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BWW Reviews: The BESSIES Celebrates a World of Dance in New York

The Bessies, formally known as the New York Dance and Performance Awards, celebrated its 30th anniversary at the Apollo Theater on Monday, October 20th. It was an exciting evening that commemorated the diverse world of dance and those who tirelessly contribute to a field that makes this city come alive.

The evening was full of surprises, shenanigans, well deserved honors, and, of course, beautiful dancing - a real treat for the community. The evening opened with Jennifer Miller and Circus Amok on stilts, declaring that the night was going to be "(insert appropriate yet inappropriate word here) epic." And epic, it was. With an appearance by Bessie Schonberg herself via footage from Jacob's Pillow in 1986, the night was underway. New York City First Lady Chirlaine McCray gave the opening remarks, revealing to the audience that she was a former pupil of the late Frank Hatchett while growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts, and that she found dance to be the "most beautiful of all the arts," something that host Lisa Kron would take mild but hilarious offense to. Lisa Kron, who comes from the "neighboring land of theater [...] a lesser art form," was a fantastic host, as she kept the night moving along and everyone entertained with her handheld mic gimmicks and cue card shuffles.

The theme of the evening seemed to be the vastness and yet the closeness of the dance community. Presenters like b-boy Richard "Crazy Legs" Colon and New York City Ballet principal Megan Fairchild exchanged jokes onstage of how they met while names of all sounds were mispronounced throughout the evening. Even an audience member hilariously took part, yelling to Bessie-award winner and presenter OmagbitseOmagbemi, "HOW DO YOU SAY YOUR NAME?!" No worries, they knew each other. That's the great thing about the world of dance - the art form stretches to the far corners of the world, introducing audiences to new cultures, ideas, and people yet still remains a small, humble, and incredibly supportive community.

Three live performances, or rather four, if you include winner Dr. Chuck Davis' acceptance speech, took the stage that evening, including Bijoux by Mark Morris as performed by Megan Williams, Shelter by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar as perfomed by Urban Bush Women, and Three in One by Michelle Dorrance as performed by Dorrance Dance. Each of them winners from the awards' thirty year history returned to the stage with much delight and nostalgia, still wowing its audience with their creativity, style, performance, and passion.

A surprising highlight of the evening was Dr. Charles "Chuck" Davis' acceptance of the 2014 Bessie Award for Service to the Field of Dance, most notably for founding DanceAfrica. As the announcement was made, a drum circle formed and dancers from the audience came on stage to deliver a rousing, high-energy performance. He even let the audience in on the fun, getting them to dance along to the chants of "Peace! Love! Respect! For everybody!" If only all dance awards were accepted this way ... (though that would mean the night would never end).

It was a marvelous evening that celebrated the beauty of dance and those in the community who are constantly striving to elevate the form. Dancers, makers, visual artists, composers, and people of all shapes, shades, expertise, interests, and walks of life gathered together to share in this wonderful celebration.

Photo Credit: Christopher Duggan


Lifetime Achievement

Arthur Mitchell

Service to the Field

Dr. Chuck Davis

Juried Bessie Award

Gerard and Kelly

Outstanding Production (four awards)

John Jasperse | Within Between | New York Live Arts

Okwui Okpokwasili in collaboration with Peter Born | Bronx Gothic | Danspace Project

Camille A. Brown | MR. TOL E. RAncE | Produced by 651 Arts at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts

Akram Khan | Desh | White Light Festival, Lincoln Center

Outstanding Revival

Dark Swan | Nora Chipaumire | Performed by Urban Bush Women | The Joyce

Outstanding Performance (four awards)

Stuart Singer in John Jasperse's Within Between

Rebecca Serrell Cyr in Donna Uchizono'sFire Underground

Linda Celeste Sims, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

AakashOdedra in James Brown: Get on the Good Foot - a Celebration in Dance

Organized and shaped by Otis Sallidat the Apollo Theater

Outstanding Music Composition (tied award)

Simphiwe Dana with GiulianoModarelli, and Complete Quartet for Exit/Exist, choreographed by Gregory Maqoma

Nicholas Young at American Tap Dance Foundation's Rhythm in Motion

Outstanding Visual Design

Peter Ksander, OliveraGajic, Ryan Holsopple, Chris Kuhl, and Keith Skretch for This Was the End by Mallory Catlett

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