The New York dance community came out in droves to celebrate their love for dance at the 35th annual NY Dance and Performance Awards, the Bessies, honoring outstanding creative work in the field. And for this grand gathering, there is a ground swell of energy with 800-plus dance artists and enthusiasts all in one place.
The audience rose to their feet when Tony Award-winning performer, teacher, and theater producer George Faison presented Joan Myers Brown with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement in Dance Award. The same happened later when Kevin Tarrant, the lead singer of the intertribal drum and dance troupe SilverCloud, presented Louis Mofsie with the 2019 Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance for his work with Thunderbird American Indian Dancers.
This year’s impressive list of awardees were: Outstanding Productions–Nick Cave, nora chipaumire, Merce Cunningham with stager Patricia Lent and Merce Cunningham Trust Tania El Khoury; Outstanding Performers–Leslie Cuyjet, Gabrielle Hamilton, Taylor Stanley, Shamar Watt; Outstanding Revival–Judson Dance Theater for “The Work Is Never Done”; Outstanding Sound Design/Music Composition: Conrad Tao and Caleb Teicher for “More Forever” by Caleb Teicher; Outstanding Visual Design: Design Team–Jeanne Medina and Ni’Ja Whitson (costumes), Gil Sperling featuring artworks by Wangechi Mutu and Gavin Jantjes (video), Tuçe Yasak (lighting) for Oba Qween Baba King Baba by
Acknowledgement also went to Laurie Uprichard (Bessies Angel Award), Alice Sheppard (Bessies Juried Award), and Daina Ashbee (Outstanding Breakout Choreographer) both presented in July. All of the awardees and nominees received a $500 honorarium, courtesy of a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
The ceremony also featured a performance by Camille A. Brown & Dancers, Outstanding Breakout Choreographer Daina Ashbee, a new work choreographed by Hope Boykin featuring Jeroboam Bozeman, presented in tribute to Joan Myers Brown, and as part of the annual In Memoriam section, members of Stanley Love Performance Group made a special appearance.
The evening’s host was Obie and Bessie Award-winning performance artist Justin Vivian Bond held at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Other presenters included Ephrat Asherie, Noah Paul Catala, Violeta Galagarza, Catherine Galasso, Tiffany Geigel, Lauri Hogan, Sara Mearns, Edie Nightcrawler, Arielle Rosales, Sue Samuels, Jennifer Tipton and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. The awards ceremony will be broadcast Sunday, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m. on WNET’s ALL ARTS, an unprecedented new broadcast channel, streaming platform, and website dedicated to arts and culture 24/7.
David R. White established the Bessies in 1984 at Dance Theater Workshop, “to recognize outstanding work in choreography, performance, music composition and visual design.” A Selection Committee comprised of artists, presenters, producers, and writers chose this year’s nominees. To find out more visit