Last night New Yorkers for dance gathered at the legendary Apollo Theater for The Bessies: the New York Dance and Performance Awards. The 29th Annual event recognized 16 winners throughout a night of performances and tributes to many of NYC's dance elite. "You make New York worth living in," Bessies Director Lucy Sexton announced, welcoming all in attendance alongside Dance/NYC Executive Director Lane Harwell.
Former Cunningham dancer Gus Solomons Jr. and former American Ballet Theatre principal Martine Van Hamel co-hosted the event. The pair performed Paul Taylor’s 1957 Duet - a particularly notable performance as the work has not been seen since 1957 and is also set to John Cage's iconic score, 4'33".
Three other performances took to the stage including an excerpt from 2013 Outstanding Emerging Choreographer Joanna Kotze’s work, It Happened It Had Happened It Is Happening It Will Happen. Kotze performed alongside Stuart Singer and Netta Yerushalmy carrying through their evolving movement patterns while fervently tapping their hands on their bodies amidst silence and composer Dave Ruder's subtle, static-infused score. The 2013 Juried Bessie Award winner Darrell Jones performed his poised yet sultry Torchsong #1 donning all black aside from a silver sequined face mask. The final performance was Paul Taylor's 3 Epitaphs (1956) performed by Taylor 2 in head-to-toe body suits, their movement driven by slumped torsos, shuffling feet, and arms whipping in circles at the elbow.
Award presenters included Renee Robinson, Violeta Galagarza, Joe Levasseur, Meredith Monk, Annie-B Parson, Steve Paxton, Rajika Puri, Desmond Richardson, and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. Noted dance historian Lynn Garafola reminds us that "long after a dancer leaves the stage, an artist lives on" as she presented Nancy Reynolds with the Service to the Field award. Reynolds has done an impressive amount of work in the areas of dance preservation and archival research, specifically for New York City Ballet and George Balanchine's work.
Closing the evening, Broadway legend Donna McKechnie presented Louis “Luigi” Faccuito with the Lifetime Achievement award. Luigi is an incredible inspiration for anyone in the field today. He is credited as the first jazz dance teacher (and is still at it, having taught two classes yesterday!); a survivor of a horrible car accident that rendered him partially paralyzed at age 21 (though did not keep him from dancing); the first to integrate a South African dance troupe; and a legendary master teacher who McKechnie recalls did his own warm-ups in class (where he also had a three-piece jazz band provide live musical accompaniment!). And, let's not forget this is the man who coined "5, 6, 7, 8." As McKechnie notes, "that certainly caught on didn't it!?"
The Bessies, produced in partnership with Dance/NYC, were held at the Apollo Theater at 8:00 p.m. following red carpet interviews and photographs with the nominees in attendance. These awards have continued to bring worthy recognition to the outstanding and groundbreaking work that independent dance artists are creating. A 40-member Selection Committee comprised of artists, presenters, producers, and writers choose nominees each year. All those working in the dance field are invited to join the NY Dance and Performance League—members participate in annual discussions on the direction of the awards and nominate members to serve on the Selection Committee. To learn more about The Bessies click here.
THE 2012-2013 BESSIE AWARD RECIPIENTS ARE AS FOLLOWS:
Outstanding Emerging Choreographer: Joanna Kotze for It Happened It Had Happened It Is Happening It Will Happen at Danspace Project.
Lifetime Achievement in Dance: Louis “Luigi” Faccuito
Service to the Field of Dance: Nancy Reynolds
Outstanding Production (performed in a small capacity venue of less than 400 seats): Zach Morris, Tom Pearson, and Jennine Willett’s Then She Fell for Third Rail Projects at Arts@Rennaissance and Kingsland Ward at St. Johns.
See you next year for the 30th Annual Bessies!