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Bessies red carpet
Christopher Duggan PhotographyFrom left, Lane Harwell, Mickey Shepard, Chirlane McCray and Lucy Sexton pose for the red carpet at the Bessies

The New York Dance and Performance Awards are held

Written by
Gia Kourlas

The 30th annual New York Dance and Performance Awards—also known as the Bessies, named after dance educator Bessie Schonberg—were held Monday night at the Apollo Theater. There was a rather sad red carpet, thank-yous to God, emphatic speeches about why dance matters, frequent use of the word community and an appearance by New York City's first lady, Chirlane McCray, who said, "I believe dancing is the most beautiful of all the arts."

RECOMMENDED: See more on the Bessie Awards

As you may imagine, that line went over pretty well even though it wasn't entirely appreciated by Lisa Kron, the witty actor and playwright who hosted the ceremony. Her grown-up commentary and humor were much appreciated throughout the night. It wasn't enough, however, to make the evening sing. Despite efforts to be more inclusive—nominees span many categories of dance—the Bessies are alienating and unsatisfying; there's no point of view. Rather than a celebration of the dance world, the awards are an excuse for a dance assembly in which winners seem to randomly be chosen from a hat and ballet dancers are trotted out for some extra glamour. The performance footage looked like what you might find on a public-access video. Too many presenters didn't know to whom they were presenting awards or, more important, why. Finally, it's not the wisest idea to email a list of the winners to the press during the show. Takes what little fun there is out of it, don't you think?

Arthur Mitchell and Dr. Chuck Davis were presented with Lifetime Achievement awards. The other winners are as follows:

Juried Bessie Award: Gerard and Kelly
Outstanding Production: John Jasperse’s Within between at New York Live Arts
Also for Outstanding Production: Okwui Okpokwasili in collaboration with Peter Born for Bronx Gothic at Danspace Project
Also for Outstanding Production: Camille A. Brown’s Mr. Tol E. RAncE produced by 651 Arts at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts
Also for Outstanding Production: Akram Khan’s Desh at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival
Outstanding Revival: Nora Chipaumire’s Dark Swan performed by Urban Bush Women at The Joyce
Outstanding Performance: Stuart Singer in John Jasperse’s Within between at New York Live Arts
Also for Outstanding Performance: Rebecca Serrell Cyr in Donna Uchizono’s Fire Underground at New York Live Arts
Also for Outstanding Performance: Linda Celeste Sims of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Also for Outstanding Performance: Aakash Odedra in James Brown: Get on the Good Foot – a Celebration in Dance at the Apollo Theater
Outstanding Music Composition: Simphiwe Dana with Giuliano Modarelli, and Complete Quartet for Exit/Exist, choreographed by Gregory Maqoma and produced by 651 Arts at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts
Also for Outstanding Music Composition: Nicholas Young at American Tap Dance Foundation’s Rhythm in Motion

Outstanding Visual Design: Peter Ksander, Olivera Gajic, Ryan Holsopple, Chris Kuhl, and Keith Skretch for This Was the End by Mallory Catlett

Outstanding Emerging Choreographer (a tie): Jessica Lang and Jen Roseblit

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