BWW Review: THE 2018 WORLD CHOREOGRAPHY AWARDS OCTOBER 23, 2018 at The Saban Theatre
Produced and Presented by Cheryl Baxter-Ratliff and Allen Walls, in association with Break The Floor and held at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA, there was an overwhelming turnout within the Dance Community to this event. There were reportedly 1,400 people attending.
It was a spectacular evening!
The all-inclusive 8th Annual WORLD CHOREOGRAPHY AWARDS. Because this is the 8th Annual Awards Ceremony, I feel a change has evolved regarding categories up for Awards. Wider acceptance of all forms of Dance, Interpretive Movement, new forms of technology and genres not considered previously. All-Inclusive is a modern term, but it's great to see that the WCA is embracing and incorporating so many more possibilities that qualify for our consideration.
There were several decades of dancers and choreographers in attendance, from students of dance, teachers, professional dancers, choreographers, young to old; enthusiasts, family and friends, and of course the many nominees and presenters. Although starting over an hour late, which needs to be improved next time around, since this caused certain things scheduled beforehand to be adjusted or eliminated, the content of the evening was massive and quite varied. It was like a love-in, in that every person on stage or as part of the audience was there to support each other and enjoy each other's accomplishments. Dancers are a special breed and are almost tribal when it comes to loyalty and appreciation. Dance is a very loving Art and creates a specific bond.
To list the many notable audience members would take the rest of this article, as well as naming each and every nominee... there were so many dance genres and eras represented everywhere you looked, on stage and off.
And so, the fabulous evening began.
The biggest names in commercial choreography came together to honor their own. Other special guests and presenters included Anita Mann, a former WCA recipient, who announced the creation of an "Emerging Artists Fund" to help cultivate new choreography talent; Jeff Goldblum, Jared Harris, Scott Michael Foster, David Hull, Glorya Kaufman, (Dance's patron saint) Christopher Scott, Savion Glover, Gleb Savchenko and his wife Elena Samodanova, and Lil' Buck.
Hosted ably by actor/dancer Kenny Wormald, and supported by Talent Agencies, Choreographers and Dance Teachers and Dancers, it was a Love Fest of Celebratory Accomplishments. Much credit to so many behind-the-scene contributors, a lot of them dancers themselves. There was a good rhythm of award-presenting and dance performances back-and-forth that kept things moving well, and so many of those performances were extraordinary. Another nice touch of class was having Announcer Marian Massaro introduce the presenters and the performers.
Vincent Paterson was the first presenter, who in his own right, has contributed so much to modern and iconic choreography, for commercials, music videos, film and more, and set the tone for the evening: excited about the evening, some words of wisdom imparted, and to celebrate uniqueness, urged us all to "Get out and VOTE!" The category was Outstanding Choreography in Commercials, and, after clips from each nomination were shown on screen, was awarded to Ashley Wallen for the commercial for the movie "The Greatest Showman."
It was wonderful getting to view all the nominees' work before the winner in each category was announced.
The next category was Outstanding Choreography for a Television Episode, presented by Harry Shum, Jr., won by Kathryn Burns, a double nominee, for a hilariously funny episode on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend entitled "Strip Away My Conscience," ... use your imagination to picture the scenario...
Category Three, Outstanding Choreography for a Music Video, was intro'ed by Kenny Ortega, a major force in the World of Dance, and the amazing contenders included Derek Hough, who is a mesmerizing, creative inventor and performer, Justin Peck, and others. The award went to Tessandra Chavez, for her contribution to the video featuring Blake McGrath, entitled "Missing You."
A pair of DWTS dance professionals, an accomplished couple, Elena Samodanoa and Gleb Savchenko, presented the Award for Outstanding Choreography for TV Reality Show/Competition, which went to Keone and Mari Madrid, from World of Dance, for performing "Happy."
The Joe Tremaine Legacy Award, honoring dance-makers that have changed the face of dance, was presented to Debbie Allen by Joe Tremaine himself. For all Ms. Allen has done to promote Dance in L.A. and beyond, this was a more than befitting accolade she richly deserves. Her endless efforts to afford the entire community be involved in dance-related activities, is much appreciated, and applauded with gratitude.
Debbie Allen's Dance Academy dancers did a fabulous, very clean number that's from their annual holiday show, "Hot Chocolate Nutcracker," which was choreographed by Terry Beeman. The men's section was incredible; strong, with a karate flavor that was attention-commanding and very effective. Beautiful piece. Debbie's beautiful daughter, Vivian Nixon, helped present the award to her mom, and some of her long-time students came out on stage to add to the festivities; Marguerite Derricks, Eartha Robinson and other fabulous alumni.
There was a video presented, sponsored by Julie McDonald, of McDonald/Selznick Associates which addressed all issues involved in voting in this upcoming election, that hit home with so many important topics that we are faced with today. The dancers and other creative artists poured their hearts into this statement about what is important to vote on and was so exciting to watch. Thank you, Dance Community, for caring about our future.
There were other dance performances done by The Lab, (the 2018 "World of Dance" winners) the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, choreography by Sonya Tayeh; Alexander Chung's dance troupe, Tessandra Chavez's number featuring Blake McGrath, S-Rank, runner-up on World of Dance 2018, and a video, "Knight Walker" which were all exciting, tight, clean and unique, each in their own way.
Kyle Allen performed an amazing number that was full of athleticism, flipping off the top of a piano, a back-flip bounced off the wall of the proscenium, stage left, acrobatic and gymnastic in nature, with jump scissor-splits, barrel rolls and the like, mixed with some height-defying off-center leaps and tricks, focusing on his jacket, that he worked like it was an additional extremity.
My favorite piece of the evening was the adagio duo of Jade Hale-Christofi, choreographer of "Take Me to Church" and Sergei Polunin, who slayed it, with a most artistic and difficult content that they masterfully displayed; genuinely stunning to watch. The way they blended their movements together, sliding off of each other, melding through one another, sometimes in slo-mo; sinewy movements and beautiful lines, and both with the most beautiful feet! (Dancers will know exactly what I mean...)
Also very poignant, was a video compilation of famous and noteworthy dancers and choreographers who have passed on in the last year or so. Alan Johnson, Miriam Nelson, Donald McKayle, Paul Taylor, Gillian Lynne, Arthur Mitchell, Gerri Reddick, Danny Daniels, Paul De Rolf among others, who were our backbones and serious contributors to the evolvement of World Dance.
There were a few previously filmed skits shown, that were probably meant to help the flow of the show, but were silly and did not really add anything to the purpose of the evening. They actually lengthened the event, which could have used editing to tighten up the total time.
Kathryn Burns spoke about Choreographers needing to Unionize and start a dialogue to strengthen The Choreographer's Alliance.
Other Awards bestowed: Presented by Daniel Ezralow, who has contributed much toward dance and perception of choreography, the trophy was, again, and well-deserved, awarded to Tessandra Chavez for "Hold On," in the category of Outstanding Choreography/Digital Content; For Outstanding Choreography TV Award Show/Special, presented by the Cast of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," Nick Florez and RJ Durell shared the award for "Bandaloop," Pink's production number on The American Music Awards.
The last two awards were for Outstanding Choreography, Digital Content/Independent, and Outstanding Choreography for a Motion Picture. Presented by Blake McGrath, Galen Hooks won for Digital Content, and Mandy Moore (without Val Chmerkovsky, who was supposed to co-present, but due to the late hour, must have had to leave) presented the Award for Motion Picture Choreography to Ashley Wallen, his second award of the evening, for the film "The Greatest Showman."
It was an interesting conglomeration of styles and genres, and Dance was well-represented and celebrated, in an evening of glorious, diversified dance performances and presentations.
Photos courtesy of Suzy Miller, PRPhotos and Getty Images.