Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dance Magazine Awards 2014: Meet the Winners

2014 Dance Magazine Awards 

Misty Copeland (American Ballet Theater)
presented by
Raven Wilkinson

Larissa Saveliev (Youth America Grand Prix)
presented by
Susan Jaffe

Luigi (jazz master)
presented by
Liza Minnelli

Brenda Bufalino and Tony Waag (American Tap Dance Foundation)
presented by
Constance Valis Hill

Wayne McGregor (independent choreographer)
presented by
Jedediah Wheeler


Last evening at The Ailey Citigroup Theater, as this year's Dance Magazine Awards were handed out, speaker after speaker voiced concerns and hopes for the future of the great art of dance. From those stalwart tap masters and advocates Brenda Bufalino and Tony Waag to ballerina Raven Wilkinson who, in the 1950s, broke the color line with a contract for full-time employment at Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, nearly everyone spoke of how far dance had come and the role of Dance Magazine as its supporter. Before presenting an award to choreographer Wayne McGregorJedediah Wheeler, Executive Director for Arts and Cultural Programming at Montclair State University, made brief note of the significance of dance writers and the media in general in connecting artists to audiences. 

"I don't want to bring the energy down, but I feel we have a bit of a crisis going on," Wheeler began while avoiding putting a name on that crisis. A little later, he lauded Dance Magazine for being "indispensable to our community." 

I wondered how a publication that had eliminated dance reviews could be considered "indispensable" to this field. Also, in light of the recent blowup around The New Republic, I wondered how any media outlet today could justify what, from the looks of the staff members proudly rising to identify themselves, is an all-white editorial team. Moreover, from my vantage point, it was impossible to miss one stark difference between the Dance Magazine ceremony and the Bessies, held now at The Apollo Theater. At the Bessie Awards, the audience's diversity in race, age and dance genre--especially in the Bessies' recent comeback years under Lucy Sexton--is thrilling and heartening. That, my friends, is the future of dance, the future of its makers, its movers, its shakers, its fans.

Dance Magazine's evening featured five presentations interspersed with performances, including La Mort d'Ophéliea commissioned duet by American Ballet Theater's Marcelo Gomes for Sarah Lane with Sterling Baca as her inexpressive but efficient handler; an excerpt from American Tap Dance Orchestra's All Blues/Tacit/Latin that swiftly whipped up intricate and frisky charm when Bufalino and Waag got out of the way and left wonderful Felipe Galganni and Lynn Schwab to their own devices; a duet from McGregor's Chroma performed by Ailey dancers Akua Noni Parker and Jeroboam Bozeman. Copeland selected Gomes's Toccare (2012) to dance with the excellent Alexandre Hammoudi, and we could not have wished for a more alive and bracing performance from this pair. When Wilkinson later declared that the ballerina, with her mission to promote racial diversity in the ballet world, was one reason "ballet will not become dry on a musty vine," one could see that, yes, her point had much to do with race but not everything to do with race.

Overall, the presenters tended to ramble. In the future, can everyone take a tip from Liza with-a-z Minnelli, presenting via audio to the also-absent Luigi, and just declare their respect and affection in 100 words or less? Here's Liza, quickly wrapping up her already brief remarks to Luigi: "I think of you, I get up and do the damn exercises, and I'm fine. I think of you and love you more than anybody knows!"

I get up and do the damn exercises, and I'm fine. Seriously, what more do you need? That's even Twitter-ready. But, honestly, I could listen all day to Susan Jaffe talk about her friend Larissa Saveliev ("the quintessential entrepreneur CEO of the ballet world"), and Saveliev talk about herself and her path towards creating the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition. Both have a great sense of self and humor, and their stories are delightfully entertaining and inspiring ones.


2014 Dance Magazine Award Committee Members

Joseph Carman (author, Round About the Ballet)
Amy Cogan (Senior VP, Publisher, DanceMedia)
Karen Hildebrand (VP, Editorial, DanceMedia)
Susan Jaffe (Dean of Dance, University of North Carolina School of the Arts)
Wendy Perron (Editor at Large, Dance Magazine; author, Through the Eyes of a Dancer)
Charles Reinhart (Director Emeritus, American Dance Festival)

Learn more about the 2014 Dance Magazine Award winners here.

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