"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.)
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."
The cast of Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise in rehearsal. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy The Shed
Akram Khan loves to dive into genres he is unfamiliar with. While his own movement vocabulary is a hybrid of kathak and contemporary dance, he has choreographed a new Giselle for English National Ballet, collaborated with flamenco artist Israel Galván and made a dance theater duet with film star Juliette Binoche. Now, in between touring Xenos, his final full-length solo, and several other projects, he's found time to tackle kung fu. Khan is part of the collaborative team behind Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a blockbuster musical based on themes of migration and the fight for survival, running June 22–July 27. Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and featuring a score that remixes songs by Sia, it's part of the inaugural season of The Shed, a new venue in New York City.