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DANCE NEWS: The NY Dance and Performance Awards, a.k.a. The Bessies, Announce the Nominees for the 2019–20 Season

DANCE NEWS: The NY Dance and Performance Awards, a.k.a. The Bessies, Announce the Nominees for the 2019–20 Season

Published on November 23, 2020
Photo: Lucy Sexton by AK47-division

The 36th annual Bessies Ceremony will be streamed on a virtual platform on Monday, December 14, at 7:30pm ET. The event is free, with a suggested donation of any amount. Registration is required at Bessies RSVP. For more information and to purchase tickets to the virtual Angel Reception, visit Angel Reception tickets. The celebration will continue at the free, virtual Bessies After-party following the ceremony. Everyone who registers for The Bessies Ceremony will be invited to the party.

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 2019–20 season. This year, all of the nominees will be honored. Each nomination will be recognized with a $500 honorarium, courtesy of a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Honorees for Lifetime Achievement, Service to the Field of Dance, and 2020 Special Citation will be announced at The Bessies Ceremony. 

All of the nominees being honored presented live performance work prior to the March 15 citywide shutdown due to the pandemic. In acknowledgement of the artists who were unable to present their work this season, The Bessies Steering and Selection Committees decided to forego giving individual awards this year. Artists who presented work after March 15, including on virtual platforms, are eligible for award consideration in the 2020–21 season.

Girls in school uniforms pose with flexed hands
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION NOMINEE: Amanda Szeglowski's this is now, and now, and now.; photo by Maria Baranova

The Bessies Ceremony will be a place for the dance and performance community to come together in solidarity, support, and celebration during these times of continuing challenge. The event will feature video footage of the nominated artists’ works, and will include a special tribute to the often unsung but essential members of the community who are central to the process of bringing live and online dance and performance to audiences in New York City.

“We hope to reflect the immense scope of our dance and performance community at the virtual 2020 Bessies Ceremony because The Bessies belongs to all of us,” said Bessies Managing Director and Producer Heather Robles. “We look forward to celebrating all of the 2020 nominees and the extraordinary work presented this past season. We will acknowledge how organizations and individuals came together to support one another during Covid-19, we will hear from beloved members of our community, and we will lift up many luminaries for their lifetime achievement in dance and service to the field.”

The pre-ceremony Angel Reception will honor choreographer, producer, and former executive director of The Bessies Lucy Sexton for her leadership and advocacy for dance for so many years. The Bessies Angel Reception will include remarks by Bebe Neuwirth, exclusive footage of DANCENOISE’s 1989 show All the Rage, and more.

Robles stated: “We are thrilled to honor the incomparable Lucy Sexton at The Bessies Angel Reception for her unparalleled leadership, vision, and dedication to The Bessies and the artists we serve.”

Dressed in white and against a white background, Yoshiko Chuma looks out
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION NOMINEE: Yoshiko Chuma's My Diary: Secret Journey to Tipping Utopia; photo by Mickey Ono 

Click on the links with asterisks to read coverage by contributors of The Dance Enthusiast. 

The 2020 Bessie Nominees/Honorees

Outstanding Production


Kimberly Bartosik

through the mirror of their eyes***

At New York Live Arts

Monica Bill Barnes and Robert Saenz de Viteri

Days Go By***

At Brookfield Place New York

Brother(hood) Dance!


At Gibney

Ayodele Casel and Arturo O’Farrill

Ayodele Casel + Arturo O’Farrill***

At The Joyce Theater

a canary torsi/Yanira Castro

Last Audience

At New York Live Arts

Yoshiko Chuma

My Diary: Secret Journey to Tipping Utopia

At The Invisible Dog

Colin Dunne plays a record
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION NOMINEE: Colin Dunne's Concert; photo by Maurice Gunning

Colin Dunne


At Baryshnikov Arts Center

Gregory Vuyani Maqoma

Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Bolero***

At The Joyce Theater

Annie-B Parson

American Utopia

At Hudson Theatre

jumatatu m. poe and Jermone “Donte” Beacham

Let ‘im Move You: This Is a Formation

At Abrons Art Center

Amanda Szeglowski

this is now, and now, and now.


Burr Johnson stag leaps assisted by a man
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION NOMINEE: through the mirror of their eyes by Kimberly Bartosik; photo by Ryutaro Mishima

Outstanding Performer

Oluwadamilare Ayorinde

In A.D. and Colored*** by Kyle Marshall 

At BAM Fisher

Grupo de Rua

In Inoah by Bruno Beltraõ/Grupo de Rua

At Brooklyn Academy of Music

Burr Johnson

In through the mirror of their eyes by Kimberly Bartosik***

At New York Live Arts

Wataru Kitao

In The Unknown Dancer in the Neighborhood by Suguru Yamamoto

The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival 2020

At Japan Society

Two men have their arms intertwined as they lean backward
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION NOMINEE: Brother(hood) Dance's Afro/Solo/Man; photo by Scott Shaw 

Huwer Anthony Marche Jr. (“King Havoc”)

In LayeRhythm Jam

At Nublu

Shannon Nash

In Community Exercises for Sanctuary Spaces by Brendan Drake

At The Brick

Emily Pope

In My Diary: Secret Journey to Tipping Utopia by Yoshiko Chuma

At The Invisible Dog

Annique Roberts

For Sustained Achievement in the work of Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE

Myssi Robinson

In Colored by Kyle Marshall***

At BAM Fisher

Bijayini Satpathy

In Kalpana – the world of Imagination by Kelucharan Mohapatra and Surupa Sen

Presented by Drive East Festival

At A.R.T. New York Theatre

A clump of people extend their arms while dancing in a mall
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION NOMINEE: Monica Bill Barnes' Days Go By; photo by David Wilson Barnes

Hu Shenyuan

In Under Siege by Yang Liping

At David H. Koch Theater

Omari Wiles

In Odeon by Ephrat Asherie***

At The Joyce Theater

Breakout Choreographer


Gemma Bond

Tess Dworman

It’s Showtime NYC

Gabrielle Revlock

Outstanding Revival



By Aszure Barton

Performed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

At New York City Center


By Kyle Marshall

At BAM Fisher

From The Horse’s Mouth, various works

By Jamie Cunningham and Tina Croll/Horse’s Mouth honoring the 75th anniversary of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division

At 14th Street Y

Monuments: Echoes in the Dance Archive

By Adam Weinert

At The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

A clump slumps in a graveyard

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION NOMINEE: Gregory Vuyani Maqoma's Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Bolero; photo by photo by Siphosihle Mkhwanazi

Outstanding Sound Design/Musical Composition

Quran Karriem

For Soundz at the Back of My Head by Thomas F. DeFrantz/Slippage***

At Gibney

Nhlanhla Mahlangu and Ntuthuko Mbuyazi

For Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Bolero by Gregory Maqoma/Vuyani Dance Theater***

At The Joyce Theater

Stephan Moore

For Last Audience by a canary torsi/Yanira Castro

At New York Live Arts

Nioka Workman, nia love, and Antoine Roney

For g1(host):lostatsea by nia love***

At Gibney

Outstanding Visual Design

Peter Born (Set and Lighting Design)

For Sitting on a Man’s Head by Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born

At Danspace Project

Liam O’Brien & Kelly Hanson (Costume and Scenic Design), Mary Ellen Stebbins and Jane Cox (Lighting Design)

For Days Go By by Monica Bill Barnes and Robert Saenz de Viteri***

At Brookfield Place New York

Ricarrdo Valentine and Orlando Zane Hunter (Video)

For Afro/Solo/Man by Brother(hood) Dance!

At Gibney

Tim Yip (Visual Director and Set) and Beili Liu (Installation)

For Under Siege by Yang Liping Contemporary Dance

At David H. Koch Theater

Ayodele Casel tapping in a brown blazer

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION NOMINEE: Ayodele Casel and Arturo O’Farrill in Ayodele Casel + Arturo O’Farrill; photo by Patrick Randak

The 2020 Bessie Awards 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, Charmaine Warren, Martin Wechsler, and Eva Yaa Asantewaa.

The 2019–2020 Bessie Awards Selection Committee: Ronald Alexander, MFA, Maria Baranova-Suzuki, Elise Bernhardt, Charles Vincent Burwell, Diana Byer, Michele Byrd-McPhee, Tymberly Canale, MFA, Boo Froebel, Angela Fatou Gittens, Ph.D, Diane Grumet, Mai Lê Hô, Iréne Hultman, Celia Ipiotis, Koosil-ja, Nicole Mannarino, Jessica Massart, Craig Peterson, Pam Pietro, Rajika Puri, Tiffany Rea-Fisher, Susan Reiter, George Emilio Sanchez, E. Gaynell Sherrod, Ed.D, Andrea Snyder, Dr. Sally R. Sommer, Risa Steinberg, Carrie Stern, Ph.D., Ivan Talijancic, Catherine Tharin, Philip Treviño, Muna Tseng, Tony Waag, William Whitener, Sangeeta Ghosh Yesley, and Dr. Layla Zami.


The NY Dance and Performance Awards have saluted outstanding and groundbreaking creative work in the dance field in New York City for 36 years. Known as “The Bessies” in honor of revered dance teacher Bessie Schönberg, the awards were established in 1984 by David R. White at Dance Theater Workshop. They recognize outstanding work in choreography, performance, music composition, and visual design. Nominees are chosen by a selection committee composed of artists, presenters, producers, and writers. All those working in the dance field are invited to join the NY Dance and Performance League as members and participate in annual discussions on the direction of the awards and nominate members to serve on the selection committee.

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