THE 2017 NY DANCE AND PERFORMANCE (BESSIE) AWARDS
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
For forming Urban Bush Women in 1984 and bringing to the stage a complex, bold, and affirming vision of the African Diaspora. For transforming and diversifying the field by developing new ways of training, curating, connecting, and lifting up generations of choreographers of color. For a visionary life both on the stage and in the world.
OUTSTANDING SERVICE TO THE FIELD OF DANCE
Eva Yaa Asantewaa
For her capacity to reflect, contextualize, and discern dance work, providing an urgent and necessary voice for dance artists and their varied practices. For her work as writer, educator, mentor, and activist over many decades in print, radio, and online. For strengthening the city’s arts community as an important witness, an intentional healer, and a mindful presence.
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer Bridgman|Packer Dance for Voyeur at the Sheen Center
For groundbreaking use of video in live performance, creating a space where virtual and actual movement merged. For inhabiting Edward Hopper’s imagery and taking the audience on an inventive journey of private spaces and ever-shifting viewpoints.
Antony Hamilton for Meeting at La MaMa with Performance Space 122, COIL 2017
For obsessive, precise choreography that synthesized two men’s movements with a circle of robots’ percussive tapping into a mesmerizing whole. For a work both abstract and profoundly human.
Ligia Lewis for minor matter at American Realness with Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts at Abrons Arts Center
For interrogating the social inscriptions on the black body within the frame of the black box. Moving with the logic of interdependence, three dancers push against the theater’s physical space transforming it into a visceral world pulsing with love and rage.
Taylor Mac for A 24-Decade History of Popular Music at St. Ann’s Warehouse with Pomegranate Arts
For an epic, tireless, and bold 24-hour performance that generated thought and action through the deep investigation of music's role in our common humanity. A carefully curated concert featuring 246 songs, extravagant visual transformations, and a community-creating ritual of hope.
Abdel Salaam for Healing Sevens with Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, Asase Yaa African American Dance Theatre, Illstyle & Peace Productions, and Dyane Harvey Salaam at DanceAfrica, BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
For the combined efforts of three stellar companies using West African, hip-hop, and modern dance forms to find new ways of storytelling, new ways to deliver healing truths. For exploring how multiple generations of a community can look within to resolve conflict and violence
Ishmael Houston-Jones, Miguel Gutierrez, Nick Hallett, and Jennifer Monson for Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes From a Life and Other Works by John Bernd at Danspace Project’s Platform 2016: Lost and Found
For channeling the artistic vision of John Bernd, whose narrative, along with those so many others, was cut short by AIDS. For shepherding a young cast into communion with the spirit of the work. For responding to, reimagining, and restoring a missing chapter of our creative history.
PeiJu Chien-Pott in Martha Graham’s Ekstasis, reimagined by Virginie Mécéne, Martha Graham Dance Company at The Joyce Theater
For bringing to life a lost Martha Graham solo from 1933, masterfully inhabiting the earthy, percussive, and fluid movements of pelvis and torso, and embodying the very essence of Graham’s ecstatic vision.
Anna Schön for Sustained Achievement in the work of Reggie Wilson’s Fist & Heel Performance Group
A bold presence and generous performer who moves with raw emotion and lightning speed while remaining sensitive to and connected with her fellow dancers. A deeply spiritual dancer who brings utter conviction to every performance.
Ensemble of the skeleton architecture, or the future of our worlds: Maria Bauman, Sidra Bell, Davalois Fearon, Marjani Forté-Saunders, Melanie Greene, Kayla Hamilton, Jasmine Hearn, Marguerite Hemmings, Nia Love, Paloma McGregor, Sydnie L. Mosley, Rakiya Orange, Grace Osborne, Leslie Parker, Angie Pittman, Samantha Speis, Charmaine Warren, Marýa Wethers, Ni’Ja Whitson, and others*
Curated by Eva Yaa Asantewaa for Danspace Project’s Platform 2016: Lost and Found
For a history-in-the-making performance that dismantled improvisational dance norms to create a robust, disruptive, and dynamic world. For a cast of individuals who used a full range of movement styles to take the audience from Dakar to Kingston, the Bronx to Bushwick, in a fluid dance of connection.
*Edisa Weeks and Tara Aisha Willis were also in the cast but are ineligible as they serve on the Bessie Selection Committee.
Daaimah Taalib-Din for Sustained Achievement with Forces of Nature Dance Theatre
A chameleon of dance styles from traditional African to contemporary African Diasporic forms. A dynamic presence in every work in which she dances, moving from highly stylized to smoothly nuanced with impeccable grace and technique.
OUTSTANDING MUSICAL COMPOSITION/SOUND DESIGN
Alisdair Macindoe for Meeting by Antony Hamilton at La MaMa with Performance Space 122, COIL 2017
For creating a complex percussive score using 64 tiny robots armed with tapping pencils. For adding the virtuosic rhythms of two dancers slapping hands and reciting numbers to create a unique soundscape that was both relentless and strangely satisfying.
OUTSTANDING VISUAL DESIGN
Taylor Mac (creator), Niegel Smith (director), Machine Dazzle (costume), Mimi Lien (set), John Torres (lights), Eric Avery (puppetry), Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (choreography) for A 24-Decade History of Popular Music at St. Ann’s Warehouse with Pomegranate Arts
For a thoroughly considered and painstakingly crafted visual experience revealed over 24-hours and 24-decades of American history. For a complex, complementary, and immersive mix of scenography, costumes, lighting, puppets, and crowd control which transformed a concert into a sublime engagement of all the senses.
Two awards were presented in July at the 2017 Bessie Awards press conference:
The 2017 Emerging Choreographer Award went to Will Rawls for creating astute, genre-eluding work that explores the relationship between movement and language and delves deeply into ideas of transmission, translation, and authorship; and for his multifaceted artistry as choreographer, writer, editor, and curator, expanding the presence of dance and performance.
This year’s Juried Bessie Award went to Abby Zbikowski for her rigorous and utterly unique development of an authentic movement vocabulary, employed in complex and demanding structures to create dances of great energy, intensity, surprise, and danger. The 2017 Bessies Jury was comprised of Kyle Abraham, Brenda Bufalino, and Beth Gill.
Congratulations to all the Bessie recipients and nominees. I am grateful for your commitment, your work, all you create and share to build and sustain this field.
My deepest thanks to Lucy Sexton and the Bessies Committee for the profound honor of receiving the 2017 Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance. I could not be more moved by this recognition of my work and by the amazing, loving introduction byThomas F. DeFrantz. I suppose I will have to carry y'all a little bit longer, but the work is as joyful as it is necessary.
My deepest respect and love to the members of the new collective, Skeleton Architecture. Congratulations on the award we all knew you were destined to receive. As individual artists, each of you have already given so much to the art of dance. Your exceptional performance together at Danspace Project in 2016 wrote an exciting new chapter in all of these individual stories, now part of Bessies history. As a collective now, you will write your future...and ours. We cannot wait to see what you have to teach us!
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