Bessies Executive Director Lucy Sexton to Step Down
The Steering Committee of the NY Dance and Performance Awards, The Bessies, announced today that Lucy Sexton, who has served as Executive Director of The Bessies since 2009, is stepping down to expand her work in cultural advocacy with New Yorkers for Culture & Arts and to pursue new creative projects. She will continue in an advisory role until the end of January 2020. Michele Thompson joins the organization as Interim Executive Director.
Steering Committee Chair Martin Wechsler said, "Lucy has had a tremendous impact on the NY Dance and Performance Awards. Throughout her ten years as the executive director she expanded the scope of The Bessies to recognize all genres of dance and performance, while remaining true to its 'downtown' dance roots. She created new opportunities to support and lift up artists, and she brought The Bessies more powerfully into the public eye. We are immensely indebted and grateful to Lucy for her years of leadership at The Bessies."
During her tenure, Sexton helped The Bessies become an independent organization serving New York dance throughout the year. In addition to her oversight of the organization, she broadened the scope of the awards by increasing the size of the Selection Committee so that it could better recognize the wide range of dance happening in New York City; established partnerships with organizations including the American Dance Festival, CUNY Dance Initiative, NYS DanceForce, Dance/NYC, and the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography; and initiated open roundtable discussions for dance artists and presenters connecting The Bessies more deeply within the community. In addition to the awards for dance artists presented at the annual ceremony, new awards introduced include the Juried Bessie Award, which helps the chosen artist's work get seen outside of NYC, the Bessies Presenter Award for Outstanding Curating, and the Bessie Angel Award for individuals garnering resources for dance.
"It has been a great honor and joy to serve as executive director of The Bessies," said Sexton. "I've been involved in New York dance my entire life and want nothing more than for the dance communities of this city to be recognized and strengthened. I am thrilled that the work of The Bessies will continue with my invaluable Bessies collaborator Heather Robles, and the esteemed Michele Thompson."
"We are delighted to have Michele on board during this period of transition," said Wechsler. "An innovative leader, Michelle brings a wide range of arts management experience to The Bessies. She will work closely with the Steering Committee and Managing Director Heather Robles to guide The Bessies into the next phase of the organization."
Prior to assuming the executive director post at The Bessies, Lucy Sexton had an impressive national presence as a choreographer, performer, director, and producer across the fields of dance, theater, and film, all roles she continues to pursue. As a choreographer, she works with Anne Iobst creating and performing in the legendary dance performance duo DANCENOISE. Sexton has also produced documentaries by Charles Atlas and directed stage works by Spalding Gray, Tom Murrin, and others. She will now be working full-time as the Executive Director of the cultural advocacy coalition New Yorkers for Culture & Arts, which advocates for increased funding and improved public policy to support culture in the city.
Michele Thompson has more than 25 years of experience in cultural and educational administration, fundraising, and external relations at leading institutions including The 92nd Street Y, Trisha Brown Dance Company, Carnegie Hall, American Ballet Theatre, and Vanderbilt University. She has consulted with The Jewish Museum, Urban Bush Women, and the Kennedy Center, among others. She completed the Interim Executive Director Training Program at the Non-Profit Support Center and has completed two interim E.D. postings, first at Doug Varone and Dancers and, most recently, with A.I.M. (formerly Abraham.in.Motion). She is an adjunct faculty member in arts and entertainment management at Pace University, where she works with upper-level undergraduates about to enter the field in diverse disciplines. She holds both a bachelor's and master's degree from Vanderbilt University.
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. www.bessies.org