2018 BESSIE AWARDS
October 15, 2018
Every year the New York Dance and Performance Awards (“Bessies”) salute the NYC dance and
performance community – our very own Oscars. But how does one decide to award one dance
or performance over another? Because there are no categories or distinctions between kinds of
dance, it often feels like comparing apples and oranges. Nonetheless, the evening, led by hosts
Ayodele Casel and Shernita Anderson, had a casual, fun atmosphere and showed once again
that New York is a vibrant, fertile, and inclusive ground for dance.
The highlight of the evening was Jennifer Monson’s introduction of Simone Forti, the recipient
of the Lifetime Achievement in Dance, and Forti’s thoughtful video acceptance speech, where
she graciously accepted the honor while reminding us the work is “not about awards but about
how we nurture…”
The Juried Bessie award went to Kyle Marshall, “for embodying rather than
illustrating complicated issues” around race and sexuality, and Outstanding Revived work went
to Jane Comfort and Company.
Marjorie Forte-Saunders, Geoff Sobelle, David Thomson and
Nami Yamamoto won Outstanding Production, and Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance
went to Marya Warshaw of the Brooklyn Arts Exchange. Outstanding Musical
Composition/Sound went to Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste and Visual Design went to the team that
created Memoir of a… Unicorn.
The winner of the Outstanding Breakout Choreographer Award,
Mariana Valencia, performed an excerpt where she walked around a lot talking with a mike
about her childhood.
The Bessies are skewed toward “downtown” dance and performance – a fact that is probably
not worth dwelling on. The four Outstanding Performer awards went to Germaine Acogny,
Courtney Cook, Elizabeth DeMent, and Sara Mearns, all well-deserved. The only one I had seen
live was Mearns, a consummate ballerina and artist, whose balletic interpretation of Isadora
Duncan remains, for me, laced with a touch of irony, given Duncan’s anti-ballet rhetoric. It was
a bit awkward to hear her fawn over her downtown collaborators, given her achievements
across the board, but her work crossing that annoying uptown/downtown divide has a unique
value that hopefully portends more interesting things to come.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson