Choreographer Ronald K. Brown sees himself as a weaver—of movement, but more importantly, of stories. "When I started my company Evidence 33 years ago, I needed to make a space for what I thought of as evidence—work that tells stories, so that when people saw the work, they would see a reflection or evidence of themselves onstage," says Brown, now 51. "That was my mission, my purpose."
Fast-forward to today: Evidence has become a mainstay in the modern dance world and Brown is now considered a vanguard among choreographers fusing Western contemporary dance with movement from the African diaspora, including popular dance and traditions from West African cultures like Senegalese sabar.
Today, we are thrilled to announce the honorees of the 2018 Dance Magazine Awards. A tradition dating back to 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards celebrate the living legends who have made a lasting impact on dance. This year's honorees include:
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New York, NY (September 2018) – Misty Copeland will open the 61st annual Dance Magazine Awards. The evening will honor Ronald K. Brown, Lourdes Lopez (presented by Darren Walker), Crystal Pite, and Michael Trusnovec (presented by Patrick Corbin). A special Leadership Award will be presented to Nigel Redden. Since 1954 the Dance Magazine Awards have recognized outstanding men and women whose contributions have left a lasting impact on dance. This year's Awards will take place on Monday, December 3, 2018 at The Ailey Citigroup Theater at 7:30 pm. Tickets start at $50 and can be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new award, The Harkness Promise Award, will shine a light on two emerging young artists for the promise of their artistic work. The inaugural awardees are Raja Feather Kelly and Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie. The Harkness Foundation For Dance received proceeds from last year's Dance Magazine Awards for this grant. The award showcases innovative thinking and how to be an effective artist-citizen who positively impacts dance and the broader community through performance, education, organization and activism. Proceeds from this year's Dance Magazine Awards will be applied to next year's Harkness Promise Awards.
"All of us at Dance Magazine are excited to partner with The Harkness Foundation For Dance for a second year and to benefit these two deserving artists. This year's Dance Magazine Awards has once again chosen a stellar group of honorees and we are thrilled to have Misty Copeland join us. We are confident that the 61st Dance Magazine Awards will be our best yet." – Frederic Seegal, CEO/Chairman Dance Media
Yes, she's small, but the word "mighty" doesn't even begin to get to the root of Linda Celeste Sims' startling magnetism. She joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1996 and now, at 41, it's as if her luminous dancing has entered another realm.
"I don't feel tired," she says. "I don't feel like I hate it. I don't feel like it's redundant. I can express different things. I can see what's happening in a more mature way, and I'm intrigued by this moment."
It's not that she isn't aware of her aging body. "I'm not as quick and as fast as I used to be," Sims says. "It's a challenge, but how can I express movement in a new way?"
To kick off 2015, we asked 15 leading choreographers working in the U.S. to choose what they see as the most influential work of the past 15 years. Their selections highlight a slice of the creativity witnessed in the past decade and a half—and offer insight into what drives their own artistic choices.
Julie Tolentino in Raised by Wolves. Photo by Yongho Kim, Courtesy Tolentino.
Julie Tolentino’s Raised by Wolves, 2013
In a virtuosic tour-de-force that included choreography, improvisation and vocal incantations, Tolentino created an intimacy so potent that it was both frightening and exhilarating. This installation included a solo performed 50 times over a few weeks for an audience of no more than five in the Commonwealth & Council gallery in Los Angeles. It influenced me not just on how to make dances, but how to be an artist. It was a reminder of why I do what I do: to takes risks, to speak directly about the most complex issues of the human condition, and to try to do so in a wholly original way.
Bel in Cédric Andrieux, Photo by Marco Caselli Nirmal, Courtesy Bel.
Jérôme Bel’s Cédric Andrieux, 2009
The end had me in tears as Cédric sang along with The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” I felt so seen and understood as a dancer throughout the piece. I wanted to continually stand up and say, “See, this is what it is like!” And at the end, when Cédric looked at all of us, with no dancer gaze, just as a human being, I thought, This is exactly why I make dances: So I can get to this moment.
Ordinary Witnesses, Photo by Ian Douglas, Courtesy NYLA.
Rachid Ouramdane’s Ordinary Witnesses, 2009
This rare, powerful work attempts to bear witness to events of human suffering in history. But it also achieves an aesthetic coup by using understated and intelligent staging in a documentary form of dance theater. I feel Rachid is posing an existential question: Can dance and choreography even have the criteria to address these issues? This work tilts the conversation of choreographic content, quite radically, into new directions.
Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 2011’s Park Avenue Armory Events, Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy Park Avenue Armory.
Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s farewell performance, 2011
The final shows of the Cunningham company at the Park Avenue Armory, which included his 2009 Nearly Ninety, were a profound reminder that artists can keep forever growing through all points of their creative journey, regardless of age. The scope/size of the space and the amount of dance vocabulary being shared from the several stages set up—and the magnitude of importance of Merce’s work—was beyond anything I have witnessed.
Urban Bush Women in Walking with Pearl...Southern Diaries, Photo by Ayano Hisa, Courtesy UBW.
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Walking with Pearl suite (Africa Diaries, 2004; Southern Diaries, 2005)
In this piece, Jawole Zollar mined histories of dance, a people and a place. Using collective and personal narratives with dancing that’s both fierce and intimate, she’s influenced generations of artists. She’s made a refuge in the form of a company, a network and an institute for choreographers of color, and has raised her voice for all women in the field.
Cedar Lake in Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue. Photo by Paula Lobo, Courtesy Cedar Lake.
Crystal Pite’s Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue, 2008
This work very literally explores what the title expresses. Yet it is so fully realized that the choreography transcends its own specificity into a totally riveting experience of sheer physical magnificence. She reveals the fragility in human emotion and beauty without an ounce of irony.
Alvin Ailey performs Grace. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy AAADT.
Ronald K. Brown’s Grace, 1999
This piece makes me want to shout, holler and cry…and give witness. Witness to a culture where dance works as an exalter of pain, frustration and loneliness. The themes still resonate, 15 years later, as a powerful celebration of the lives deeply embedded into club culture that have passed on. I’ve always viewed it as a dedication to those who’ve sought dance and club culture as the ultimate healer.
Mark Haim’s This Land Is Your Land. Photo by Tim Summers, Courtesy Haim.
Monica Bill Barnes
Mark Haim’s This Land Is Your Land, 2010
This was one of the most powerful, moving works I have ever seen. Mark is a riveting performer who blends a down-to-earth real-person quality with perfectly executed technical movement choices, and he was able to transfer these qualities to a large group of both dancers and non-dancers. It was profoundly beautiful and joyful and heartbreaking. I feel like this is the best example of the belief that some ideas and emotions can only be expressed through movement.
Liam Mower as Billy. Photo by David Scheinmann, Courtesy Billy Elliot.
Peter Darling’s Billy Elliot, 2005
I was so intrigued by the beautiful imagery that Peter Darling brought to the “Grandma’s Song,” a vocal solo, through a slow-moving wave of choreography that passed from one side of the stage to the other. It was a perfect example of how stylized ensemble choreography can function as an impressionistic surround, illuminating the subtext and complexity of a narrative solo.
You Got Served. Photo © Columbia Pictures’ Screen Gems.
Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo
You Got Served, 2004
This was the first time that the crew-based mentality style of hip hop was seen on the big screen. Dave Scott’s work is incredible, and really started a whole dance crew craze.
Atlanta Ballet in 1st Flash. Photo by Charlie McCullers, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet.
Jorma Elo’s 1st Flash, 2003
I remember being in awe of this piece. I told everyone I knew that Jorma had reignited the conversation between classical and contemporary dance, in a new way that invited gesture and idiosyncrasy back to the table. After its premiere, Jorma was called to choreograph for major classical and contemporary companies everywhere. He has since clearly influenced the dance world and, to my eyes, 1st Flash was the beginning of it.
Non Griffiths in Dover Beach. Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy The Kitchen.
Sarah Michelson’s Dover Beach, 2009
Through an accumulation of highly original and powerfully athletic dances, exemplified well by Dover Beach, Sarah Michelson re-legitimized the type of technical/formalist dance language as a vehicle for avant-garde expression that had formerly become anathema to downtown dancemakers in general. Her dances oppose the rejection of all artifice (associated with the Judson Church aesthetic) with a theatricalism that nonetheless retains high-art bona fides poised on the border between dance and gallery-worthy visual art.
Mark Morris Dance Group in V. Photo by Robbie Jack, Courtesy MMDG.
Mark Morris’ V, 2001
The intelligence, craft, structure, musicality, mathematical patterns, the unavoidable humanity—this piece is timeless. It inspired me by demonstrating that a choreographer is responsible for creating everything that happens on the stage. Nothing is haphazard about its construction, indicating a strong singular voice from Mr. Morris that is brought to life through his beautiful dancers.
Akram Khan’s ma. Photo Courtesy Akram Khan Company.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Akram Khan’s ma, 2004
I was humbled by ma. It combined philosophy, poetry, intricacy and humor. I felt that everything had been said. Nothing more could be added choreographically.
Paxton in The Beast. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, Courtesy BAC.
Steve Paxton’s The Beast, 2010
Through this profoundly gripping study of small spinal manipulations and shifts of energy, Paxton somehow suspends time. The dark, disorienting palette of action confirms the belief that imagination is the only limit to innovation, and that the prerequisite of youth in dance is an illusion: Paxton, still an extraordinary innovator at age 75, accomplishes what younger dancers can’t begin to do.
NEW YORK CITY
Endless repetition can drive audiences out of the theater, but a gifted choreographer can make watching the same phrase over and over with subtle changes fascinating. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is one of those rare ones. Four of her early works from the 1980s are coming to Lincoln Center Festival for a De Keersmaeker marathon that will make her fans deliriously happy: Fase, Elena’s Aria and Rosas danst Rosas—the work that Beyoncé borrowed from for her “Countdown” music video—and Bartók/Mikrokosmos. As a bonus, the Belgian choreographer herself will perform in the first three of these evening-length works. She dances with a poetic inner focus as though immersed in a rhythmic dream. July 8–16, John Jay College. lincolncenterfestival.org.
Above: De Keersmaeker’s Bartók/Mikrokosmos. Photo by Herman Sorgeloos, Courtesy Lincoln Center Festival.
A Change for Sascha
NEW YORK CITY
He is dashing on the Metropolitan Opera House stage, has written eloquently for Dance Magazine and was charismatic on the silver screen in Center Stage. On July 3, when beloved soloist Sascha Radetsky performs the role of Franz in Coppélia, it will be his last dance as a member of American Ballet Theatre. But the innately likeable dancer will keep busy: He’s currently in production as a main character in the TV show “Flesh and Bone,” to air on Starz in 2015. He and his wife, ABT soloist Stella Abrera, will also serve as répétiteurs for the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust. abt.org.
At right: Radetsky in Fancy Free. Photo by Marty Sohl, Courtesy ABT.
Straight From the Horse’s Mouth
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA
When choreographers perform their own work, we’re getting an undiluted product—from mind to body to stage. That’s the reward of the On Their Bodies program, July 22–23, at American Dance Festival. Ronald K. Brown, Stephen Petronio, Doug Varone and Shen Wei, who have each carved out their own unique movement languages, will perform self-choreographed solos. (If only there was a woman in the mix, too!) americandancefestival.org.
At left: Ronald K. Brown. Photo by Kurt H. Leggard, Courtesy Evidence.
It’s a simple but compelling experiment: Commission a piece of music, have two choreographers create their own works to it and present them on the same bill. Audiences will be hearing double during the SKETCH 4 | Music Mirror program at ODC Theater, in which Amy Seiwert and Adam Hougland will offer separate interpretations of Kevin Keller’s score. Seiwert, known for her quirky, angular movement, and Hougland, for his innovative narratives, have been housed at ODC for five weeks to prepare. July 24–27. odcdance.org.
At right: Weston Krukow and Sarah Griffin of Amy Seiwert Imagery. Photo by David DeSilva, Courtesy Amy Seiwert Imagery.
See the Music
Mark Morris is a master of translating a musical score into lush dancing. This summer’s Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival will offer a full week of events that dive into his obsession with melody. Morris himself will lead music seminars, discussions and open company classes. And there will be plenty of performances, too: The Mark Morris Dance Group Music Ensemble will have its own concert and will accompany MMDG in seven programs of newer Morris works—Festival Dance, A Wooden Tree, Crosswalk and Jenn and Spencer. July 21–27. jacobspillow.org.
At left: Domingo Estrada and Michelle Yard in Festival Dance. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy MMDG.