Pop action hero Elizabeth Streb hosted the 2012 Bessie Awards at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem, honoring New York dance artists who have broken new ground and/or made discoveries in the art form.  “Our moves are our message,” she remarked from the stage.  How true!

In that spirit, ta-DA! Here’s a move from business back into the arts today, hoping some people who might not normally follow “who’s who” in contemporary dance might just get curious.  It’s an illustrious roster, with a lot of great work to back up each name.

First of all, who is Elizabeth Streb?  I’ve written before about her in the context of garage art.  However, when she’s not throwing open the doors to her Brooklyn studio and inviting in the whole neighborhood, you might find her dancers, oh, I don’t know, walking down the SIDE of a FAMOUS monument in LONDON, maybe?


Streb Dance London: Dancers bungee off the Millennium Bridge

Among the artists honored with Bessies (named after Bessie Schoenberg, late, great professor of dance at Sarah Lawrence College), let’s hear it for Flamenco artist Israel Galvan, who created La Edad de Oro, performed at The Joyce Theater.  Let’s also agree to use the label of Flamenco loosely, as Galvan delves into the many possible futures such a specific form might take when freed from its original cultural moorings, melting into pure rhythm.  His native Spain has recognized him with a National Dance Award; this clip is from Barcelona in 2007:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfmCd-caWUU&feature=related

Paul Taylor was singled out for lifetime achievement although he is still achieving and may yet bring out another masterpiece.  Author of 137 ballets, “lyrical, muscular, dynamic and humane,” Taylor led himself through layers of rebellion against artistic conventions to create a whole new dance category and vocabulary.  His works are now included in the repertories of 40 dance companies around the world.  http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/paul-taylor/about-paul-taylor/719

Outstanding Production in a large venue: Event by Merce Cunningham performed at the Park Avenue Armory.

Outstanding Performer in a large venue: Silas Riener in Split Sides by Merce Cunningham at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Oustanding Performer in a culturally specific form: Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards for sustained achievement in performance and her work with Jason Samuels Smith at the Joyce Theater.  “Our mission was to show the audience what Charlie Parker’s music looks like,” she remarked in her acceptance speech.

Emily Johnson’s The Thank You Bar won for outstanding production in the context of the expanding field of contemporary arts, dance and performance practice.


Outstanding Performer in the expanding practice category was Nicole Mannarino in Devotion Study #1 by Sarah Michelon performed at the Whitney Museum.

Outstanding Emerging Choreographer: Rashaun Mitchell for NOX performed at Danspace Project.

Outstanding Production in a small capacity theater (under 400 seats): Antigone Sr./Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church by Trajal Harrell performed at New York Live Arts.

Outstanding Performer in a small capacity theater: Omagbitshe Omagbemi for sustained achievement in the works of Keely Garfield, Ralph Lemon, David Gordon, Urban Bush Women, and many others.

2012 Bessie Award for Service to the Field of Dance went to Alice Tierstien, who teaches choreograhy to teens.

Outstanding Revived Work: The Shining by Yvonne Meier, presented by New York Live Arts, performed at The Invisible Dog Art Center.  This was a new award category in 2012.

In the category of Outstanding Sound Design or Composition, Faustin Linkyekula was recognized for the piece “more, more, more…future” performed at The Kitchen in the French Institute’s Crossing the Line Festival. http://www.thekitchen.org/event/274./0/1/

And for Outstanding Visual Design, Doris Dziersk for her design for Blessed by Meg Stuart, in which a cardboard set was pummelled by stage rain at New York Live Arts.  http://www.thirteen.org/sundayarts/blog/meg-stuarts-blessed-channelling-beckett/2101/

A 2012 Juried Bessie Award went to Souleymane Badolo, who performed live at the awards ceremony.

MANY THANKS for the evening’s success are due to the New York Dance and Performance League.  Co-production kudos go to Dance/NYC, an organization I helped jumpstart with Andrea Snyder (as we remembered together last night).  I hope that these moves back and forth between the arts and entrepreneurial business worlds might spark some investigation into a new sector for some people, inviting those rare and precious wow moments of aesthetic, intellectual and purely visceral enjoyment beyond the norm.