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Sunday, August 6, 2023

Congratulations to the Bessies organization and this year's winners!

j. bouey in A Message from Mx. Black Cooper (photo: Rachel Keane)

The New York Dance and Performance Awards, the Bessies, tonight announced the 2023 award recipients at the 39th Bessie Awards Ceremony. The Illustrious Blacks hosted this year’s celebratory event, which was held at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park as part of Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City. A complete list of the 2023 awards follows below.
Bessie Awards were presented to artists for outstanding choreographer/creator, performer, sound design/music composition, visual design, outstanding revival, and breakout choreographer—an award that honors an artist who has made an exceptional leap in their career this past year. All of the awardees and nominated artists in these categories received a $500 honorarium, courtesy of a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Renowned dancer, singer, and actor Dionne Figgins presented Virginia Johnson with the 2023 Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance. Artists and dance advocates Porshia A. Derival and Ms Vee presented Michele Byrd-McPhee with the 2023 Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance. Other presenters included Tyler Ashley, Clifton Brown, George Faison, Erin Fogerty, Dyane Harvey Salaam, Karisma Jay, Gian Marco Riccardo Lo Forte, Abdel Salaam, and Paz Tanjuaquio.
Barkha Patel was honored with the 2023 Juried Bessie Award, selected by the 2023 Bessie Jury luciana achugar, Ayodele Casel, and Kyle Marshall. The Juried Award recognizes a choreographer who exhibits some of the most interesting and exciting ideas in dance in New York City today, and whose work deserves to be seen more outside the city. The award comes with touring support and other engagement opportunities from New York State DanceForce.
The ceremony also included special remarks from Vicky Capote of Dance/NYC, Alton Murray, Deputy Commissioner, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Lucy Sexton, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Culture and Arts, and Bessies Executive Director Heather Robles.
The ceremony included an audience participation dance tribute to O’Shae Sibley. Dance Theatre of Harlem performed Orange, a duet by Stanton Welch, in honor of Virginia Johnson. Fredrick Earl Mosley’s Unbroken, performed by his company Diversity of Dance was also presented, along with an excerpt from Princess Lockeroo’s The Fabulous Waack Dancers Big Show, and Afro-Acro, performed by AbunDancers Youth Ensemble.
The Bessies also honored members of the dance community who died this past year. The moving In Memoriam was presented by dancers Mireicy Aquino and Jhailyn Farcon.
The celebration continued at the Bessies Silent Disco After-Party with DJ Sabine Blaizin on Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza.
The 2023 Bessie Awards Ceremony was produced by Torya Beard and Heather Robles.
Virginia Johnson
For inspiring audiences for 28 years with dynamic performances as a founding member and principal dancer of Dance Theatre of Harlem. For her tenure as Artistic Director of Dance Theatre of Harlem, continuing the company’s legacy of innovation and excellence, while expanding its reach and impact through collaborations with other organizations. For founding Pointe Magazine, and serving as editor-in-chief for nearly a decade. For editorial vision, bringing diverse voices and perspectives to the forefront of the dance community. For a lifelong commitment to the arts, and a career of significant contributions to the world of dance as a celebrated dancer, editor, and artistic director.
Michele Byrd-McPhee
For being an incredible force in the global dance community, especially as an advocate for young girls and women in hip-hop. As the Founder and Executive Director of Ladies of Hip-Hop, Byrd-McPhee has worked for decades to recontextualize spaces and conversations about hip-hop along gender, cultural, socio-historical, and racial lines. Her vision for women of all generations in hip-hop has created opportunities for them to perform on concert dance stages, teach in the most prestigious dance institutions, and create incredible opportunities for themselves within hip-hop’s legacy.
LaTasha Barnes
LaTasha Barnes presents The Jazz Continuum at The Joyce Theater
A joyous celebration of jazz dance throughout history, Barnes flexes the imposed proscenium setting to engage a communal experience, demonstrating community as the center of this form. An offering of (re)embodiment to the audience, this work showcases seamless transitions between styles, demonstrating technical mastery from the cast and deep creativity and thoughtfulness from its creator.
Dormeshia Tap Collective: Rhythm Is Life at The Joyce Theater
For crafting stellar interplay between movement, sound, performer, and improvisation. Deeply human, rooted in tradition and joy, Dormeshia shows us where tap dance has been, where it is, and where it is going.
Benjamin Akio Kimitch
Tiger Hands at The Shed
For a beautiful work with an extraordinarily sensitive exploration of personal and cultural identity. The work creates an entirely new movement vocabulary that holds resonant memories of traditional Peking opera dance forms, and is embedded with shimmering novelty in tribute to a beloved mother.
Omari Wiles
New York Is Burning at Works & Process at The Guggenheim
For a beautiful representation of intergenerational Black experiences that pays homage to the dancers and artists from the classic documentary Paris Is Burning. This work is a gorgeously joyous, queer collection of dance and music stories. As a timeless tribute, it highlights the Afro Dance, House, Vogue, and Ballroom communities, their current cultural relevance, and prioritizes the diversity of dancers’ bodies, bringing out the power within Black dance and music.
j. bouey
In A Message from Mx. Black Copper by j. bouey at Movement Research at the Judson Church
For an exhilarating performance embodying Black joy. This work is an exploration of emotion and movement that evokes love, trauma, honesty, and progression. The performance was thoughtful, unapologetic, and celebratory of life, self, and ancestry.
Amanda Castro
In Ayodele Casel: Chasing Magic by Ayodele Casel at The Joyce Theater
Castro’s performance capacity and arresting stage presence offer playfulness, dynamism, and mastery, particularly in the connection between percussionist and dancer. Her clear delineation in performance teaches the audience about Afro-Latin influences and intrinsic tap rhythms, with a demonstrated fluency in many styles.
Joyce Edwards
In Grace, The Equality of Night and Day and Open Door by Ronald K. Brown at The Joyce Theater
For bringing presence and identity into an exquisite embodiment of Ronald K. Brown’s work. Edwards exudes irrefutable strength, depth, warmth, reverence, conviction, and connection.
Albert Silindokuhle Ibokwe Khoza
In And so you see… our honorable blue sky and ever enduring sun… can only be consumed slice by slice… by Robyn Orlin at New York Live Arts
A uniquely bombastic, outrageous, and gorgeous performance that transcends genres, this is an unforgettably commanding performance that reveals deeper truths.
In The Upper Room (1986/2022)
By Twyla Tharp at New York City Center
For a masterfully crafted and timeless work of dance art. In the Upper Room synthesizes choreography, costumes, music, and lighting into a transcendent experience for both audience and performers. The compelling score intersects with the bold choreography, creating an experience of raw power and grace.
Charles Turner and Sean Mason
For LaTasha Barnes presents The Jazz Continuum by LaTasha Barnes at The Joyce Theater
For a New York City sonic dream of musical arrangement that pays tribute to the eras of Black music from authentic jazz to hip-hop classics. The audience is brilliantly taken on a rollercoaster of musical nostalgia that makes one want to cry, dance, and move with joy! From the piano keys to the DJ turntables, and from the jazz clubs of Harlem to the playgrounds of Brooklyn, the arrangement is a true delight showing the magic of The Jazz Continuum.
Tina Tzoka & Loukas Bakas (Set Design), Stephanos Droussiotis (Lighting Design), Nektarios Dionysatos (Sculptures and Special Constructions), Dimitris Korres (Mechanical Inventions)
For Transverse Orientation by Dimitris Papaioannou at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
For a team of designers who create scenes beyond what people might think is possible, and leave them gasping in awe. The team is the ‘David Copperfield’ of the field, possessing wide imaginative abilities that create the magic and make-believe of the theater.
Symara Johnson
For deeply personal and profoundly joyful movement research with a choreographic practice based in American and West Indian heritage. For merging movement practices with rigorous archival research which calls for being in the present moment. For a creation of space within this practice for engagement of many ideas generated on the spot, and the ability to move between them with abandonment.
Barkha Patel
For elegantly and magnificently creating, educating, and sharing work that elevates classical Indian and Kathak dance. Patel is deeply rooted in her art form’s spiritual and cultural history and is a contemporary voice who will contribute to the evolution of Kathak dance and its place in the dance world at large. 
The New York Dance and Performance Awards have saluted outstanding and groundbreaking creative work in the dance field in New York City for 39 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 choreography, performance, music composition, visual design, legacy, and service to the field of dance by independent dance artists and organizations. 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 Bessies Membership and participate in annual discussions on the direction of the awards and nominate members to serve on the selection committee. For more information about The Bessies, visit
The 2022–2023 Bessie Awards Selection Committee: Tyler Ashley, Elizabeth Burke, Tymberly Canale, Yoshiko Chuma, Donna Costello, Porshia A. Derival, Tiffany Geigel, Valerie Green, Satsu Holmes, William Isaac, Anabella Lenzu, Gian Marco Riccardo Lo Forte, Shalewa Mackall, Yoko Murakami, Ivan Talijančić, and Kate Thomas.
The Bessies Steering Committee: Paz Tanjuaquio (chair), Yvonne H. Chow, Stanford Makishi, maura nguyễn donohue, Nicky Paraiso, Craig Peterson, Tiffany Rea-Fisher, george emilio sanchez, and Charmaine Warren.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

BODY AND SOUL: Stephan Koplowitz: History in place

Stephan Koplowitz (photo: Lynn Lane)

Award-winning choreographer and writer Stephan Koplowitz discusses the importance of thorough research into the history of a place--and knowledge of one's own relationship to history--in the making of site-specific performance. He describes site work as disruptive and all performance as political.

Listen to Stephan's episode of Body and Soul podcast here. And scroll down to learn more about his own history and work! 


Occupy by Stephan Koplowitz (photo: George Simian)

Mill Town by Stephan Koplowitz (photo: Jonathan Hsu)

Stephan Koplowitz is an award-winning artist/educator who creates site-specific and staged
dance performances, interactive media installations, and short films. His site performances aim
to alter people’s perspectives of place, site, and scale, infused with a sense of the human
condition, and concerned with the intersection of natural, social, and cultural ecologies within
urban and natural environments. His productions have been produced by performing arts
venues domestically and abroad having created 93 works (66 commissions) in the US, Europe,
and Asia. He received a 2017 Rockefeller Bellagio Fellowship, a 2004 Alpert Award, a 2003
Guggenheim Fellowship, 2000 “Bessie,” and 6 NEA Choreography Fellowships (1988-97). He
was named a Distinguished Alumni by Wesleyan University (BA in Music Composition) and the
University of Utah (MFA, Choreography). In April 2022, Oxford University Press published his
critically praised book On Site: Methods for Creating Site-Specific Performance. Koplowitz lives
in New York City.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

BODY AND SOUL: Thomas Ford: For love of Black queer identity

Thomas Ford (photo: Angelo Soriano)

A person with brown skin wears a gray cap and a gray sleeveless shirt tucked into black athletic pants. His torso bends to the side, and ears hang over his shoulder in the same direction. The fingers of his right hand gently reach to the camera, while his knees bend and legs spread in a wide position.

In today's episode of Body and Soul podcast, dance artist and writer Thomas Ford reflects on his research into the violent colonial history at the root of homophobia in Black families and community.

Listen to Ford's talk here.

Thomas Ford is a dance artist, writer and scholar whose research examines the mechanisms of identity and culture through an exploration of embodiment, choreography, and Black, queer, critical and performance studies.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

BODY AND SOUL: Kate Mattingly: Troubling the silence

Kate Mattingly
Above: a white woman's face with curly, honey-colored hair, smiling and tilting her head slightly left. No photographer credit. Courtesy of Kate Mattingly.

This Spring, author Kate Mattingly published Shaping Dance Canons: Criticism, Aesthetics, Equity, an analysis of many decades of dance criticism in the US (University of Florida Press). As a white woman, she accepts responsibility to speak out about white supremacy. In her talk today, she shares thoughts on how white supremacy has historically defined and dominated dance criticism and continues to silence women in academia.

Dr. Mattingly has written for The New York Times, The Village Voice, Dance Magazine, and Pointe Magazine and is associate editor of Dance Chronicle. She is assistant professor of dance at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

Listen to Dr. Mattingly's talk on Body and Soul podcast here.

Below: two dancers, a Black man and white woman, seen in profile, with his right hand holding her right hand as she leans away from his body. He stands firmly in a deep lunge while she leans into her left hip. Image of Troy Blackwell and Kate Mattingly from a workshop staging of William Forsythe's Steptext at New York University. (Photo: Peter A. Smith)

Kate Mattingly (she/her) focuses on fostering equity in dance education. As an assistant professor at Old Dominion University, she teaches ballet, dance histories, teaching principles, dance studies, and graduate research methods. Her book, Shaping Dance Canons, interrogates how critics have foreclosed opportunities for certain artists and dance forms while generating validity for others, thereby contributing to a racialized dance canon. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Village Voice, Dance and Pointe magazines, The Washington Post, and academic journals. She has a forthcoming anthology, called Antiracism in Ballet Teaching, that will be published by Routledge. Kate’s undergraduate degree in Architecture is from Princeton University, her MFA degree in Dance is from NYU, and her doctoral degree in Performance Studies with a Designated Emphasis in New Media is from University of California, Berkeley.

Shaping Dance Canons: Criticism, Aesthetics, Equity (University of Florida Press, 2023)
Dance Chronicle, Executive Editor
Special Issue: "Interrogating Histories and Historicizing Dance Studies"

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

BODY AND SOUL: Italy Bianca: Pleasure Within

Italy Bianca (photo: Ashanti Hinton)
A brown-skinned woman with locs wearing a black,orange, and green halter top on the left side of the frame. Behind, a white background.

Photo: Aesam Sharafaldin

A brown-skinned woman with locs down to her waist and wearing a silver long necklace with two silver bracelets. Eyes closed and right arm on top of the left. Behind, a black background.


"My life is a dance," says dancer-healer-teacher Italy Bianca, "How am I going to stage it, each and every day?" Body and soul are connected, she knows from personal experience of trauma, healing, and creativity. In this talk to inspire other artists, teachers, caregivers, and anyone, Italy invokes what she has learned through modalities such as massage, acupuncture, herbalism, spiritual practice, and the use of sensory deprivation tanks.

Listen to her episode of Body and Soul podcast here!

Photo: Ernesto Mancebo

A brown-skinned woman with locs in a black dress leaning against a black cloth. The body is leaning towards the right with legs in a squat-like position. Arms are reaching out to the left side.

Italy Bianca is a sacred multimedia artist and herbalist who seeks to serve and enlighten the collective. From South Carolina and based in Brooklyn, NY, Italy believes that dancing leads to the transformation and healing of our personal and collective traumas; and aspires to offer the gift of transformational healing through community art. Her work focuses on creating work that portrays the rawest layers of human experience in collaboration with other local dancers and musicians. She has collaborated with various NYC dancers and companies such as Aeternus Dance Company, Asha Dance Company, Fiyah Dancehall Theatre, Sydnie L. Mosley Dances, and Marguerite Hemmings. In 2017, Italy was nominated for a Bessie Award in the Outstanding Performer c, and Chategory and appeared in Crystal Water's I am House video in 2018. Italy received a B.A. in Dance Education, Performance and choreography from Coker University and trained at the Joffrey Ballet School in their Jazz and Contemporary Dance program.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

BODY AND SOUL: Catherine Kirk: an artist of many measures

Catherine Kirk (photo: Carrie Schneider)

A brown-skin Black woman, facing her right looking out straight ahead. She has a shaved head and is in front of a Black backdrop.

At left, Catherine Kirk; at right, Tamisha A. Guy in the duet MotorRover (photo: Whitney Browne)

from MotorRover, a new work by Kyle Abraham in collaboration with A.I.M, here showing two Black female dancers. The dancer on the left has a shaved head and is standing upright with her hand on her chest looking to her right, wearing olive colored pants and top. The dancer on the right wears dark gray, descends to the ground with her right hand outstretched, and looks down to her right.

Like her bestie Tamisha Guy, who spoke in our previous episode, Dallas native Catherine Kirk is a ten-year veteran of A.I.M by Kyle Abraham and a thrilling performer. Kirk describes herself as "an artist of many measures," one fascinated by stories and questions of "why humans are the way we are."

Listen to Catherine Kirk's episode on Body and Soul podcast here.

Catherine Kirk in If We Were A Love Song (photo: Christopher Duggan)

A Black woman wearing a dark gray dress. Body facing left with her arm reaching on a downward diagonal and her leg outstretched.

Catherine Kirk (she/her) was born on the unceded land of the Kiickaapoi and Wichita peoples, now called Dallas, Texas. She began formally studying dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts before graduating from New York University, Tisch School of Dance. A multi-hyphenate, Catherine is also a dance maker, marketing strategist, arts administrator, dance educator, and yoga teacher. Kirk has completed seasonal programs with San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, Movement Invention Project, and Springboard Danse Montreal, where she performed work by Fernando Melo, Ohad Naharin, and Sharon Eyal. Upon graduating, Catherine apprenticed for Sidra Bell Dance NY before collaborating and performing with Danakah Dance, UNA Productions, Burr Johnson, Jasmine Hearn, and Helen Simoneau Danse. She is thrilled to be working as A.I.M’s Marketing Associate and performing with the company. Catherine joined A.I.M by Kyle Abraham in 2013.

For more information on A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, click here.

BODY AND SOUL: Tamisha A. Guy: Bring it back home

Tamisha A. Guy (photo: Carrie Schneider)

A brown-skin Black woman looks over her left shoulder and directly at the camera. Her hair is out in an afro style, she has a soft gaze, half smile, and sits in front of a black backdrop.

Tamisha A. Guy in Bebe Miller's Rain (photo: Christopher Duggan)

A Black woman wearing a bright red dress and tights, facing left in a bow with her arms outstretched as they flick one leg into the air aiming to connect both knees.

Caribbean-born dancer Tamisha A. Guy celebrates her tenth year with A.I.M by Kyle Abraham--the New York-based, award-winning troupe which recently completed a triumphant spring season at The Joyce Theater. Acknowledging a time of deep contemplation and yearning for home, Guy speaks of her own fervent aim--to perform live for her family and community in Trinidad.

Listen to Tamisha A. Guy on Body and Soul podcast here.

At left, Catherine Kirk; at right, Tamisha A. Guy in the duet MotorRover (photo: Whitney Browne)

from MotorRover, a new work by Kyle Abraham in collaboration with A.I.M, here showing two Black female dancers. The dancer on the left has a shaved head and is standing upright with her hand on her chest looking to her right, wearing olive colored pants and top. The dancer on the right wears dark gray, descends to the ground with her right hand outstretched, and looks down to her right.

Tamisha A. Guy (she/her), a native of Trinidad and Tobago, began her formal dance training at Ballet Tech, under the direction of Eliot Feld. Later she attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School and SUNY Purchase College as a double major in dance and arts management. She has completed summer programs with Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Springboard Danse Montreal and has performed works by William Forsythe, Pam Tanowitz, and Mark Morris. In 2013, Guy graduated with honors from SUNY Purchase College and joined the Martha Graham Dance Company shortly after. In 2016, Guy was selected as one of Dance Magazine's Top 25 to Watch and she also received the 2016 Princess Grace Award. In 2017, she was named one of the Best Dancers of the Year by Dance Europe. In 2021, she was awarded the 2022 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Dance which recognizes foreign-born scientists and artists in the United States. Tamisha joined A.I.M by Kyle Abraham in 2014.

For more information on A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, click here.

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