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Dance News: Get Enthused! These Are The 2019 Bessie Award Nominees

Dance News: Get Enthused! These Are The 2019 Bessie Award Nominees

Published on July 16, 2019
Pictured: "XENOS" by Akram Khan Company.

Daina Ashbee Is The Outstanding Breakout Choreographer Award & Alice Sheppard Receives 2019 Juried Bessie Award

The NY Dance and Performance Awards, The Bessies, New York City’s premier dance awards honoring outstanding creative work in the field, celebrates a landmark 35th anniversary this year. The nominees for the 2019 Bessie Awards, along with the recipients of the 2019 Juried Bessie Award and 2019 Outstanding Breakout Choreographer Award, were announced and celebrated at the Bessies press conference.

Established in 1984, the NY Dance and Performance Awards, named The Bessies for revered dance teacher Bessie Schönberg, are considered the field’s highest honors. Nominees are selected by the Bessie Awards Selection Committee, an independent committee of 34 dance industry professionals. Award categories include Outstanding Production, Outstanding Revival, Outstanding Performer, Outstanding Music Composition or Sound Design, and Outstanding Visual Design.

Two awards were presented at the press event. The 2019 Outstanding Breakout Choreographer Award, which recognizes an artist who has made an exceptional leap in visibility and impact in their career this past season, was presented to Daina Ashbee. Her citation reads: “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.”

Alice Sheppard was honored with the 2019 Juried Bessie Award “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.”

The Juried Bessie Award is bestowed by a group of three acclaimed choreographers, which changes each year. The 2019 Bessies Jury includes Carlota Santana, Pam Tanowitz, and Abby Zbikowski. The Bessies Jury is responsible for selecting a choreographer who exhibits some of the most interesting and exciting ideas in dance in New York City today, and who deserves to be seen more widely outside the city. The honored dance maker works with longtime dance manager Ivan Sygoda to secure touring and residency opportunities outside the city through a partnership with the New York State DanceForce, a statewide network of arts organizers and presenters. Starting this year, the recipient will also be invited to share work in the form of a studio presentation with the American Dance Festival community during the renowned festival’s 2020 season. 

This year’s awards will also inaugurate a groundbreaking partnership between the Bessies and WNET’s ALL ARTS, the new broadcast channel, streaming platform, and website dedicated to arts and culture. This partnership with ALL ARTS will increase the reach of the Bessies and cultivate new generations of dance audiences across the country. Details to be announced at a later date.

The 35th Annual Bessie Awards will be held on Monday, October 14, 2019, at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. 


Joan Myers Brown by Deborah Boardman.

UPDATE ON AUGUST 16: The NY Dance and Performance Awards, The Bessies, New York City’s premier dance awards honoring outstanding creative work in the field, announced today the recipients of two special awards. The 2019 Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance will go to Joan Myers Brown, Founder and Artistic Director of the Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO), in recognition of decades of choreographic influence on and support of the work of black American dance artists. The 2019 Bessie Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance will be presented to Louis Mofsie, Director of Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, whose work has kept Native American dance forms alive for generations of young people. 

“We are thrilled to honor Joan and Louis, two legends in our field,” said Lucy Sexton, Executive Director, NY Dance and Performance Awards. “Their work has inspired dancers and educated audiences in ways that have enriched and strengthened dance in our country and we look forward to celebrating their accomplishments.”


The 2019 Bessie Awards Nominations

Juliana F. May’s Folk Incest at Abrons Arts Center; Photo: Ian Douglas

Outstanding Production:

The Fever 
Co-presented by La MaMa, The Public Theater, and Onassis USA

Kyle Abraham
The Runaway 
New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater

Nick Cave 
The Let Go 
Park Avenue Armory

Nora Chipaumire 
#Punk 100% POP* N!GGA 
The Kitchen

Merce Cunningham with stager Patricia Lent
Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event 
BAM Opera House

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

Juliana F. May 
Folk Incest 
Abrons Arts Center and American Realness

Alexei Ratmansky 
The Seasons 
American Ballet Theatre 
Metropolitan Opera House

Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble (ROKE) 
The Art of Luv (Part 6): Awesome Grotto!
Abrons Arts Center

Caleb Teicher 
More Forever
Guggenheim Works & Process

Noa Wertheim
One. One & One 
Vertigo Dance Company
Baryshnikov Arts Center

Ni'Ja Whitson 
Oba Qween Baba King Baba 
Co-commissioned by Danspace Project and Abrons Arts Center

nora chipaumire and Shamar Watt present #PUNK at FIAF Tinker Auditorium.

Outstanding Performer:

Xianix Barrera 
in Latido by Xianix Barrera 
Emerging Choreographers Series at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center

Warren Craft
in Harlequin and Pantalone by Bill Irwin
Dorrance Dance
New York City Center

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

Kirsten Davis 
in Oba Qween Baba King Baba by Ni’Ja Whitson 
Co-commissioned by Danspace Project and Abrons Arts Center 

Gabrielle Hamilton 
in Oklahoma! choreographed by John Heginbotham 
St. Ann’s Warehouse

Samantha Hines 
in Attractor by Dancenorth Australia, Lucy Guerin Inc., Gideon Obarzanek, and Senyawa 
The Joyce Theater

Tiler Peck 
Sustained Achievement with New York City Ballet 

Molly Poerstel 
Sustained Achievement with Hilary Clark, David Dorfman, Jeanine Durning, Alex Escalante, 
Juliana F. May, Susan Rethorst, Roseanne Spradlin, and Larissa Velez-Jackson 

Nola Sporn Smith 
in metamorphosis by Stacy Grossfield 
The Kitchen, Dance and Process

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

Shamar Watt
Sustained Achievement in the work of Nora Chipaumire

Takaomi Yoshino (aka Varvara Laptopova) 
in ChopEniana by Alexandre Minz 
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
The Joyce Theater

Deuce Coupe by Twyla Tharp.

Outstanding Revival:

Deuce Coupe
By Twyla Tharp
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House

By Eleo Pomare, performed by Dyane Harvey 
American Dance Guild Performance Festival, Ailey Citigroup Theater 

Judson Dance Theater: The Work is Never Done 
By Yvonne Rainer, Deborah Hay, Lucinda Childs, David Gordon, Steve Paxton, Trisha Brown, Simone Forti 
Museum of Modern Art

Caleb Teicher & Co. with Conrad Tao: More Forever.

Outstanding Sound Design/Musical Composition:

Joseph Kubera and Adam Tendler for interpretation of music of Julius Eastman, and M. Lamar for original composition inspired by Eastman
for Rambler, Worlds Worlds A Part by Kathy Westwater
New York Live Arts

Leyya Mona Tawil 
for Future Faith by Lime Rickey International 
Abrons Arts Center

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


Ni’Ja Whitson | The NWA Project’s Oba Qween Baba King Baba; Photo by Ian Douglas.

Outstanding Visual Design:

Design Team: Tei Blow, Sean McElroy, Eben Hoffer, and Hyung Seok Jeon
for The Art of Luv (Part 6): Awesome Grotto! by Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble (ROKE) 
Abrons Arts Center

Design Team: Jeanne Medina and Ni’ja Whitson (Costumes), Gil Sperling, featuring art works by Wangech Mutu and Galvin Jantejes (Video), and Tuçe Yasak (Lighting) 
for Oba Qween Baba King Baba by Ni’Ja Whitson 
Co-commissioned by Danspace Project and Abrons Arts Center 

Mirella Weingarten (Set Design) 
for Xenos by Akram Khan 
Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival at Rose Theater


Daina Ashbee. Photo by Yvonne Chew.

Outstanding Breakout Choreographer (* indicates award recipient):

Daina Ashbee *

Jonathan González

Stacy Grossfield

Caleb Teicher


The 2019 Bessie Awards Steering Committee, responsible for setting policy and providing oversight for the Bessie Awards throughout the year, is comprised of Cora Cahan, Beverly D’Anne, Jeanne Linnes, Stanford Makishi, Nicky Paraiso, Carla Peterson, Gus Solomons jr, Paz Tanjuaquio, Judy Hussie-Taylor, Laurie Uprichard, and Martin Wechsler.

The 2018–2019 Bessie Awards Selection Committee: Ronald Alexander, Elise Bernhardt, Charles Vincent Burwell, Diana Byer, Tymberly Canale, Alexis Convento, Parijat Desai, Maura Donohue, Boo Froebel, Angela Fatou Gittens, Diane Grumet, Brinda Guha, Joseph Hall, Mai Lê Hô, Iréne Hultman, Celia Ipiotis, Koosil-ja, Fernando Maneca, Lydia Mokdessi, Harold Norris, Craig Peterson, Doug Post, Rajika Puri, Tiffany Rea-Fisher, Susan Reiter, Walter Rutledge, George Emilio Sanchez, Andrea Snyder, Sally Sommer, Risa Steinberg, Carrie Stern, Catherine Tharin, Tony Waag, and William Whitener.

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