Performing Arts: Dance
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

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