Santa Barbara Dance Theater, Photo: Brandon Whited
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The Bessies Announce Recipients of the 2019 NY Dance and Performance Awards

The Bessies Announce Recipients of the 2019 NY Dance and Performance Awards

Published on October 15, 2019
Bessie winner Shamar Watt; Photo Ian Douglas

The NY Dance and Performance Awards, the Bessies, New York City’s premier dance awards honoring outstanding creative work in the field, announced tonight the complete list of 2019 award recipients at the 35th annual Bessie Awards.

Obie and Bessie Award-winning performance artist Justin Vivian Bond hosted this year’s ceremony, which was held at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Executive Director Lucy Sexton and Managing Director Heather Robles welcomed the 800-plus artists and supporters of the New York dance community who had gathered to celebrate the nominees, winners, and The Bessies’ 35th anniversary. 

The ceremony featured a performance by Camille A. Brown & Dancers in Migration, the finale from Brown’s acclaimed 2017 work inkher trilogy on race, culture, and identity. The evening also included an excerpt of 2019 Outstanding Breakout Choreographer Daina Ashbee’s Laborious Song, performed by Benjamin Kamino, and a new work choreographed by Hope Boykin featuring Jeroboam Bozeman, presented in tribute to Joan Myers Brown, this year’s Lifetime Achievement honoree. As part of the annual In Memoriam section, members of Stanley Love Performance Group made a special appearance in a simple procession commemorating the members of the NYC dance community who passed away this year. 

Lucy Sexton and Justin Vivian Bond; Photo by AK47 Division

Tony Award-winning performer, teacher, and theater producer George Faison presented Joan Myers Brown with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement in Dance Award. Kevin Tarrant, the lead singer of the intertribal drum and dance troupe SilverCloud, presented Louis Mofsie with the 2019 Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance for his work with Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. Other presenters included Ephrat Asherie, Noah Paul Catala, Violeta Galagarza, Catherine Galasso, Tiffany Geigel, Lauri Hogan, Sara Mearns, Edie Nightcrawler, Arielle Rosales, Sue Samuels, Jennifer Tipton, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar.

All of the awardees and nominees received a $500 honorarium, courtesy of a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. 

The ceremony was preceded by the Bessies Angel party honoring Laurie Uprichard for her stewardship of the awards for many of The Bessies’ 35 years, and her lifelong commitment to curating and supporting dance and performance. Following the awards presentation at Skirball, the celebration continued with a party at Judson Memorial Church.

The awards ceremony will be broadcast on Sunday, November 17, at 8pm on WNET’s ALL ARTS, an unprecedented new broadcast channel, streaming platform, and website dedicated to arts and culture 24/7.

THE 2019 NY DANCE AND PERFORMANCE AWARD RECIPIENTS AND CITATIONS:

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE

Joan Myers Brown: For helping shape American dance over six decades spent choreographing, training, and mentoring dancers at Philadanco. For championing and creating spaces for the work of African American choreographers through the formation of such seminal organizations as The International Association of Blacks in Dance. For doing it all with grace, generosity, artistry, and leadership.

Joan Myers Brown; Photo by  Photo by AK47 Division

OUTSTANDING SERVICE TO THE FIELD OF DANCE

Louis Mofsie: For his tireless and visionary service for more than half a century: preserving and keeping vibrant the dances, songs, and ceremonies of multiple Native American tribal traditions. Serving as leader, teacher, scholar, and emcee extraordinaire with his Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, he has toured to all 50 states, sharing and collecting dances that would otherwise be lost to history.

Louis Mofsie; Photo by  Photo by AK47 Division

BESSIES ANGEL AWARD

Laurie Uprichard: For decades dedicated to dance artists and the creation of new dance works. For her stewardship of The Bessies, aiding in their inception and sustaining them for many years after. For being a leader and beloved member of every dance community she has touched.

Laurie Uprichard; Photo by  Photo by AK47 Division

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTIONS

Nick Cave
The Let Go at Park Avenue Armory

For creating a ritual using colorful full-body masks, a moving stream of mylar, the choral uplift of the Sing Harlem choir, and Francesca Harper’s inspired choreographic structures, the piece invites us to lose ourselves and find each other in this divisive time.

nora chipaumire
#Punk 100% POP* N!GGA at The Kitchen and Crossing the Line Festival

For a radical and passionate blast of sound, movement, confrontation, and choreographed chaos. For working at the intersection of art, politics, and social commentary to create a devastating rendering of the politics of race.

New York Cast of Night of 100 Solos: The Centennial Event  by Merce Cunningham, with stager Patricia Lent and Merce Cunningham Trust at BAM; Photo by Stephanie Berger.

Merce Cunningham with stager Patricia Lent and Merce Cunningham Trust
Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House

For bringing Merce Cunningham’s work to new and expanded life on his centennial. Opening his work to the bodies of brilliant dance artists from all genres to create a mesmerizing event brimming with brilliance, generosity, unity, and trust.


Tania El Khoury
As Far As My Fingertips Take Me at Under the Radar/The Public Theater
 

For bringing the experience of migration and border control to our most intimate place—the body. For filling the audience’s ears with a story of displacement, while drawing the journey on their arm. reaching unseen and unprotected through a wall: a global crisis is brought home in indelible ways.

OUTSTANDING PERFORMERS

Leslie Cuyjet jumps intensely
Leslie Cuyet in Juliana May’s Folk Incest at Arbons Arts Center; Photo by Ian Douglas.

Leslie Cuyjet
Sustained Achievement with Jane Comfort, Niall Jones, Juliana F. May, Cynthia Oliver, Will Rawls

For her ability to combine technical precision, astonishing energy, humor, and raw theatrical power to consistently illuminate the choreographer’s vision.

Shamar Watt
Sustained Achievement in the work of nora chipaumire

For expressing, embodying, and extending the choreographer’s vision, while remaining forcefully himself. For inhabiting the worlds created with a riveting coiled energy that creates a dynamic and urgent NOW in every work.

Gabrielle Hamilton
in Oklahoma!’s Dream Ballet choreographed by John Heginbotham, at St. Ann’s Warehouse

For bringing her full self to expand the boundaries of a classic American play, and its iconic dream ballet: She is powerfully sensual, fully in control, moving with intelligence, fearlessness, and aplomb.

Gabrielle Hamilton in Oklahoma! choreographed by John Heginbotham at St. Ann’s Warehouse; Photo by Little Fang Photo | Courtesy DKC/O&M

Taylor Stanley
in The Runaway by Kyle Abraham, New York City Ballet, at the David H. Koch Theater

Combining exceptional technique, clear musicality, and a fierce devotion to the choreography, he brought down the house with a piercingly revelatory solo performed with raw abandon and emotional purity.

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL

Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done
Yvonne Rainer, Deborah Hay, Lucinda Childs, David Gordon, Steve Paxton, Trisha Brown, and Simone Forti, curated by Ana Janevski at the Museum of Modern Art

A critical and pivotal exhibit featuring live performances that shined a light on a moment of radical invention in the history of American modern dance. Placing the work in the larger social and political context in which it was made, and giving it new relevance in the current moment.

Five dancers tip and plie
Steve Paxton. New realization of Jag Vill Gärna Telefonera (I Would Like to Make a Phone Call). (1964/2018). Performed in Steve Paxton Performances by Stephen Petronio Company, as part of Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 16, 2018–February 3, 2019. Performed by Ryan Pliss, Tess Montoya, Ernesto Breton, Taylor Boyland, Bria Bacon, Megan Wright. Digital image © 2019 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Paula Court

OUTSTANDING SOUND DESIGN / MUSIC COMPOSITION

Conrad Tao and Caleb Teicher for More Forever by Caleb Teicher at Guggenheim Works & Process

Employing an unexpected mix of timbres—a toy piano, a computerized harp, the sound of scraped sand—composer and dancer introduce sophisticated sounds into the tap landscape. The improvised score pays homage to the very roots of the dance form, as it enriches the possibilities for its future.


OUTSTANDING VISUAL DESIGN
Design Team: Jeanne Medina and Ni’Ja Whitson (Costumes), Gil Sperling featuring artworks by Wangechi Mutu and Gavin Jantjes (Video), Tuçe Yasak (Lighting)
for Oba Qween Baba King Baba by Ni’Ja Whitson, co-commissioned by Danspace Project and Abrons Arts Center

For its innovative use of projection and light, using ceiling, wall, floor, audience, and dancers’ bodies as vessel and canvas. For mixing live performance, recorded and live video, and shape-shifting costumes to create a world of beauty, power, myth, and reality.

Four dancers in white, one is leaping
Ni'ja Whitson’s Oba Qween Baba King Baba at Danspace; Photo by Ian Douglas.

BESSIES JURIED AWARD (Presented in July 2019)

Alice Sheppard: For boldly and authentically inventing new movement vocabularies full of supercharged physicality and nuanced detail. Working with gravity, mechanics, human connection, and momentum, she creates work of power and empowerment.

OUTSTANDING BREAKOUT CHOREOGRAPHER (Presented in July 2019)

Daina Ashbee: For using the elemental female body itself as a means to excavate and expose layered histories of violence against women. Using repetition, painful ritual, and raw and resilient bodies, her work draws the viewer into a journey of insistence and transformation.

 


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