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The Bessie Awards Announce 2016 Nominees

The NY Dance and Performance Awards, The Bessies, New York City's premier dance awards honoring outstanding creative work in the field, today announced the nominees for the 2015-16 season. Scroll down for the full list!

The 38 nominees were selected by the Bessie Awards Selection Committee, an independent committee of 40 dance industry professionals. Produced in partnership with Dance/NYC, Bessie Award categories include Outstanding Production, Outstanding Revival, Outstanding Performer, Outstanding Music Composition or Sound Design, and Outstanding Visual Design. The list of nominations follows.

The 32nd annual Bessie Awards, presented in association with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, will take place on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, at 7:30pm, at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. "After five glorious years at the Apollo, we are thrilled to be bringing the awards to BAM's historic opera house," says Lucy Sexton, Executive Director of the Bessies. "It is in some sense a homecoming-BAM hosted the awards from 1985 to 1990-and it is especially meaningful as Brooklyn is home to so many artists."

Three 2016 awards were presented at the press conference. The Outstanding Emerging Choreographer Award was presented to Joya Powell for her passionate choreographic engagement with issues of justice and race in our communities and our country; for connecting with the audience in ways that make it clear that these concerns belong to all of us-and action is required.

The award for Outstanding Revival was given to Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder, choreographed by Donald McKayle. Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder was recognized for giving a classic modern dance new and powerful life, transforming the midcentury portrayal of an African American prison chain gang into a searingly resonant cry for our current times, performed with humanity, craft, and beauty by the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, produced by Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance as part of its 2016 season at the David H. Koch Theater.

This year's Bessie Jury-Yoshiko Chuma, Liz Gerring, and Bill T. Jones-named Pam Tanowitz the recipient of the 2016 Juried Bessie Award. Tanowitz was recognized for using form and structure as a vehicle for challenging audiences to think, to feel, to experience movement; for pursuing her uniquely poetic and theatrical vision with astounding rigor and focus.

About the Juried Bessie Award: A new panel of three acclaimed choreographers is convened each year. The Bessie Jury is responsible for selecting a choreographer who exhibits some of the most interesting and exciting ideas in dance in New York City today. The award provides the honored dance maker with touring and residency opportunities outside of New York City through a partnership with the New York State DanceForce, a statewide network of arts organizers and presenters. Legendary dance manager Ivan Sygoda works with the Juried Award recipient for a year, helping to book and manage the touring and residencies.

The 2016 Bessie Awards Steering Committee, responsible for setting policy and providing oversight of the Bessie Awards throughout the year, is comprised of Cora Cahan, Beverly D'Anne, Lane Harwell, Jeanne Linnes, Stanford Makishi, Nicky Paraiso, Carla Peterson, Tamia B. Santana, Laurie Uprichard, and Martin Wechsler.

The 2015-16 Bessie Awards Selection Committee consists of Diana Byer, Kim Chan, Leah Cox, Nancy Dalva, Maura Donohue, Simon Dove, Angel Feliciano, Boo Froebel, Angela Fatou Gittens, Caleb Hammons, Zhenesse Heinemann, Jerron Herman, Iréne Hultman, Robert LaFosse, Melissa Levin, Matthew Lyons, Harold Norris, Craig Peterson, Mathew Pokoik, Rajika Puri, Susan Reiter, Walter Rutledge, Sue Samuels, Philip Sandstrom, Risa Shoup, Sally Sommer, Risa Steinberg, Carrie Stern, Kay Takeda, Catherine Tharin, David Thomson, Muna Tseng, Kay Turner, Tony Waag, Eleanor K. Wallace, Edisa Weeks, Ryan Wenzel, Adrienne Westwood, William Whitener, and Elizabeth Zimmer.

The 2016 Bessie Nominations:

Outstanding Production:

luciana achugar

An Epilogue for OTRO TEATRO: True Love

Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center

Souleymane Badolo

Yimbégré: Replanting roots in the name of freedom

BAM Fishman Space

Camille A. Brown

Black Girl: Linguistic Play

The Joyce Theater

Jack Ferver and Marc Swanson


The New Museum co-presented by FIAF

Pat Graney

Girl Gods

Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University

Maria Hassabi



Heather Kravas

dead, disappears

American Realness at Abrons Arts Center

Ralph Lemon

Scaffold Room

The Kitchen

Dada Masilo

Swan Lake

The Joyce Theater

Justin Peck


Miami City Ballet

David H. Koch Theater

Liz Santoro & Pierre Godard

For Claude Shannon

The Kitchen

Safi A. Thomas with H+ | The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory

Sleeping Beauty

Flamboyán Theater

Outstanding Revival (* indicates award recipient):

get dancing

By Andy de Groat & Catherine Galasso

Danspace Project

Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder *

Choreographed by Donald McKayle

Performed by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company

Produced by Paul Taylor American Modern Dance

David H. Koch Theater

Outstanding Performer:

Ephrat Asherie

Sustained Achievement with Dorrance Dance, Doug Elkins, Bill Irwin, Gus Solomon jr., Rennie Harris, Cori Olinghouse, and many others

Nicolas Bruder

In Custodians of Beauty by Pavel Zuštiak

New York Live Arts

Omar Edwards


New Victory Theater

Paul Hamilton

For his body of work including Ralph Lemon's Scaffold Room and the work of Jane Comfort, Keeley Garfield, and others

Parisa Khobdeh

For her body of work with Paul Taylor Dance Company

Kazunori Kumagai

For his body of work including Live at the Blue Note Late Night Groove Series

Jennifer Lafferty

In Catacomb by Beth Gill

The Chocolate Factory

Molly Lieber

For her body of work with several artists including luciana achugar, Maria Hassabi, and Donna Uchizono

Aaron Mattocks

In Big Dance: Short Form by Big Dance Theater

The Kitchen

Gillian Murphy

Sustained Achievement with American Ballet Theatre

Aakash Odedra

In Rising

Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

Jamar Roberts

Sustained Achievement with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Outstanding Emerging Choreographer (* indicates award recipient):

John Heginbotham

Jillian Peña

Joya Powell *

Larissa Velez-Jackson

Outstanding Music Composition/Sound Design:

Admanda Kobilka

For Clap Hands by Jen Rosenblit

Invisible Dog Art Center / New York Live Arts

Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste

For #negrophobia by Jaamil Olawale Kosoko | anonymous bodies

Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center

Dan Trueman, So Percussion, and Mobius Percussion

For There Might Be Others by Rebecca Lazier

New York Live Arts

Ustatshakirt Plus

For Dream'd in a Dream by Seán Curran

BAM Harvey Theater

Outstanding Visual Design:

Holly Batt

For the visual and set design of Girl Gods by Pat Graney

Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University

Design Team: F. Randy deCelle, Ralph Lemon, Roderick Murray, Naoko Nagata, R. Eric Stone, Mike Taylor, and Philip White

For the visual design of Scaffold Room by Ralph Lemon

The Kitchen

DD Dorvillier and Thomas Dunn

For the lighting and visual design of Extra Shapes by DD Dorvillier

The Kitchen

Eamonn Farrell

For the new media scenography of Forgiveness by Emily Berry | B3W Performance Group

BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center

Produced in partnership with Dance/NYC, the NY Dance and Performance Awards have saluted outstanding and groundbreaking creative work in the dance field in New York City for 32 years. Known as "The Bessies" in honor of revered dance teacher Bessie Schönberg, the awards were established in 1984 by David White at Dance Theater Workshop. They recognize exceptional work in choreography, performance, music composition, and visual design. Nominees are chosen by a 40-member 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 participate in annual discussions on the direction of the awards and nominate members to serve on the selection committee. For more, visit www.bessies.org.

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