Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The 2014 Bessie Awards...and Chirlane McCray! And Jessye Norman!

The 2014 Bessie Awards
returned to Harlem's Apollo Theater last evening
for a 30th Anniversary celebration.
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

I know there are some folks out there who don't quite get the Bessies or feel completely comfortable about any kind of awards thing. But that's not me.

I'm the one with the tear in my eye when I look at Arthur Mitchell.

And a smile on my face when I see Baba Chuck Davis

And nearly leaping out of my seat when I hear presenters read out names like Camille A. Brown and Nora Chipaumire and Aakash Odedra and Okwui Okpokwasili--all of whom won the Bessies I knew they'd win. 

It's for moments like these that I will always want to be at the Bessies. It just feels good.

Having said that, I've gotta add: Last night's award show was one of the feeling-goodest Bessie shows on record.

Chirlane McCray and Wendy Whelan
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

L-r: Faye Driscoll, Chirlane McCray and Omagbemi Omagbitse
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Let's start with Chirlane McCray. Thank you, First Lady of New York City, for gracing us with your presence and paying tribute to Frank Hatchett, who was your dance teacher in Springfield, MA, and who passed last winter. What a treat to learn how much you value your own experiences with dance.
I believe dancing is the most beautiful of all the arts. Not a translation or an abstraction of life, it is life itself.
--Chirlane McCray
Lisa Kron, thank you for being a really, really funny host visiting from "the land of theater." You only think you're not a dancer. (Talk to Baba Chuck. He'll fix you right up.) And I hope you and Crazy Legs have finally managed to work things out.

Crazy Legs and Joselle Yokogawa
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
L-r. Pau Atela, Aki Sasamoto, Sam Ekwurtzel,
Jessica Weinstein and John Bollingen
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L-r, Mickey Mahar, Maggie Cloud and Gillian Walsh
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Jessye Norman, listening to you talk about Arthur Mitchell was almost as good as the time I was sitting in my aisle seat at the theater when someone came up and touched me on my knee to get my attention so they could get over to their seat, and I looked up, and it was...YOU.

BTW, I think someone's cellphone was ringing while Jessye Norman was speaking. Let's take a moment to pause and reflect.

This is the Bessies' 30th anniversary. I'm buying pearls for everybody.

Thanks for the fun!


2014 Bessie Award winners

Arthur Mitchell
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Lifetime Achievement in Dance: 
Arthur Mitchell

Dr. Chuck Davis (center) with (l-r) Dr. B. Angeloe Sr., Karen Thorto,
DeBorah Davis Gray and McDaniel Roberts
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Service to the Field of Dance: 
Dr. Chuck Davis

Juried Bessie Award: Gerard and Kelly, for the inspired use of a simple score of movement and text to create mesmerizing and moving duets in Timelining, and for bringing a fierce and rigorous intelligence to their work that never loses touch with the heart at its center.

Jen Rosenblit with Rebecca Serrell Cyr and Addys Gonzalez
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Outstanding Emerging Choreographer (previously announced): Jessica Lang for the formation of her own company and its inaugural season The Joyce

Also for Outstanding Emerging Choreographer (previously announced): Jen Rosenblit for a Natural dance at The Kitchen

John Jasperse
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Outstanding Production: John Jasperse’s Within between at New York Live Arts, for a feast of unpredictable kinetic imagination shaped by a sequence of dazzling light and soundscapes.

Also for Outstanding Production: Okwui Okpokwasili in collaboration with Peter Born for Bronx Gothic at Danspace Project, for creating a world within a world in which she embodied the fear, clarity and intelligence of a young girl; using text and movement to make public that which is intensely private.

Camille A. Brown
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Also for Outstanding Production: Camille A. Brown’s Mr. Tol E. RAncE produced by 651 Arts at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts, for using the American vernacular dance forms of jazz, tap, and hip hop mixed with pop culture references and African-American stereotypes to question herself and her audience.

Also for Outstanding Production: Akram Khan’s Desh at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, for bringing a swath of Bangladeshi culture to life with a shape-shifting performance danced within a magical set that conjured a world of flora and fauna from muslin, movement, and light.

Outstanding Revival: Nora Chipaumire’s Dark Swan performed by Urban Bush Women at The Joyce, for re-imagining a severe and beautiful solo into an expanded emotional force field performed by nine powerful women.

Outstanding Performance: Stuart Singer in John Jasperse’s Within between at New York Live Arts, for a forceful grace capable of both commanding space and rendering delicate physical details with astonishing dynamic clarity.

Also for Outstanding Performance: Rebecca Serrell Cyr in Donna Uchizono’s Fire Underground at New York Live Arts, for a mesmerizing performance demanding precision, control, and a remarkable range of intense emotions and providing the strong quiet center around which the narrative of the piece revolves.

Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Sims
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Also for Outstanding Performance: Linda Celeste Sims, a major contributor for nearly two decades to the work of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, for being an expert interpreter of a vast range of styles who goes to the heart of chorographers’ visions and crafts countless tour-de-force performances.

Aakash Odedra
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Also for Outstanding Performance: Aakash Odedra in James Brown: Get on the Good Foot – a Celebration in Dance at the Apollo Theater, for a dynamically fluid translation of James Brown’s rhythms into kathak and bharata natyam expressions, turning traditional styles into original, contemporary, and captivating performance.

Outstanding Music Composition: Simphiwe Dana with Giuliano Modarelli, and Complete Quartet for Exit/Exist, choreographed by Gregory Maqoma and produced by 651 Arts at Kumble Theater for the Performing Art, for a tightly woven musical score, combining subtle guitar and traditional South African a capella choir singing, which movingly portrayed the struggle to maintain tradition in the face of colonialism.

Nicholas Young and Carson Murphy
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Also for Outstanding Music Composition: Nicholas Young at American Tap Dance Foundation’s Rhythm in Motion, for inventive percussion platforms integrating the tap dancer’s traditional hardwood floor with electronic sound technology to allow for a deeply layered, live composition.

Outstanding Visual Design: Peter Ksander, Olivera Gajic, Ryan Holsopple, Chris Kuhl, and Keith Skretch, for a theater set seamlessly doubled by video projections, echoing the role of memory with its odd tricks and resurrections in the profoundly unified and moving production of This Was the End by Mallory Catlett.


Melissa Riker said...

Yes! Eva, it was a fantastic and beautiful feel-good night. I'm right there with you in the jump-out-of-my-seat category.
From jumping out of my seat to tears when Laurie Uprichard so graciously brought us to silent remembrance. Thrilled to be a part of our city's moving, changing, growing life force.

Eva Yaa Asantewaa said...

Here's to many more occasions for us to celebrate and show our artists respect, Melissa! Thanks for your comment.

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