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Astaire Awards to Honor Excellence in Dance

After a hiatus of 3 years, The Astaire Awards will once again recognize excellence in dance on both stage and film. Jennifer Dumas, Executive Producer of the Auditory Oral School of New York and Patricia Watt, Producers of this year's awards, now called The Fred & Adele Astaire Awards, have announced this year's Nominating Committee who will select nominees from the best of Broadway and film performances and choreography this season. The name of the award first presented 26 years ago was changed to reflect the original intent of the awards creators in honoring the famed brother and sister team.

The distinguished list includes: Clive Barnes, Senior Theater & Dance Critic New York Post; Anna Kisselgoff, former Chief Dance Critic, New York Times; Wendy Perron, Editor in Chief, Dance Magazine; Sylviane Gold, Theater Columnist, Dance Magazine; Linda Winer,  Chief Theater Critic, Newsday and Jacques D'Amboise, Dancer, Choreographer, Director & Founder of The National Dance Institute. Chairman Emeritus of the Nominating Committee is Douglas Watt, former Senior Drama Critic, New York Daily News. Honorary Chairs of the event are Ava Astaire McKenzie & Richard McKenzie.

The Fred & Adele Astaire Awards (formerly known as The Astaire Awards established in 1982 by the Anglo-American Contemporary Dance Foundation and administered by Theatre Development Fund since 1991) recognized outstanding achievement in dance on Broadway each season. The award was established with the cooperation of Fred Astaire to honor him and his sister, Adele, who starred with her brother in 10 Broadway musicals between 1917 and 1931. This year the Awards will be expanded to include dance in and choreography for film as this was the métier that brought Fred Astaire to international fame and a permanent slot on every list of the top movie stars of the century.

During their years together, the brother & sister duo delighted Broadway audiences in Over the Top, The Passing Show of 1918, Apple Blossoms, Love Letter, For Goodness Sake, The Bunch & Judy, Lady Be Good, Funny Face, Smiles and The Band Wagon. Fred Astaire starred on Broadway without sister Adele in one more show, The Gay Divorcee.

After Adele retired to marry in 1932, Astaire headed to the West Coast. Signed to RKO, he was loaned to MGM to appear in Dancing Lady before starting work on RKO's Flying Down to Rio. In the latter film, he began his highly successful partnership with Ginger Rogers with whom he danced in 10 motion pictures. Their 17 year collaboration resulted in such classics as The Barkleys of Broadway, Carefree,  Follow the Fleet, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta, Shall We Dance, The Story of Vern and Irene Castle, Swing Time and the quintessentially elegant Top Hat.

During these years, he was also active in recording and radio. On film, Astaire later appeared opposite a number of partners through various studios. After a temporary retirement in 1945-7, during which he opened Fred Astaire Dance Studios, Astaire returned to film to star in more musicals. He subsequently performed a number of straight dramatic roles in film and TV. In addition to starring in the film Funny Face in 1957, he also starred in the original 1927 Broadway version of the  George & Ira Gershwin musical Funny Face.


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by Barnett Serchuk