2011 Bessie Award Honorees

Friday, July 20, 2012

2011 Bessie Award Honorees


From her experiments at Judson Church in the 1960s, to the 40 plus years of work created since founding her dance company in 1970, Trisha Brown has never stopped investigating the ways that the body might move, the ways gestures might become fluid, and the way the brain might interact with an ever-shifting landscape of movement. She spawned a generation of dancers who became influential teachers and choreographers, and who in turn are creating continuing generations of dance artists exploring the ways of the body.The influence of both her distinctive movement style and inquisitive choreographic drive can be seen throughout the world of dance. And she continues to create new and challenging dance works today.

At age18, choreographer Violeta Galagarza founded KR3Ts or Keep Rising to the Top---a center for dance and choreography in Spanish Harlem. Over the next 20 years she proved herself to be an extraordinary leader, both in terms of her unique choreographic style blending hip hop with salsa, merengue, cumbia and tango; and in terms of her profound influence on the lives of the young people who train and dance with her. KR3Ts has transformed the lives of at risk youth by training them in dance, encouraging them to choreograph and to teach dance themselves, and through discussion sessions that give them strategies for coping with the pressures of the world outside. Her vision and dedication has turned hundreds of lives around, training dozens of dancers who have gone on to professional careers. Her dance company has traveled the world, appearing in festivals, videos, movies, as well as formal dance venues, pushing the boundaries of what hip hop can do and express.
“Violeta is doing something with hip hop that’s very different. The way she has men move, with a softness and sensuality, and the more difficult subjects her dances deal with make her work innovative and beautiful,” says Bessie Committee member Arthur Aviles. “You add to that the hundreds of stories of young people who found a new way forward in their lives through their work with her, and you have to bow down to the power of the woman. Hers really is an extraordinary achievement in dance, rightly being saluted with this Bessie Award.”

With a career that started with Josephine Baker in Paris, continued through The Royal Ballet and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and continues to this day with American Ballet Theatre, Frederic Franklin’s life has intersected with most every major ballet of the 20th century. He is honored by the Bessies with the Award for Service to the Field of Dance for the invaluable work he has done transmitting that deep physical knowledge of historic ballets to dancers of the next century. His work staging ballets such as Copellia and Giselle—famously on the Dance Theater of Harlem in 1984, and more recently on the Joffrey Ballet---mean that crucial dances and styles of choreography are not lost to history. As Bessie Committee member Robert LaFosse says, “Freddie Franklin works intimately with dancers, passing on not just the choreography but the detailed nuances of the performing style. His loving devotion to the work and to the dancers is legendary and the dance world owes him a great debt for his service.”

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION (of a work performed in a larger capacity venue of more than 400 seats):
Thirteen Diversions by Christopher Wheeldon, performed by American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House (nominated)
Quartet by Merce Cunningham, performed by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at The Joyce Theater (nominated)
For using irony, humor, and a deep love of ballet's history to make the story ballet form feel alive and of our time;
For making dance that is both virtuosic and generous, tongue-in-cheek and deeply human,
And for engaging the dancers’ imaginations and unleashing their personalities,
A 2011 New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Production goes to
The Bright Stream by Alexei Ratmansky, performed by American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House
Alexei Ratmansky was born in St. Petersburg and trained at the Bolshoi Ballet School in Moscow. His performing career included positions as principal dancer with Ukrainian National Ballet, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet. Ratmansky was named artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet in January 2004.Ratmansky joined American Ballet Theatre as Artist in Residence in January 2009.
The Bright Stream is a comic two-act narrative ballet about members of a Russian farm collective done to a score by Shostakovich. Originally choreographed 1935, Stalin quickly banned it, and punished some of those responsible for it. Its entrancing Shostakovich score was buried in the Bolshoi archives until, in 2003, its then-artistic director, Alexei Ratmansky, disinterred it and choreographed this comic and delightful masterwork. It received its NY premiere this season with American Ballet Theatre.
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OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION (of a work that stretches the boundaries of a traditional or culturally specific form):
Los Muequitos de Mantanzas with Max Pollak and Barbaro Ramos, performed at Symphony Space (nominated)
Caribbean Soul Dancers by Ismael Otero, performed at the Salsa Congress, Hilton Hotel (nominated)
For blasting open our notions of tap through the deliciously choral rhythms of swooshing, stamping socks in a transformative Jimmy Slyde tribute,
And for the epiphany of showing us the hardworking bare feet inside tap technique, A 2011 New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Production goes to
Michelle Dorrance for Remembering Jimmy and Three to One at Danspace Project
Michelle Dorrance is one of the most sought after tap dancers of her generation. Michelle teaches, choreographs and performs throughout the US and abroad, is on faculty at Broadway Dance Center and performs with the New York City cast of the Off-Broadway sensation, STOMP.
“Remembering Jimmy pays homage to a tap master in both adoring and unaffected terms. It’s hypnotic; the stage is alive with slippery footsteps as dancers — dressed in white and wearing socks — slide from side to side like a flock of ghostly speed skaters.
Smack in the center is Ms. Dorrance, the light within: her sunny charisma and lanky body work in mesmerizing combination as she glides across the floor or hits it with fury. (Her coordination and speed are incredible.)”
– The New York Times

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION (of a work performed in a smaller capacity venue of less than 400 seats):
Etudes for an Astronaut by Lance Gries, performed at La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival
http://lamama.org/dance-festival/etudes-for-an-astronaut/ (nominated)
Nameless Forest Choreographed and Directed by Dean Moss
In collaboration with Sungmyung Chun (nominated)
For re-imagining this seminal work about masculinity, sexuality, and mortality for a new generation of audiences,
Bringing an intensely visceral exploration of male identity in the time of AIDS to life with beauty, power, conviction and passion,
A 2011 New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Production goes to
Them choreographed by Ishmael Houston-Jones in collaboration with Chris Cochrane and Dennis Cooper, performed at Performance Space 122, reconstructed with the support of The New Museum
Ishmael Houston-Jones is a Choreographer, Author, Performer, Teacher, and Arts Consultant.Ishmael Houston-Jones' improvised dance and text work has been performed in New York City, across the United States, in Europe, Canada, Australia and Latin America.
Made in collaboration with Dennis Cooper (text) and Chris Cochrane (music), this incendiary work, THEM, addressed some of the many ways men could be with men. After a successful run of the work-in-progress in 1985 the creators of THEM felt that the increasingly pervasive AIDS epidemic demanded a presence in the piece. In the 1986 premier of the full-length version for six male dancers at PS122 Cooper read his own provocative words, and Cochrane played cacophonous electric guitar live; frequently violent and exhausting dance sequences, culminated in a horrific duet between Houston-Jones and an animal carcass on a dusty mattress. Through a reconstruction residency at The New Museum, the three creators have recast THEM with a new generation of male performers; this groundbreaking piece is back and investigating its continuing relevance to dance and to social discourse today.
“Works this good — this necessary — don’t come around very often.”
– The New York Times

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION (of a work not technically considered dance but happening in and influencing the dance community):
Selective Memory by Brian Rogers and Madeline Best, performed at The Chocolate Factory (nominated)
Ivo Dimchev's Lili Handel - performed at the Perforations Festival presented by La MaMa (nominated)
For integrating dance, text, objects and media in a meditation on the emotion of being alive,
For creating a densely layered and imaginatively constructed installation, which transformed the theatrical space via her singular voice and vision,
A 2011 New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Production goes to
Montgomery Park, or Opulence by Karinne Keithley, performed at Incubator Arts Project
Karinne Keithley is a choreographer, writer, sound designer and amateur ukulelist.
Montgomery Park, or Opulence is an essay in the form of a building in the form of a performance: a work of fluid genre. Re-imagining theater space as a hybrid of solitary and group experience, the piece creates a mood of deep listening in a luminous environment – part opera, part radio play, part light projection, part ballet.
“The real architecture is Ms. Keithley’s childlike but sophisticated language, which guides us into meditations on the nature of being alive and present, of emotional exhaustion and replenishment, of those experiences that can’t be verified but are deeply felt. It’s all marvelously strange.” – The New York Times

Patricia Forelle for La Folia (1700/2001), choreographed by Raoul Auger Feuillet/Lynn Parkerson as part of From Baroque to Hip Hop performed at the Performance Space at the Schermerhorn (nominated)
Bjorn Amelan, Robert Wierzel, and Janet Wong for Fondly Do We Hope . . . Fervently Do We Pray choreographed by Bill T. Jones, performed at the Rose Theater (nominated)
For sets, costumes, and props that made the ritual of the dance seem compelling, seductive, and possibly dangerous,
For filling the stage with a multidimensional ceremony of shapes and colors, objects and ribbons that seamlessly integrated the visual elements with the choreography and the language of the piece,
A 2011 New York Dance and Performance Award for Visual Design goes to
Walter Dundervill for Aesthetic Destiny 1: Candy Mountain, performed at Dance Theater Workshop
Walter Dundervill is a dance artist living in New York City. Originally a painter, he creates the visual elements, costumes, and sets for his own choreography, devising hyper-constructed environments that give themselves over to chance and process, always on the verge of collapse or transformation - leveling the playing field between style and art.
“I make worlds composed of elements of my own obsessions.” - Walter Dundervill
Aesthetic Destiny 1: Candy Mountain interweaves three actors and nine dancers in a mysterious narrative that takes place in a fantasy world of colors and shapes. Geometric shapes are arranged on stage, then carted off to let the colorfully clothed dancers create the kaleidoscope of motion. Ribbons are drawn from their abdomens as they walk in patterns leaving a patchwork of fabric on the floor. Choreography and text emerge in bursts only to disappear back into the visual landscape.
“Mr. Dundervill seems to be intent on exploring choreographic structures and transferring the texture of his designs, abstractly yet not opaquely, into space.” –New York Times

Stephen Vitiello (in collaboration with Patrick DeWit, drumming segment) for Nameless Forest choreographed by Dean Moss in collaboration with Sungmyung Chun, performed at the Kitchen (nominated)
Rodrigo Maral for ID: Entidades choreographed by Sonia Destri, performed at City Center (nominated)
For composing and performing a score using environmental recordings, accordion, and voice that was both luscious and spare,
For transporting us with sound that seemed to reverberate from within the performers, gently exposing the bones of the dance and the hearts of the dancers in Beth Gill’s Electric Midwife,
A 2011 New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Music Composition goes to
Jon Moniaci for Electric Midwife choreographed by Beth Gill and performed at the Chocolate Factory
Jon Moniaci lives in Brooklyn where he is a composer, performer and computer programmer.Interested in improvisation and live electro-acoustic performance, he has collaborated extensively with dance artist Chase Granoff, as well as Beth Gill, Peter Kerlin, Anna Sperber, Chris Peck, Steve Rush, Marissa Perel, Alex Escalante, Mark Jarecke, Nancy Forshaw-Clapp, Dean Moss, and Peter Jacobs.
For a rhythmic explosion of sonic composition propelled by a tsunami of percussive tones,
For making us listen as well as watch as his feet became instruments and their tapping the score,
And for creating a visceral environment of continuous beats that embodied the heart and soul of tap
A New York Dance and Performance Award for Music Composition goes to
Savion Glover for SoLe Sanctuary performed at The Joyce
Famous tap dancer, choreographer, and actor Savion Glover was born in 1973 and has graced the stage since childhood.As a choreographer, Glover's work has helped maintain tap dancing as an art form in the modern dance world. His starring role in the musical Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk, which he also choreographed, debuted on Broadway in 1996, and brought Savion a Tony for best choreographer. Glover's quick steps and amazing rhythms continue to influence the lives of young people. His production company tours schools across the country, spreading enthusiasm for tap dancing.
With his keen ear, he is as much a composer as a choreographer. He’s said, “I'm feelin' the stage for sounds. You might find a spot on it that gives you that bass; you might find a spot on the floor that gives you that dead type tom-tom sound.”
“Glover’s timing and his clarity are impeccable, with a sound so deep it suggests rolling thunder. Yet, as always, this artist’s performance is so much more than a display of steps. Glover is way beyond the need to prove anything. Instead, he offers the pleasures of dynamic range, from the gentle patter of the first raindrops to the Flood, and wraps us in a succession of mystical atmospheres.” – NJ.com

Souleymane Badolo (nominated)
Bouchra Ouizguen (nominated)
Justin Peck (nominated)
For developing, over the past few years, a method and body of work that has rigorously examined the elements of choreography, performance and perception,
Punctuated this year with a dance of uncompromising vision whose precise, blossoming symmetries turned minimalist mechanics into a poetry of motion,
A 2011 New York Dance and Performance Award for Emerging Choreographer goes to
Beth Gill
Beth Gill is a Brooklyn-based artist, who makes contemporary dance and performance in New York City. She has been commissioned multiple times by The Kitchen, Dance Theater Workshop and Dixon Place, and her work has been shown in dance festivals and series such as: Food For Thought by Danspace Project, the Movement Research Festival, and Catch!Her choreographic mission is to use the experience of dance, theatrical design and sound within the framework of live performance to shift the way we see, sense and understand the space around us through a timeless and rigorous investigation of form.
“There is an exactitude and fullness about “Electric Midwife” that suggests a long genesis. Nothing feels extraneous or forgotten; every movement seems to be the product of long development, although the piece isn’t self-conscious or stagey.” – The New York Times

OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE (two awards regularly given in this category)
Camille A. Brown in The Evolution of a Secured Feminine choreographed by Camille A. Brown (nominated)
Rebecca Serrell Cyr in beginning of something choreographed by RoseAnne Spradlin (nominated)
For his astounding expressiveness, natural charm, and unforced theatricality,
And for magically channeling Fred Astaire in his utterly relaxed but beautifully integrated tap dancing in Body Madness: A Shared Evening by Michelle Dorrance and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards at Danspace Project,
A 2011 New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Individual Performance goes to
Caleb Teicher
Caleb Teicher has danced for choreographers Michelle Dorrance, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Chloe Arnold, Jason Samuels Smith, Derick Grant,Max Pollak, Geoffrey Doig-Marx, Igal Perry, and others. He is an alum of the School at Jacob’s Pillow for Tap and Jazz/Musical Theatre Dance and of the NFAA’s Young Arts Program, for which he was a Silver Award winner in dance. Also a talented choreographer, Caleb’s work has been seen at The Duke on 42nd Street, Symphony Space, the Flynn Theater, the DiCapo Opera Theater, the Gusman Theater, and others.He is now a multidisciplinary dancer based in NYC.
Caleb has taught at Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway, Peridance Capezio Dance Center, the 2011 Beat Retreat in Charlottesville, and the 2011 Gypsy Jam in NYC.
“Caleb Teicher is a sleek dancer who possesses a beguiling combination of a relaxed upper body with switchblade feet.” – The New York Times
For a performance of Albrecht in American Ballet Theatre’s Giselle that went to the very edge of madness and exhaustion,
For supporting his partner (Diana Vishneva) with absolute mastery and generosity,
And for dancing with a stunning virtuosity that never grandstands and always serves the work,
A 2011 New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Individual Performance goes to
Marcelo Gomes
Marcelo Gomes is a Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. He first joined the company in 1997 as a member of the Corps de Ballet, and was promoted to Soloist in 2000 and Principal in 2002.He is one of the winners of the most prestigious awards in ballet, the Prix Benois de la Danse for his role as Othello in Lar Lubovitch's ballet Othello, and was a Prix de Lausanne Winner in 1996.
“Mr. Gomes exemplifies integrity. Dancing, partnering and acting seem to spring from the same impulse; he is superlatively focused not just on his role but also on the whole world of each ballet. Every ballerina thrives in his hands. And he has been reaching new peaks this spring: his multidimensional sense of line and shape is more powerfully refined than ever before.” – The New York Times

SUSTAINED ACHIEVEMENT IN PERFORMANCE (Two awards regularly given in this category)
David Thomson in the work of various choreographers including this season’s performance in Muna Tseng’s STELLA (nominated)
For his enormous contribution to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as an inspired performer of parts inherited; in parts choreographed for him; and in Merce Cunningham’s own roles;
For dancing with an electric presence that seems to discover the movement as he performs it,
And for his subtle and comprehensive understanding of Cunningham Technique™ and style, a 2011 New York Dance and Performance Award for Sustained Achievement in Performance goes to
Rashaun Mitchell
Rashaun Mitchell has danced with Chantal Yzermans, Donna Uchizono, Risa Jaroslow, Sara Rudner, Jonah Bokaer and Richard Colton. He joined the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in January 2004 and is currently on faculty at the Cunningham Studio. In 2007 he was the recipient of a Princess Grace Award: Dance Fellowship, and most recently received a 2010 New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award for his participation in Pam Tanowitz's ‘Be In The Gray With Me'.
His own work has been presented by La Mama Moves! Festival, Mount Tremper Arts in New York; and with writer Anne Carson at the Skirball Center at NYU, Wellesley College, University of Minnesota, College of St. Elizabeth, Miami Festival and The Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston.
“The question arises: Does dance get better than this?Then Rashaun Mitchell takes the stage and the answer at once is yes.Mr. Mitchell dances with a wonderful innocence that suggests he’s still asking the questions. He moves as if he doesn’t know what will happen next (though he’s strict about delivering the steps unchanged). Better yet, he seems always to be discovering aspects of space and time for the first time.”
– The New York Times
For the insight and intelligence with which she performs the works of George Balanchine,
For the inspiration she has offered to many choreographers, most significantly Christopher Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky,
For the wisdom and profundity with which she seems to transcend every step,
A 2011 New York Dance and Performance Award for Sustained Achievement in Performance goes to
Wendy Whelan
Wendy Whelan is a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and guest artist with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. Ms. Whelan became a member of New York City Ballet's corps de ballet in January 1986. She was promoted to the rank of soloist during the 1989 spring season and to the rank of principal dancer in the 1991 spring season.
“In Ms. Whelan’s remarkable dancing, where the work of ballet is discernible — tendons shifting over bones as muscles flex and release — she seems to grow before your eyes. In the end, her true power lies not in the body but in her ethereal and intimate presence, which doesn’t stop at her fingertips but radiates like gentle light.” – The New York Times

Special note: Karen Brown should have been recognized as part of this ensemble award in sustained achievement for the work of the dance company Paradigm last year. To correct our error, the Bessies are presenting her with this 2010 award this year.
Bold, beautiful and boundless, the performers ofParadigm have dared choreographers to "bring it," and they have delivered.
In work after work, these grandperformers, without fail, bring into vibrant focus the essence of what it means to dance.
A2010 New York Dance and Performance Award goes to
Karen Brown as part of the ensemble of Paradigm
Karen Brown spent 22 years as a principal ballerina, featured artist, master teacher and lecturer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) from 1973 to 1995. From the inception ofDTHs Kennedy Center Community Outreach Residency in Washington, DC, in 1992 until 1998, she was a master teacher and adjudicator for the groundbreaking and innovative community-focused program.KB was the artistic director of Oakland Ballet from 2000 – 2006. In 2007, Karen“KB” Brown,was appointed as assistant professor of dance at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She returned to the stage in 2008, joining Paradigm. She continues to dance and perform with the company.
Ms. Brown received the Pioneer Award hosted by the Oakland Bay Area Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. in 2006; Mozart to Motown Arts Pioneer Award, ABC-TV Local Hero Award, and City Flight Magazine Bay Area’s Ten Most Influential African-Americans. An arts advocate and administrator of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations over the past 14 years, Brown currently serves as a board member for Dance USA; the Smoke, Lilies and Jade Arts Initiative in Philadelphia, PA; and as an advisory board member for Contemporary Ballet Theatre in the Bronx, NY.

“I think we need always to hope there are those that are restless enough to try new things. That are not satisfied with the forms and the shapes they grew up in.”
— Bessie Schonberg

This is an entirely new award, chosen in an entirely new way. A jury of three
acclaimed choreographers will be chosen new each year by the Bessie Steering Committee. They operate differently from the Bessie Selection Committee in that their only mission is to decide on a single work or a choreographer that they feel exhibits some of the most interesting and exciting ideas happening in dance in New York City today. The honored dance maker will then tour their work to one or more regional theaters outside the city.
The Nazareth College Arts Center Dance Festival is the inaugural touring partner for the Juried Bessie Award. The honored artist will perform at the 2012 Dance Festival at the Nazareth College Arts Center in Rochester, NY.

Nazareth College President Daan Braveman says, “The Nazareth College Arts Center has a long history of presenting renowned—and diverse—dance
companies on our stage. It is an honor to be the first partner for the Juried Bessie Award, and we look forward to introducing Rochester-area audiences to the artist selected for this prestigious recognition.” Take CPR certification online

The inaugural jury for the first Juried Bessie Award was Elizabeth Streb,
Ralph Lemon and David Gordon. They considered choreography they found adventurous and thoughtful, work that demonstrated rigor in its process and challenged its audience’s perceptions. They were mindful that new work is also challenging to present, particularly to present outside of the city in which the artist resides. They very much wanted this award to give support to both the adventurous artist and the courageous presenter.
The artist they chose as recipient of this first annual Juried Bessie Award is Beth Gill. They were interested in her acknowledged determination to take the necessary time she needs to fully develop a new dance work and her intense consideration of specific ways an audience actually views that dance since she is known to exercise control over numbers of audience members and seating arrangements for any given showing of her work. The inaugural jury hoped, therefore, this first Juried Bessie Award for the work of Beth Gill would challenge and benefit the audience, the presenter and the artist.

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in shades of grey and taupe, a dancer reaches one hand toward her outstretched foot. He other hand brushes her ribs. Large text reads GALLIM Summer Intensive 2020, August 10-14 & 17-21. Curated virtual classes with Andrea Miller, GALLIM dancers, & international guest artists

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