In Motion


The 35th Annual NY Dance & Performance Awards, The Bessies

Hosted by Mx Justin Vivian Bond and featuring Sara Mearns, Camille A. Brown, Jennifer Tipton and more, the 35th Annual NY Dance & Performance Awards, also known as The Bessies, salutes creators of outstanding dance and performance productions, as well as outstanding performers, music composers, visual designers, revivals, service to the field, and lifetime achievement in dance.

AIRED: November 17, 2019 | 1:26:47


[ Tapping ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 35th annual

New York Dance & Performance Awards, the Bessies.

[ Applause ]

I could not be more excited about our host,

whoThe New Yorker magazine called

the cabaret artist of our lifetimes.

I know they recently starred in Washington, D.C.,

when they got arrested for civil disobedience

outside the Supreme Court.

And I hope we're all going to do that very soon

for one cause or another.

Yes, Justin Vivian Bond will emcee us through the night.

But this is the Bessies, so we got to start with some dance.

This multi-Bessie-recognized choreographer

is the busiest artist in show business.

You can see her work at the Public Theater

in "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide /

/ When The Rainbow Is Enuf,"

at the Metropolitan Opera in "Porgy and Bess,"

and with her own company at the Joyce

coming up in November.

So, here with the final segment of her powerful work "ink"

are Camille Brown Dancers.

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Drum solo ]



[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Percussion resumes ]






[ Audience shouts, murmurs ]





[ Applause ]

[ Violin playing ]










[ Percussion resumes ]





























[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Cheers and applause continue ]

Sexton: Welcome your host -- the one and only Justin Vivian Bond.


Ah, thank you so much

to the Camille A. Brown Dancers and musicians.


How exciting is this --

the 35th,35th annual Bessies ceremony.

These awards have been celebrating dancing

in New York [audio drop] 1984, and there's more dancening --

"Dancening"! [ Laughter ]

There's moredancening happening in the city

now than ever before.

And if there's not dancing, it's notmy revolution!

[ Laughter, cheers ]

I'm Justin Vivian Bond.

I'm your host for this evening, and I am happy to represent

the downtown show hags of America here for you.

I'm here to introduce

an extraordinary lineup of dance artists

who are here to perform and present.

First up, we have two Bessie Award-winning women.

One is a high-energy choreographer

who has a show coming up in November at the Joyce.

The other is one of the world's foremost ballet artists.

Please welcome Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie

and Sara Mearns.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Whoo! [ Laughs ]

Hello, New York City, and hello to all of you dancers

of every style and every tradition.

I am so honored to be here with you tonight.

I absolutely second that.

[ Laughs ]

There's no place in the world

that has the variety of dance happening on its stages,

and we will start tonight by honoring the dancers onstage

who bring that great range of choreography to life.

Here now is a video featuring clips of the 12 dancers

nominated for Outstanding Performance.







But if you could measure the pleasure

between your time waiting around and being found out,

then you'd probably try it, too.

It's all about putting it together. And it's separating...

Not the separation, but the integration.



[ Laughs ]


[ Laughs ]

[ Yelping ] Heh...heh...he...ha!

[ Laughs ]






[ Distorted clicking, growling ]






[Bleep] you don't go!

[Bleep] you don't go!

[Bleep] you don't go!

[Bleep] you don't go!



[Bleep] you don't go!

[Bleep] you don't go!

[Bleep] you don't go!

[Bleep] you! [Bleep] you don't go!

[Bleep] you!

[ Sobbing ]






Do it, champion!

Do it, champion!

[ Indistinct shouts, yelps ]

[ Both screaming ]




[ Applause ]

For her ability to combine technical precision,

astonishing energy, humor, and raw theatrical power

to consistently illuminate the choreographer's vision,

a 2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

for Outstanding Performance goes to

Leslie Cuyjet...

[ Crowd cheers ]

...for sustained achievement in the work of Jane Comfort,

Niall Jones, Juliana May, Cynthia Oliver, and Will Rawls.

I was born breach, meaning that I came out feet-first,

so my parents enrolled me in dance classes

at the recommendation of doctors.

[ Laughter ]

And they probably thought I would stop,

but I didn't, and it's because I had their support,

and that is why I'm here.

Thank you, Bessie committee, for this honor

and your consideration and recognizing our work

as performers in dance and theater making.

And for all of you, too, too many to name,

but you know who you are.

At my best, I hope a little of each of you

has rubbed off on me.

[ Cheers and applause ]


Next up, we're going to present

the award for Outstanding Revival.

This category is especially important.

All too often, incredible dance work are performed

for only one or two weekends and then disappear.

Great dance bears repeated viewings.

It's how we remember our history and keep it alive.

Here now are clips from three nominations

for Outstanding Revival.











[ Applause ]

A critical and pivotal exhibit featuring live performances

that shined a light on a moment of radical invention

in the history of American modern dance,

placing the work in the larger social and political context

in which it was made and giving it new relevance

in the current moment,

the 2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

for Outstanding Revival

goes to "Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done."

Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Simone Forti,

David Gordon, Deborah Hay, Steve Paxton, and Yvonne Rainer,

curated by Ana Janevski at the Museum of Modern Art.

Wow. Good evening, everyone.

It's a huge honor and a huge privilege

to be here with all of you tonight.

Thomas and Marta and I,

we worked together on this project for three years.

And this project is possible because of this community,

and particularly of the artists

with whom we work very closely over those three years,

and we feel very strange to not be here

with them, just the two of us.

Dance is so many things.

It's precariousness, it's care,

and it's collectivity and community,

and it's really an honor to be received by all of you,

so thank you so much for this incredible honor.

And can't wait for the next year of watching you all onstage

making beautiful things and hope to see some of you guys at MoMA

when we reopen in one week's time.


[ Cheers and applause ]

Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you so much.

[ Sighs ]

Combining exceptional technique, clear musicality,

and a fierce devotion to the choreography,

he brought down the house with a piercingly relevatory solo

performed with raw-abandon emotional purity.

A 2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

for Outstanding Performance goes to

[voice breaking] Taylor Stanley...

[ Cheers and applause ]

...with "The Runaway" by Kyle Abraham

with New York City Ballet.

[ Applause continues ]

[ Laughing ]

[ Chuckles ]

Thanks, Sara, for presenting me with this award --

my fellow colleague and, um, just friend.

In the studio and outside of the studio,

a lot of my inspiration comes from just seeing

my fellow colleagues at New York City Ballet

put in so much work day in and day out

fighting for their craft

and just putting all of their energy into what they do,

and that's what really keeps me going as an artist.

And I just -- I dedicate this to them

because there's just no other source of inspiration

like some of the dancers there, so thank you to them.

Thank you to Kyle and his team and for having me here tonight.

Thank you.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Congratulations to all of you wonderful, gorgeous creatures.

Our next presenters are actually a mother and son.

And they're related.

[ Laughter ]

She won a Bessie 10 years ago

and brought her young son with her.

Now that young son is a young man

who has just landed a big role in the movie version

of Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In The Heights."

He's gonna give us a little dance to kick it off.

Please welcome Noah Catala and Violeta Galagarza.

[ Applause ]










[ Applause ]

Wow. Thank you, Noah.

Thank you, Mom.

[ Laughter ]

[ Smooches ]

Wow. That's lifey for you.

East Harlem, Spanish Harlem, a'ight?

Well, as you can see from that little dance,

there is nothing like good music to get you moving.

We are here to present the award

for Outstanding Music Composition

Or Sound Design For a Dance.

Here is a small sample of the nominated work.










[ Applause ]

Employing an unexpected mix of timbres,

a toy piano, a computerized harp,

and the sound of scraped sand,

composer and dancer introduce

sophisticated sounds into the tap landscape.

The improvised score pays homage

to the very roots of the dance form

as it enriches the possibilities for its future.

2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

for Outstanding Music Composition goes to...

[ Drumming ]

...Conrad Tao and Caleb Teicher

for "More Forever" by Caleb Teicher

at Guggenheim Works & Process.


[ Applause ]

Aw, crap, I didn't write anything.

I made this work with a lot of people,

including this guy,

but some of the dancers are here.

Hi, Macy. Hi, Evita. Hi, Byron.

And Serena, our lighting designer, is here.

Just, like, you know, a village makes everything.

We're just standing here saying thank you.

We'd love to thank the organizations

that supported this --

Works & Process at the Guggenheim,

CUNY Dance Initiative,

and Jacob's Pillow, the Pillow Lab.

And then, was thinking, thanks to all the people who made work

in New York in the traditions that I'm working in --

primarily tap dance and Lindy Hop.

I'm thinking about Brenda Bufalino

and David Parker and Michelle Dorrance

and not on the concert dance stage,

but Frankie Manning and Norma Miller and Dawn Hampton

and all the Lindy Hoppers who created...

Tap dance and Lindy Hop were created in New York

by African-American communities, and that isn't said enough.

So, thanks to all who came before us

that allowed us to make

this very art-y, very sad, sometimes, work.

I cede the rest of my time to Conrad.

I wanted to just say,

the great joy of making this piece

was getting to work with a bunch of people

who I didn't necessarily share the same immediate,

like, technical vocabulary with as an artist.

And the amazing thing about that

was that it forced me to really challenge myself

and ask myself what I was trying to say,

and I'm very grateful for it. Thank you.

[ Applause ]

For bringing her full self and expand the boundaries

of the classic American play and its iconic dream ballet,

she is powerfully sensual, fully in control,

moving with intelligence, fearlessness, and aplomb.

A 2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

Outstanding Performance goes to

Gabrielle Hamilton

in the "Oklahoma!" dream ballet,

choreographed by John Heginbotham

at Saint Ann's Warehouse.

Go ahead, girl!


I just want to thank God.

I didn't write something.

I just want to thank John Heginbotham

for just remembering me in a crowd of 100

and just supporting me in my life's mission.

To my family, through blood and through spirit,

thank you for always rocking with me through thick and thin,

and thank you for believing me.

And this is for everyone. Thank you.


[ Applause ]


Amazing --

Everybody's so young and beautiful up here.

[ Laughter ]

It's a night of stars -- stars of the dance!

Our next presenter is a principle dancer

with Heidi Latsky and has a TV career to boot.

Yes! [ Laughter ]

[ Chuckles ]

After she gives us a taste of her choreography,

she'll be joined by a legend and leader

in the field of lighting design.

Please welcome Tiffany Geigel and Jennifer Tipton.

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Men praying in Hebrew ]








[ Applause ]

Thank you, Tiffany. That was lovely.

And next, we're here to look at videos

of the works of 12 choreographers

nominated for one of the night's highest honors --

Outstanding Production.

Let's take a look.












♪ Whoo, yeah

♪ Gotta free ourselves, brothers and sisters ♪

♪ But how we gonna free ourselves?

♪ Yeah, yeah

♪ If we don't know how to be it ♪







[ Seagulls crying ]

[ Man speaking in foreign language ]


I hate when people talk, ta-- tal-- tal-- talk.

I hate.

I -- I...



All: And wanting faster, sinking still,

[indistinct] forgive themselves over and over and over.




We will taste of the video entitled "Labor Day Hall 2013."

I'm just going to share with you all what I bought.

A pizza cutter.

This boat-neck tee.

I mean, upon, you know, watching it...

[ Distorted speech ]

National brand penetration.


Again, it was all steamy, and the tiles and stuff...

Man: Its beveled circular blade reflecting an image of the world

to its black polystyrene...










[ Applause ]

Here is the first of four awards

to be presented in this category.

For radical and passionate blasts of sound,

movement, confrontation, and choreographed chaos,

for working at the intersection of art,

politics, and social commentary to create

a devastating rendering of the politics of race,

a 2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

for Outstanding Production goes to nora chipaumire

at The Kitchen and Crossing the Line Festival.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Well, I'm not nora chipaumire, but I'm here on her behalf.

I want to thank you guys so much for all of this.

We put in a lot of work, a lot of time,

a lot of effort to doing this.

Thank you to all the supporters.

Thank you to all the mothers, all the lions,

and all the lioness and all the unseen audience

that come and support us in all of our journeys.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Big shouts out to nora chipaumire, the king lady.

[ Laughs ]

And now for the reason I'm here, to represent the dancers --

the designers for dance.

We're gonna watch a video

of four works nominated for Outstanding Visual Design.

This award can be given for set, costume, lighting, projections,

or for the overall design.

Let's see some of the work of these designers.


[ Distorted speech ]

Man: ...for the same period last year and closed 588 million...


Customers continue to drive higher sales.

Hello! Why do I always do that?

"Hello!" It's like a little old lady.

Hello! Why do I always do that?

"Hello!" It's like a little old lady.

Uh, but, yeah, whatever. Um...







[ Applause ]

For its innovative use of projection and light,

using ceiling, wall, floor, audience, and dancers' bodies

as vessel and canvas,

for mixing live performances, recorded and live video,

and shape-shifting costumes

to create a world of beauty, power, myth, and reality,

the 2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

for Outstanding Visual Design

goes to the design team Ni'Ja Whitson -- costumes,

and Jeanne Medina -- costumes, Gil Sperling -- video,

Tuçe Yasak -- lighting, for "Oba Qween Baba King Baba"

by Ni'Ja Whitson,

Danspace Project and Abrons Arts Center.

Just wanted to take this recognition as an affirmation

to a way of working that invites spirit in the room,

that places rigor and care as lead collaborators.

I'm grateful to this incredible circle of artists

for making their art and lives available to this work.

Thank you, and shout-out to Jeanne Medina,

who couldn't be here, who is the other designer on costumes.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

[ Laughs ]

I want to thank to Ni'Ja very much for trusting

and opening space in their process

and in this personal journey.

I want to thank to Sophie Sotsky,

the technical director of Danspace,

for her sincere and consistent support in this process.

I want to say, this is my 10th-year anniversary

in New York City.

It hasn't been easy.

It takes lots of creative family support

and army of love, I call.

It takes a village to walk through.

I want to thank the universe for my love for light.

[ Chuckles ] Without it, I don't know what I would do.

And this is the last one --

I lost my super dear friend and soul mate a month ago

on the night of full moon.

Since then, she became light for me,

[voice breaking] so I want to send this to her, also.

[ Applause ]

This is somewhat of a surprise.

We're in the company of really amazing artists.

I admire Royal Osiris, and Mirella Weingarten

is just phenomenal as a designer.

Thank you Danspace Project, Lydia, Sophie,

wherever you are, Yolanda, for putting up with us.

Thank you to the artists who were generous

to let us incorporate their work.

Thank you to Ni'Ja for being, at the same time,

so clear and so open.

And Tuçe, I just want to keep working with you forever.

Thank you.

[ Cheers and applause ]

And now for the second of tonight's awards

for Outstanding Production.

For creating a ritual using colorful, full-body masks,

a moving stream of mylar,

the choral uplift of the Sing Harlem choir,

and Francesca Harper's inspired choreographic structures,

the piece invites us to lose ourselves

and find each other in this divisive time.

A 2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

for Outstanding Production goes to Nick Cave

for "The Let Go" at the Park Avenue Armory.

[ Cheers and applause ]

I am honored to be here today to receive this Bessie award,

but I must thank a number of people

that have been involved in this particular project.

The Park Armory, Rebecca Roberson,

it has been an incredible experience with you --

the love, the sort of supporting the vision, the dream.

I thank you so much.

Francesca Harper...

[ Cheers and applause ]

...for your amazing work.

But I am grateful for this honor

and look forward to producing more work.

Thank you.

[ Cheers and applause ]

We're rolling now, my darlings.

We have approached the most awesome,

magical moment of the evening --

the Lifetime Achievement Award...

[ Cheers and applause ]

...which, this year, is going to an influential choreographer

who paved the way for many black choreographers --

Joan Myers Brown.

[ Cheers and applause ]

To present...

To present the award will be a dance and theater maker

who was the first African-American

to win a Tony Award for choreography --

George Faison.

[ Cheers and applause ]

And to start our tribute is a dance by a woman

who has danced and choreographed with Alvin Ailey for 20 years.

So, here is a piece by Hope Boykin

followed by some words from George Faison

and our Lifetime Achievement awardee -- Joan Myers Brown.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Boykin: Knowing what I know now, knowing how I felt then,

knowing what I'd become, I'd do this all over again.

If I had to choose a path, a path forcing me to fight,

I may just have given in,

feeling there was nothing right in the world

but for me to share and show and move and grow toward

what I would be,

embracing the realities of there was no real place,

space, or lane for me.

But a project I was, would stay,

and be found to be better than any other hope around,

in and out of a distressing cause,

pushing me to demand more for myself

simply because I had, have something to say.

I had me to move through the tough

and rough and uncomfortable of it all

to, without a doubt, prove there could be no one like me,

to do what needed to be done like me,

to give up almost everything like me

to grow into what I have become.

But you think maybe this is about the me you see,

but this word works for any person at any age,

on any stage, willing to take a moment

and stand up for what is right and true,

creating a place to dance, giving all and everything

to me and you just because there was no place,

no home for those looking like, sounding like, moving like me.

She saw fit to build and grow an idea

into a sacred sanctuary of hope for me

and Tally, Billy, Jean, Milton, Louis, Jalilay, Alisa, Ron,

Dwight, Christopher, George, Louis, Tommy, Matthew,

Walter, Anthony, Donald, and Dawn.

She made room, space, cleared paths, opened doors,

told truths sweet and bitter, caught tears, wiped eyes,

blew kisses, called, supported and showed up for us all.

The us too many to name and list,

the us she never wanted to miss a moment of time,

being the best we could be

so that all we needed was a truthful plea to be our best

because that means we're blessed and highly favored

in the land of the free, moving free, spirit

and free love of the moving, living art.

[ Chuckles ] Don't look at the clock.

I know what time it is.

Adventurous days and nights at 9 North Preston

did make a stronger, prepared artist of us all.

In the heart of a city, she helped to build

and call home to the very call of right now.

Yes, we want it now.

Choose us now, and don't overlook us now

and pretend after 50 years.

Philadelphia School of Dance Arts -- Danco, too,

International Association of Blacks in Dance.

She was determined.

She was of a determined strength.

She is of a determined strength when they wanted a pliable soul,

a pliable spirit, and a pliable will.

She taught the many "we"s, including me, to grow and know

I can follow her path,

build my own, our own anything, our own everything.

To think, knowing what she knows,

knowing what she felt then, knowing what she would become,

I sure hope she'd do it all again,

even for the little boy who could not say a word

but moved from his longing heart to studio, stage, and company,

wrapping himself in the world of words

she helped him learn to say --

words like "truthful," "hardworking, "caring,"

"loving," "mother," "mom"...

Aunt Joan.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Her fight is not over.

It will never be, because of all of us.

We haven't forgotten a thing.

I love you and thank you.

We love you and thank you.

And as long as we do, learn, follow through,

you will always be in all of us and all of the work you've done

and all of the "we"s you've loved,

the "we"s like me...

and me...

and me...

and me...

and me...

and me...

and me.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Bond: Mr. George Faison!

[ Applause continues ]

For helping shape American dance

over six decades spent choreographing,

training, and mentoring dancers at Philadanco...

...for championing and creating spaces

for the work of African-American choreography

through the formation of such seminal organizations

as The International Association of Blacks in Dance...

[ Cheers and applause ]

...for doing it all with grace,

generosity, artistry, and leadership --

a girl named Joan.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Growing up in a city called Brotherhood,

fighting for the truth, fighting for beauty,

fighting for grace,

Joan Myers Brown has fought against

all forms of hatred, prejudice,

but found the light in humankind.

She has done this

in spite of jealousies, of heartbreak,

of deficits, of losing people that she loved very much.

Joan Myers Brown has earned this place in your consciousness.

She has sacrificed --

sacrificed in raising her family,

in seeing the bright light at the end of the tunnel,

in realizing her dream.



And we honor her today.

The 2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

for a Lifetime Achievement in Dance

goes to Joan Myers Brown.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Well, if I can get through this without crying,

you'll be happy, and I will be, too.

[ Laughter ]

How can you say anything but thank you?

Thank you.

I always used to say, when I was younger

and they asked me to make a speech,

I'd say, "I wish they had asked me to dance."

[ Laughter ]

But now that I'm not dancing, I had to write a speech.

Today, I stand here before you honored and humbled.

Who would have thought back in 1960,

I would be receiving a Lifetime Achievement award?

I, indeed, have to admit that I've had a lifetime of dance,

but little did I ever think that it was going to be one

that would be celebrated like this.

Back in the 1930s, at the age of 6 or 7,

I had a very brief introduction to dance, to ballet.

I was enrolled in a black neighborhood school,

but it didn't last long.

I lost my slippers the second week.

My mom said she didn't have another $1.50 piece

to buy me another pair of shoes,

so that was the end of that.

[ Laughter ]

I also remember being cast in the school play as a flower,

and I always wanted to be the princess.

So look at me here today -- I'm the princess.

[ Cheers and applause ]

That's really not a cane. That's a crutch.

That's not... That's a prop.

[ Laughter ]

My 11th-grade gym teacher was a former ballerina

with the Littlefield Ballet Company in Philadelphia,

and she told me that she would like me

to come to her ballet club.

This was during a time of segregation,

when there were no opportunities in Philadelphia

for black girls to seriously study ballet,

except at the all-black neighborhood studio.

Luckily, I received the community scholarship

that allowed me to go to the Katherine Dunham School

with Karel Shook and Syvilla Fort.

[ Applause ]

There, I fell completely in love with dance,

and my life changed forever.

Later, I was able to study in Philadelphia

with Antony Tudor, and he encouraged me,

"Girl, you better move to New York."

But my mom and dad, at that time, they weren't having it.

Despite working as a dancer, I still loved the ballet

and wanted to hopefully provide an opportunity

for some other black young dancers.

I taught many people -- Billy Wilson, choreographer;

Carole Johnson, who has formed

the Bangarra dance company in Australia.

She was my little girl.

Zane Booker, Monaco Ballet.

After seeing Janet Collins, I was inspired,

and I still wanted to be a ballet dancer.

I always say I have founder's disease.

I'm always founding things. [ Laughter ]

I founded my first school in 1960.

I founded Philadanco in 1970.

I founded the International Association of Blacks in Dance

in 1988.

[ Cheers and applause ]

And a few years ago, I founded the first multicompany audition

for black ballet dancers in Denver, Colorado,

where we had 20 major companies look at black girls.

[ Applause ]

Hoping, as my friend Delores Browne would always say,

"Make companies look like America."

[ Cheers and applause ]

Although I did not become a ballerina,

I'm proud of the many opportunities

I have provided for dancers in general,

enabling them to live their dreams.

I'm sure I'm not the only one or the first one

or the last one with the same dream.

We all do the work to help make it happen.

I am just extremely proud to be honored today for my efforts.

I have to thank all in my world who dreamed with me,

especially my family,

my dedicated friends and supporters

and, most of all, for the Bessie.

This is the fourth Bessie I've been a part of --

IABD, Hope Boykin, Kim Bears.

I'm a Bessie girl, right?

[ Laughter, applause ]

I thank the committee for this recognition,

and it has been a great journey.

I'm grateful that I was able to help others.

So, I thank you.

[ Cheers and applause ]

That was amazing.

[ Applause continues ]

[ Sighs ]

This room is filled with... I feel so much love tonight.

Does anyone else feel it?

[ Applause ]

The love that goes into the work,

the love in presenting it, the love in collaboration,

the love of the art form,

and the love of the people that have left us

and the love of those of us left behind.

Now is the time in our program when we remember

those in the dance community who died this year.

[ Sighs ]

Next, we have a work by the recipient of this year's

Outstanding Breakout Choreographer award.

Here is the resilient, insistent, energizing,

and intimate work of Daina Ashbee.

[ Applause ]






That was Benjamin Kamino in the work of Daina Ashbee.

As you...

[ Applause ]

As you heard,

she was named the Outstanding Breakout Choreographer.

That was given in July,

and I want to mention that there were three other

outstanding choreographers nominated for that.

They are Stacy Grossfield...

[ Cheers and applause ]

...Jonathan Gonzalez... [ Applause continues ]

...and Caleb Teicher.

[ Applause continues ]

Keep your eyes on all of them.

They are major, girl.

The other award given in a previously scheduled ceremony

was the Juried Bessie Award.

The winning artist works with legendary manager Ivan Sygoda

and our partners, the New York State Dance Force

and the American Dance Festival, to get some touring

so they can connect with audiences

beyond the confines of New York City.

This year's Juried Award went to the one and only

Alice Sheppard...

[ Cheers and applause ]

...who we all need to see more of.

Next, we are gonna honor a national dance treasure.

He founded the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers

more than 50 years ago

and has been keeping the dance traditions

of tribes across the country alive since then.

He will be introduced by his nephew,

leader of the SilverCloud Singers

for more than 25 years.

Please welcome Kevin Tarrant to present the award

for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance

to Louis Mofsie.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Good evening.

Very happy to be here to present this award to my uncle.

He's not only my uncle, but also a teacher and a mentor.

And we had dinner recently, and we were talking about

traditional dance as an art form,

and that's one of the things that he continues to do,

to carry that tradition on.

And he culminates that with a yearly annual dance concert

over at the Theater For New City for the past 41 years,

where they demonstrate many of the different dances

from the different areas and among the Northwest coast people

and the Southwest and the Northeast here

and also the Great Plains.

So we're very happy to be presenting this award to him,

and I'm gonna sing one of his favorite songs

as we look at his video montage.

[ Drumming ]

[ Singing in native language ]












[ Cheers and applause ]

He must have done something right, so that's good.

[ Laughter ]

So, for his tireless and visionary service

for more than half a century, preserving and keeping vibrant

the dances, the songs, and the ceremonies

of multiple Native American tribal traditions,

serving as a leader, teacher, scholar,

and emcee extraordinaire

with the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers,

he has toured all 50 states and beyond,

sharing and collecting dances

that would otherwise be lost to history.

The 2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance

goes to Louis Mofsie.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Thank you so much.

Two things I wanted to say.

This is really a special day for me.

But, you know, we also talk about Columbus Day,

but this is also Indigenous Day.

[ Cheers and applause ] Yeah! [ Laughs ]

And I am so glad

that some of the states in the United States

are finally recognizing the contributions

that the Native American people have made

to this very wonderful country we have.

And I want to just say, also, that I'm so happy

that the Bessie people here have recognized the contributions

that the Native American people have made to dance,

and I think that's wonderful.

[ Applause ]

I just want to say that I feel really humble

in accepting this award

and just being considered with all of these wonderful dancers,

fantastic dancers that have made dance what it is today.

Several pioneers of modern dance

were influenced by Native American dances.

Dancers such as Ruth St. Denis,

Ted Shawn, Erick Hawkins, José Limón, Martha Graham

use many Native themes in some of their creations.

As I said, I am really pleased that the Bessies are recognizing

an authentic American Indian dance company.

Thank you so much!

[ Cheers and applause ]

We're here -- [chuckles] the final award of the night.

Then it's free pizza and a dance rave over at the Judson Church.

[ Sighs ]

And the final... [ Laughs ] I need that pizza!

[ Laughter ]

And the final presenters...

You can tell I've been starving myself.

[ Laughter ]

And the final presenters of the night

will give us a bit of rhythm to get us ready to dance.

Here to perform is a flamenco dancer who is also

in the Afro-Brazilian samba reggae band Batala.

[ Cheers and applause ]

She'll -- [ Audience member shouting ]

[ Laughs ] She'll be joined by a great American choreographer,

leader of the Urban Bush Women.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Please welcome Arielle Rosales and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar.

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Tapping ]

[ Scatting ]






[ Rhythmic clapping ]



[ Tapping ]

[ Applause ]

[ Tapping continues ]

[ Exclaims ]

[ Shouting ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Laughs ]

Thank you so much, Arielle.

And thank you to all the artists who make and perform

amazing, inspiring work.

For bringing the experience of migration and border control

to our most intimate place -- our body,

for filling the audience's ears

with stories of displacement

while drawing the journey on their arm,

reaching unseen and unprotected through a wall,

a global crisis is brought home in indelible ways.

A 2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

for Outstanding Production goes to Tania El Khoury

and "As Far As My Fingertips Take Me"

at Under the Radar/ Public Theater.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Tania is not here in the U.S., and sent this video.

A few years ago, I didn't know anyone in the U.S. art scene,

as I've mainly worked in Europe and in the Middle East.

Many of us have long been critical of U.S. policy.

At the same time, we felt demonized and targeted by it.

Yet there is a wonderful community of artists in the U.S.

that has been critical, responsive, and active.

My own experience while working in New York City

was being welcomed by a group of radical artists

who refused to be limited by a politics of empire

and a politics of fear.

I'm deeply inspired by them

and by the broader community of audience

who have been engaging with my work

in both its content and its form.

They opened up emotionally and politically to us.

I'd like to recognize Under the Radar Festival,

who have been my gateway to New York City,

as well as other supportive organizations

that I've since worked with like Fisher Center at Bard College,

Fusebox Festival, The Open Society Foundation,

Bryn Mawr College, and many others.

[ Cheers and applause ]

And here we are. We have arrived.

This is the final performer award.

For expressing, embodying, and extending

the choreographer's vision

while remaining forcefully himself,

for inhabiting the worlds created

with a riveting, coiled energy

that creates a dynamic and urgent "now" in every work,

a 2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

for Outstanding Performance goes to...

[ Mimicking drum roll ]

...Shamar Watt

for sustained achievement in the work of nora chipaumire.

Come on, Shamar!

[ Cheers and applause ]

Hey, hey!


People in the house. People are in the house.

[ Sighs ] Wow. This is amazing.

I want to first give thanks and praise

to the creator of all things, of us all,

human beings and all the universe.

I want to give great, great gratitude, again,

for those unseen and seen.

Thank you. Love. One love! One love!

[ Cheers and applause ]

Thank you.


[ Applause continues ]

[ Sighs ]

It's a wonderful night! [ Laughs ]

And for the last of the awards for Outstanding Production,

here we go.

For bringing Merce Cunningham's work

to new and expanded life on his centennial,

opening his work to the bodies of brilliant dance artists

from all genres to create a mesmerizing event

brimming with brilliance, generosity, unity, and trust,

a 2019 New York Dance & Performance Award

for Outstanding Production goes to Merce Cunningham

staged by Patricia Lent with Merce Cunningham Trust

for "Night of 100 Solos" at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House.


[ Cheers and applause ]

I'm so honored to receive this award

on behalf of Merce Cunningham,

whose decades of dancing and dance making

have enriched and enlivened our world.

Years ago, Merce was asked

how he went about composing a new dance.

"I start with a step," he replied.

"That's the thing that interests me --

the actual physical action of something."

This project, at its core, is about those steps

and that lifelong passion for physical action.

It was a privilege, as it always is,

to help get those steps dancing again.

Thank you very much.

[ Cheers and applause ]

There is little I love more than producing the Bessies.

It's one of the great honors of my life.

The one thing I love more than that is dancing with you all.

That will happen now over at Judson Church.

So come on over, have some pizza,

have some cookies, have a dance.

I love you. Have a lovely night.

Thank you for being here.

[ Cheers and applause ]










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