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The Bessies Announce Recipients of the 2016 NY Dance and Performance Awards

by Janet Stapleton
October 21, 2016
New York, NY
The NY Dance and Performance Awards, The Bessies, New York City’s premier dance awards honoring outstanding creative work in the field, announced the complete list of the 2015–16 season award recipients tonight at the 32nd Annual Bessie Awards ceremony. Awards were presented in the categories of Outstanding Production, Outstanding Performer, Outstanding Music Composition/Sound Design, and Outstanding Visual Design, with additional awards presented for Lifetime Achievement and Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance. The full list of 2016 Bessie Award recipients follows.

The 32nd Annual Bessie Awards were held at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House at 7:30pm, following red carpet interviews and pre-show celebrations. Katy Clark, President of BAM, Lucy Sexton, Executive Director of the NY Dance and Performance Awards, and Lane Harwell, Executive Director of Dance/NYC, gave opening remarks and acclaimed choreographer, writer, and comedian Adrienne Truscott hosted the ceremony.

The evening included performances by Joya Powell, recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Emerging Choreographer Award, an excerpt from Donald McKayle’s "Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder" (2016 Bessie for Outstanding Revival), performed by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and produced by Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, and a tap tribute to 2016 Lifetime Achievement in Dance recipient Brenda Bufalino.

Composer and director Meredith Monk presented Eiko Otake with a Special Citation for her A Body in Places platform, presented and produced by Danspace Project. Dancer Ayodele Casel presented Brenda Bufalino with the 2016 Bessie for Lifetime Achievement in Dance. Judy Hussie-Taylor, Executive Director & Chief Curator of Danspace Project, and Alastair Macaulay, chief dance critic of the New York Times, presented an award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance to The Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Alex Smith, Executive Chairman of the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center also received an award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance, presented by Philadanco founder Joan Myers Brown.

Other presenters included Tei Blow, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Judith Jamison, Amar Ramasar, Regg Roc, Carlota Santana, and Alice Sheppard.

The 2016 Bessie Awards are produced in partnership with Dance/NYC and presented in partnership with the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The 2016 NY Dance and Performance Awards presented at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House are as follows:


Eiko Otake
2015 Danspace Project Platform: A Body in Places
For making herself “radically available” in public and private spaces over several weeks, actively engaging with pressing political and environmental issues of our time. For collaborating with a wide range of artists through performances, readings, films, discussions, and rituals to evoke the power and meaning of the human body inhabiting a planet in crisis.


Brenda Bufalino
For her visionary work ensuring the future of the American art form of tap dance with the formation of the American Tap Dance Orchestra and Foundation. For introducing innovative concepts to tap choreography and for inspiring a new generation of tap artists to expand the art form.


Alex Smith
For his 21-year commitment to the presentation and preservation of dance by choreographers of color through the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center. For offering emerging and established artists performance opportunities and for developing audiences from underserved and underrepresented

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
For giving the ephemeral art of dance a rich afterlife through its unrivalled collection of video, writing, photos, choreographers’ notes, and more. Thanks to decades of work by dedicated staff and leadership, dance’s past is there to be remembered, recovered, discovered, and imagined.


Souleymane Badolo for "Yimbégré" at BAM Fisher
For investigating the artist’s experience of home and not home, of African and American identity, of ancient rhythms and modern jazz in a work that gloriously communicated the clash and reconciliation of the different traditions held within one’s life, one’s body.

Pat Graney for "Girl Gods" at Peak Performances at Montclair State University
For a visually stark and surreal depiction of the emotions, strength, and rage of generations of women and girls struggling under the constraints of society’s image of what it is to be female.

Maria Hassabi for "PLASTIC" at MoMA
For masterfully transforming the museum environment into an inclusive performance space in which the viewer’s gaze was directed from performer to spectator, putting all bodies on display.

Ralph Lemon for "Scaffold Room" at The Kitchen
For a complex meditation on the black female experience in our culture, exploring its expression, projection, and manipulation. For mining Southern family stories and pop culture icons to create a work that troubled, entertained, and challenged its audience.


Ephrat Asherie
For her body of work
For a presence and a skill that is immediate and unmistakable, explosive and captivating. For her vibrant contributions to the works of Michelle Dorrance, Doug Elkins, Rennie Harris, Bill Irwin, Cori Olinghouse, Gus Solomons jr, and others.

Kazunori Kumagai
For "Live at the Blue Note"
For his powerful athletic technique combined with a riveting clarity. For extending the improvisational tradition of tap with a show danced in dialogue with musicians Alex Blake, Bill Ware, and Samuel Torres at the Blue Note.

Molly Lieber
For her body of work
For her introspective and tenacious performances, demonstrating her clear intention and visceral choices, and embodying the choreographic intention of a wide range of artistic processes in the work of luciana achugar, Maria Hassabi and Donna Uchizono.

Jamar Roberts
Sustained Achievement with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
For impeccably representing the traditional values of classic modern dance while forging new paths with his sublime artistry, technical precision, and passionate presence with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.


Dan Trueman in collaboration with So? Percussion and Mobius Percussion
For There Might Be Others by Rebecca Lazier at New York Live Arts
For building a sound system which enabled an infinitely varied aural world, using drums, percussion instruments, pieces of paper, mobile phones, wine bottles, and more. The percussionists and dancers equally inhabited an everchanging composition in Rebecca Lazier’s There Might Be Others.


Holly Batt
For Pat Graney’s "Girl Gods" at Peak Performances at Montclair State University
For creating an immersive and interactive environment of boxes that metamorphosed in tone and purpose, from towering backdrop to dresser drawers to ritual containers for Pat Graney’s Girl Gods.

Three awards were presented in July at the Bessies press conference. The 2016 Bessie for Outstanding Revival was given to "Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder" by Donald McKayle, performed by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and produced by Paul Taylor American Modern Dance at the David H. Koch Theater – For giving a classic modern dance powerful new life, transforming the midcentury portrayal of an African-American prison chain gang into a searingly resonant cry for our current times, performed with humanity, craft, and beauty.

The 2016 Emerging Choreographer Award went to Joya Powell for her passionate choreographic engagement with issues of justice and race in our communities and our country, for connecting with the audience in ways that make it clear that these concerns belong to all of us—and action is required.

This year’s Juried Bessie Award went to Pam Tanowitz for using form and structure as a vehicle for challenging audiences to think, to feel, to experience movement; for pursuing her uniquely poetic and theatrical vision with astounding rigor and focus. The 2016 Bessie Jury was comprised of Yoshiko Chuma, Liz Gerring, and Bill T. Jones.

The list of 2015–16 nominees can be found at: www.bessies.org

The Bessie Committees:

The 2016 Bessie Awards Steering Committee, responsible for setting policy and providing oversight of the Bessie Awards throughout the year, is comprised of Cora Cahan, Beverly D’Anne, Lane Harwell, Jeanne Linnes, Stanford Makishi, Nicky Paraiso, Carla Peterson, Tamia B. Santana, Laurie Uprichard, and Martin Wechsler.

The 2015−16 Bessie Awards Selection Committee consists of Diana Byer, Kim Chan, Leah Cox, Nancy Dalva, Maura Donohue, Simon Dove, Angel Feliciano, Boo Froebel, Angela Fatou Gittens, Caleb Hammons, Zhenesse Heinemann, Jerron Herman, Iréne Hultman, Robert LaFosse, Melissa Levin, Matthew Lyons, Harold Norris, Craig Peterson, Mathew Pokoik, Rajika Puri, Susan Reiter, Walter Rutledge, Sue Samuels, Philip Sandstrom, Risa Shoup, Sally Sommer, Risa Steinberg, Carrie Stern, Kay Takeda, Catherine Tharin, David Thomson, Muna Tseng, Kay Turner, Tony Waag, Eleanor K. Wallace, Edisa Weeks, Ryan Wenzel, Adrienne Westwood, William Whitener, and Elizabeth Zimmer.

About the Bessies:

The NY Dance and Performance Awards have saluted outstanding and groundbreaking creative work in the dance field in New York City for 32 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 40-member 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 participate in annual discussions on the direction of the awards and nominate members to serve on the selection committee. www.bessies.org
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