled with watching Alicia teach class, rehearse and dance. She was everything: hilarious, serious, dramatic, passionate and elegiac. You lost yourself and found yourself when you loved her.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
It's Nutcracker time again: the season of sweet delights and a sparkling good time—if we're able to ignore the sour taste left behind by the outdated racial stereotypes so often portrayed in the second act.
In 2017, as a result of a growing list of letters from audience members, to New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief Peter Martins reached out to us asking for assistance on how to modify the elements of Chinese caricature in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Following that conversation, we founded the Final Bow for Yellowface pledge that states, "I love ballet as an art form, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages."
An audience member once emailed Dallas choreographer Joshua L. Peugh, claiming his work was vulgar. It complained that he shouldn't be pushing his agenda. As the artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Peugh's recent choreography largely deals with LGBTQ issues.
"I got angry when I saw that email, wrote my angry response, deleted it, and then went back and explained to him that that's exactly why I should be making those works," says Peugh.
With the current political climate as polarized as it is, many artists today feel compelled to use their work to speak out on issues they care deeply about. But touring with a message is not for the faint of heart. From considerations about how to market the work to concerns about safety, touring to cities where, in general, that message may not be so welcome, requires companies to figure out how they'll respond to opposition.