Two of the dance world’s most esteemed contributors will be recognized for their long-standing artistry, service and support of the field by The New York Dance and Performance Awards, The Bessies, Monday, Oct. 9 at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, choreographer and founding artistic director of Urban Bush Women, will be the recipient of the 2017 NY Dance and Performance Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance, and writer Eva Yaa Asantewaa will receive this year’s award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance.
Kansas City, Mo. born Zollar moved to New York to study with Dianne McIntyre at Sounds in Motion in Harlem, and then founded UBW as a performance ensemble “…dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change.” Recognized for the 34 works she has created for UBW, she has also created works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco and others, and with collaborators such as Compagnie Jant-Bi from Senegal and Nora Chipaumire. Zollar serves as founding artistic director of UBW and director of UBW’s Summer Leadership Institute, and she currently holds the position of the Nancy Smith Fichter Professor of Dance and Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor at Florida State University. She is the recipient of a 2016 Dance Magazine award and the 2016 Dance/USA Honor Award.
The native New Yorker Yaa Asantewaa’s dance writing was first published in 1976. Since then, she has written for Dance Magazine, The Village Voice, SoHo Weekly News, Gay City News, The Dance-Enthusiast, Time Out New York and other print and online venues, in addition to founding her arts blog, InfiniteBody in 2007. For WBAI (1987-89), she worked with the Women’s Radio Collective and the Gay and Lesbian Independent Broadcasters Collective, cohosted the Tuesday Afternoon Arts Magazine and produced her own specials.
Asantewaa joined the curatorial team for Danspace Project’s 2016 platform, “Lost and Found,” and created “the skeleton architecture, or the future of our worlds,” featuring 21 Black women and gender-nonconforming performers for an evening of group improvisation. Since the 1980s, she has also been active in service to numerous LGBTQ, feminist, POC and arts organizations and initiatives as a workshop facilitator in alternative practices of meditation, divination, ritual and wellness.
The complete list of 2017 Bessie Awards nominations are as follows:
Outstanding Emerging Choreographer Award—Will Rawls
Juried Bessie Award—Abby Zbikowski.
Outstanding Production—Vanessa Anspaugh, Kader Attou of CCN de la Rochelle/Cie Accrorap, Bridgman/Packer, Nora Chipaumire, Antony Hamilton, Jessica Lang, Ligia Lewis, Taylor Mac, Crystal Pite, Sébastien Ramirez and Honji Wang, Abdel Salaam and Adrienne Truscott
Outstanding Revived Work—Variations on themes from “Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life” and other works by John Bernd, conceived by Ishmael Houston-Jones, co-directed by Ishmael Houston-Jones and Miguel Gutierrez, with John Bernd’s music compositions arranged and re-mixed by Nick Hallett; “Consultation” by Jennifer Monson; “About Kazuo Ohno” by Takao Kawaguchi; “Trio A” (1966), “Chair Pillow” (1969) and “Diagonal” (1963) by Yvonne Rainer, “Goldberg Variations” (1986) by Steve Paxton and “The Courtesan and the Crone” (1999) by Anna Halprin from Stephen
Outstanding Performer—Yeman Brown, PeiJu Chien-Pott, Sean Donovan, Jonathan Gonzalez, Julie McMillan, the cast of “Riff this, Riff that” by Ephrat Asherie, Anna Schön, Nicholas Sciscione; the ensemble of “Skeleton Architecture”: Maria Bauman, Sidra Bell, Davalois Fearon, Marjani Forté-Saunders, Melanie Greene, Kayla Hamilton, Jasmine Hearn, Marguerite Hemmings, Nia Love, Paloma McGregor, Sydnie L. Mosley, Rakiya Orange, Leslie Parker, Angie Pittman, Samantha Speis, Charmaine Warren, Marýa Wethers and Ni’Ja Whitson (Edisa Weeks and Tara Aisha Willis also appeared in the cast, but are ineligible to vote on or receive awards as current Bessie Awards Committee members), plus Daaimah Taalib-Din, Diana Vishneva; cast of “we free”: DJ BLK WYNTR, Arielle Rosales and Solo Woods, as welxl as Courtney Cook, Marguerite Hemmings, Jessica
Phoenix and Italy Welton.
Outstanding Music Composition/Sound Design—ICTUS ensemble/ROSAS, Chris Kuklis and Will Rawls, Ryan MacDonald and Alisdair Macindoe.
Outstanding Visual Design—Nora Chipaumire, Taylor Mac, Niegel Smith, Machine Dazzle, Mimi Lien, John Torres, Eric Avery, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Paulina Olowska and Mark Ryden and Brad Fields.
The 33rd annual Bessie Awards will be hosted by Shernita Anderson and James Whiteside. For more information, visit www.bessies.org.