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DANCE NEWS: These Are The 2021 Bessie Awards Nominees

DANCE NEWS: These Are The 2021 Bessie Awards Nominees

Published on August 12, 2021
"Ces noms que nous portons" by Kyle Abraham and Taylor Stanley

The NY Dance and Performance Awards, The Bessies, New York City’s premier dance awards honoring outstanding creative work in the field, today announced the nominees for the 2021 Bessie Awards. Digital performances presented between March 15, 2020 and May 31, 2021, and in-person performances presented between June 1, 2020 and May 31, 2021, were considered for Bessie nominations. Award categories include Outstanding Production, Outstanding Performer, Outstanding Revival, Outstanding Music Composition or Sound Design, Outstanding Visual Design, and Outstanding Breakout Choreographer, which recognizes an artist who has made an exceptional leap in visibility and impact in their career this past season. The list of nominations follows.

“Dance artists and their collaborators have continued to dream and build during the pandemic. They have called upon each of us to reimagine and commit our collective movement toward equity, justice, and healing. We are thrilled to celebrate their work and the resilience of our community at the virtual 2021 Bessies Ceremony,“ said Bessies Executive Director Heather Robles. 

The 37th Annual Bessie Awards ceremony will be livestreamed on Monday, October 11, 2021, at 7:30PM ET. Reservations for the ceremony will be available starting September 20, through donation.


The 2021 Bessie Award Nominations


Outstanding Production:

mayfield brooks' "Whale Fall." Photo by Johanna K. Wilson

Kyle Abraham
When We Fell
New York City Ballet at the David H. Koch Theater

Kyle Abraham and Taylor Stanley
Ces noms que nous portons
New York City Ballet and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Stefanie Batten Bland
Baryshnikov Arts Center

mayfield brooks
Whale Fall
Abrons Arts Center

Ayodele Casel
Chasing Magic
The Joyce Theater

Janessa Clark
Janessa Clark and HERE Arts Center

Johnnie Cruise Mercer
Presented through Stephen Petronio Company's Bloodlines(future) program

Israel Galván
Maestro de Barra
The Joyce Theater

Indigenous Enterprise
Indigenous Enterprise: Powwow Style
The Joyce Theater

Eiko Otake
A Body in a Cemetery
Pioneer Works and Green-Wood Cemetery

Mariana Valencia
Baryshnikov Arts Center

Saul Williams, Bill T. Jones, Maria Bauman, Kayla Farrish, Marjani Forté-Saunders, d. Sabela grimes, Jasmine Hearn, and Shamel Pitts
The Motherboard Suite
New York Live Arts


Outstanding Performer:

Huiwang Zhang in OUR LABYRINTH by Lee Mingwei/Bill T. Jones. Photo credit:

LaTasha Barnes
Sustained Achievement

Isabella Boylston
Sustained Achievement with American Ballet Theatre

Marc Crousillat
Watermotor by Trisha Brown
The Joyce Theater

d. Sabela grimes
The Motherboard Suite, We get what you deserve
New York Live Arts

Jasmine Hearn
The Motherboard Suite, Order of Time
New York Live Arts

Princess Lockerooo
Sustained Achievement

Sara Mearns
State of Darkness by Molissa Fenley
The Joyce Theater

Anjali Mehta
Descent by Anjali Mehta
The Artivist’s Studio and Lion Party Films

Annique Roberts
Sustained Achievement with Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE

Nicholas Sciscione 
Bloodlines Season 7 by Stephen Petronio Company
The Joyce Theater

Michael Trusnovec
State of Darkness by Molissa Fenley
The Joyce Theater

Huiwang Zhang
OUR LABYRINTH by Lee Mingwei/Bill T. Jones
The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Outstanding Revival:

"State of Darkness" 2021. Digital Program Book by The Joyce Theater

State of Darkness
By Molissa Fenley

The Joyce Theater

By Trisha Brown

Trisha Brown Dance Company
The Joyce Theater


Outstanding Music Composition/Sound Design:


Monstah Black
For _AShadowPrince by Johnnie Cruise Mercer
Presented through Stephen Petronio Company's Bloodlines(future) program

Pedro León and Manu Prieto
For Maestro de Barra by Israel Galván
The Joyce Theater

Arturo O’Farrill, Crystal Monee Hall (singer/songwriter), Annastasia Victory (music director and composer), and Senfu Stoney (percussionist) 
For Chasing Magic by Ayodele Casel
The Joyce Theater 

Saul Williams
For The Motherboard Suite
New York Live Arts


Outstanding Visual Design:

"The Sprezzaturameron" by Tei Blow and Sean McElroy

Kyle Abraham (Director), Ryan Marie Helfant (Director & Director of Photography), Eric K. Yue (Director of Photography), and Esteban Pedraza (Editor)
When We Fell by Kyle Abraham
New York City Ballet at the David H. Koch Theater

Tei Blow and Sean McElroy
The Sprezzaturameron by Tei Blow and Sean McElroy
Baryshnikov Arts Center

Conrad Quesen (installation) and Shane Ballard (costumes)
Kolonial by Stefanie Batten Bland
Baryshnikov Arts Center

Catalin Stelian (Director of Photography, Cinematography, Editor), Kofi Assane Opare (Cinematography), and Kweku Amantey Opare (Editor)
Steel Standing by Fritzlyn Hector
DanceAfrica 2021
Brooklyn Academy of Music


Outstanding Breakout Choreographer:

Hope Boykin. Photo © Apple

Hope Boykin

Johnnie Cruise Mercer

Maleek Washington

André M. Zachery


The Bessies Steering Committee, responsible for setting policy and providing oversight for the Bessie Awards throughout the year, is comprised of Cora Cahan, Judy Hussie-Taylor, Jeanne Linnes, Stanford Makishi, Nicky Paraiso, Carla Peterson, Craig Peterson, Gus Solomons jr, Paz Tanjuaquio, Laurie Uprichard, and Charmaine Warren.

The 2020–2021 Bessies Selection Committee: Ronald Kevin Alexander, Charles Vincent Burwell, Maria Baranova-Suzuki, Michele Byrd-McPhee, Yoshiko Chuma, Sangeeta Ghosh Yesley, Celia Ipiotis, Benjamin Akio Kimitch, Koosil-ja, Anabella Lenzu, Adesola Osakalumi, Pam Pietro, Tiffany Rea-Fisher, Elka Samuel Smith, George Emílio Sanchez, Elgie Gaynell Sherrod, Andrea Snyder, Ivan Talijancic, and Philip Treviño.

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