Tuesday, October 15, 2019

35th Annual Bessie Awards announced at Skirball



Joan Myers Brown

For helping shape American dance over six decades spent choreographing, training, and mentoring dancers at Philadanco. For championing and creating spaces for the work of African American choreographers through the formation of such seminal organizations as The International Association of Blacks in Dance. For doing it all with grace, generosity, artistry, and leadership.


Louis Mofsie

For his tireless and visionary service for more than half a century: preserving and keeping vibrant the dances, songs, and ceremonies of multiple Native American tribal traditions. Serving as leader, teacher, scholar, and emcee extraordinaire with his Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, he has toured to all 50 states, sharing and collecting dances that would otherwise be lost to history.


Laurie Uprichard

For decades dedicated to dance artists and the creation of new dance works. For her stewardship of The Bessies, aiding in their inception and sustaining them for many years after. For being a leader and beloved member of every dance community she has touched.


Nick Cave
The Let Go at Park Avenue Armory

For creating a ritual using colorful full-body masks, a moving stream of mylar, the choral uplift of the Sing Harlem choir, and Francesca Harper’s inspired choreographic structures, the piece invites us to lose ourselves and find each other in this divisive time.

nora chipaumire
#Punk 100% POP* N!GGA at The Kitchen and Crossing the Line Festival

For a radical and passionate blast of sound, movement, confrontation, and choreographed chaos. For working at the intersection of art, politics, and social commentary to create a devastating rendering of the politics of race.

Merce Cunningham with stager Patricia Lent and Merce Cunningham Trust
Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House

For bringing Merce Cunningham’s work to new and expanded life on his centennial. Opening his work to the bodies of brilliant dance artists from all genres to create a mesmerizing event brimming with brilliance, generosity, unity, and trust.

Tania El Khoury
As Far As My Fingertips Take Me at Under the Radar/The Public Theater

For bringing the experience of migration and border control to our most intimate place—the body. For filling the audience’s ears with a story of displacement, while drawing the journey on their arm. reaching unseen and unprotected through a wall: a global crisis is brought home in indelible ways.


Leslie Cuyjet
Sustained Achievement with Jane Comfort, Niall Jones, Juliana F. May, Cynthia Oliver, Will Rawls

For her ability to combine technical precision, astonishing energy, humor, and raw theatrical power to consistently illuminate the choreographer’s vision.

Gabrielle Hamilton
in Oklahoma!’s Dream Ballet choreographed by John Heginbotham, at St. Ann’s Warehouse

For bringing her full self to expand the boundaries of a classic American play, and its iconic dream ballet: She is powerfully sensual, fully in control, moving with intelligence, fearlessness, and aplomb.

Taylor Stanley
in The Runaway by Kyle Abraham, New York City Ballet, at the David H. Koch Theater

Combining exceptional technique, clear musicality, and a fierce devotion to the choreography, he brought down the house with a piercingly revelatory solo performed with raw abandon and emotional purity.

Shamar Watt
Sustained Achievement in the work of nora chipaumire

For expressing, embodying, and extending the choreographer’s vision, while remaining forcefully himself. For inhabiting the worlds created with a riveting coiled energy that creates a dynamic and urgent NOW in every work.


Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done
Yvonne Rainer, Deborah Hay, Lucinda Childs, David Gordon, Steve Paxton, Trisha Brown, and Simone Forti, curated by Ana Janevski at the Museum of Modern Art

A critical and pivotal exhibit featuring live performances that shined a light on a moment of radical invention in the history of American modern dance. Placing the work in the larger social and political context in which it was made, and giving it new relevance in the current moment.


Conrad Tao and Caleb Teicher for More Forever by Caleb Teicher at Guggenheim Works & Process

Employing an unexpected mix of timbres—a toy piano, a computerized harp, the sound of scraped sand—composer and dancer introduce sophisticated sounds into the tap landscape. The improvised score pays homage to the very roots of the dance form, as it enriches the possibilities for its future.


Design Team: Jeanne Medina and Ni’Ja Whitson (Costumes), Gil Sperling featuring artworks by Wangechi Mutu and Gavin Jantjes (Video), Tuçe Yasak (Lighting)
for Oba Qween Baba King Baba by Ni’Ja Whitson, co-commissioned by Danspace Project and Abrons Arts Center

For its innovative use of projection and light, using ceiling, wall, floor, audience, and dancers’ bodies as vessel and canvas. For mixing live performance, recorded and live video, and shape-shifting costumes to create a world of beauty, power, myth, and reality.

BESSIES JURIED AWARD (Presented in July 2019)

Alice Sheppard

For boldly and authentically inventing new movement vocabularies full of supercharged physicality and nuanced detail. Working with gravity, mechanics, human connection, and momentum, she creates work of power and empowerment.


Daina Ashbee

For using the elemental female body itself as a means to excavate and expose layered histories of violence against women. Using repetition, painful ritual, and raw and resilient bodies, her work draws the viewer into a journey of insistence and transformation.


If you missed the awards show, catch it on Sunday, November 17, at 8pm on WNET’s ALL ARTS, a broadcast channel, streaming platform and website dedicated to arts and culture 24/7.


The NY Dance and Performance Awards have saluted outstanding and groundbreaking creative work in the dance field in New York City for 35 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 outstanding work in choreography, performance, music composition, and visual design. Nominees are chosen by a selection committee comprised of artists, presenters, producers, and writers. All those working in the dance field are invited to join the NY Dance and Performance League as members 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 www.bessies.org.

The 2019 Bessie Awards Steering Committee, responsible for setting policy and providing oversight for the Bessie Awards throughout the year, is comprised of Cora Cahan, Beverly D’Anne, Jeanne Linnes, Stanford Makishi, Nicky Paraiso, Carla Peterson, Gus Solomons jr, Paz Tanjuaquio, Judy Hussie-Taylor, Laurie Uprichard, and Martin Wechsler.

The 2018–2019 Bessie Awards Selection Committee: Ronald Alexander, Elise Bernhardt, Charles Vincent Burwell, Diana Byer, Tymberly Canale, Alexis Convento, Parijat Desai, Maura Donohue, Boo Froebel, Angela Fatou Gittens, Diane Grumet, Brinda Guha, Joseph Hall, Mai Lê Hô, Iréne Hultman, Celia Ipiotis, Koosil-ja, Fernando Maneca, Lydia Mokdessi, Harold Norris, Craig Peterson, Doug Post, Rajika Puri, Tiffany Rea-Fisher, Susan Reiter, Walter Rutledge, George Emilio Sanchez, Andrea Snyder, Sally Sommer, Risa Steinberg, Carrie Stern, Catherine Tharin, Tony Waag, and William Whitener.


DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.


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