Shim-Shamming and Beyond

December 3, 2012

I think it’s safe to say that no Dance Magazine Awards ceremony has ever ended with a “shim sham”—until last night, when awardee Dianne Walker, joined by the seven phenomenal tap dancers who had just performed in her honor, closed the proceedings by leading them in that simple but satisfying routine. There they were—Michelle Dorrance, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Jason Samuels Smith, Derick K. Grant, Andrew Nemr, Claudia Rahardjanoto, and Kazu Kumagai, plus some impromptu guests from the audience, including Savion Glover and the tap scholar Constance Valis Hill—casually communing in cascading rhythm, like, “Oh, we do this all the time.” For a few minutes, the evening was no longer about the individual awardees but about the fundamental pleasure of dancing together, whether you were up on your feet or watching from the crowd.

It was a fitting culmination, given a common theme that emerged in the evening’s presentations: that none of the recipients—Julie Kent, Renee Robinson, Anna Kisselgoff, or Dianne Walker—has gotten to where she is alone, but that each has also affected the field through her own generosity, whether as a performer, educator, or voracious watcher of dance. And since each three-minute (or maybe a little longer) acceptance speech could only scratch the surface of that story, we decided to dig up some articles from Dance Magazine’s archives that give a fuller picture of who these women are.


In this “Technique My Way” from February 2011, Robinson advises young dancers on how to care for their bodies as she’s cared for hers (advice worth heeding, coming from someone who’s had a 30-year career with the Ailey company). In this essay from January 2008, Kent contemplates the “profound question” of why she dances. And in this “Teacher’s Wisdom” interview from February 2005, Walker talks about the gratification of offering “a great class.” Anna Kisselgoff herself is not featured in this article on criticism, but the closing thought recalls one of her insights from last night: that being a critic is a process of constantly learning, of opening yourself to any and all dance.