The 2016 Bessie Awards

Juried Bessie Award:

Pam Tanowitz
For using form and structure as a vehicle for challenging audiences to think, to feel, to experience movement; for pursuing her uniquely poetic and theatrical vision with astounding rigor and focus.

The 2016 Bessie Jury was comprised of Yoshiko Chuma, Liz Gerring, and Bill T. Jones.

Special Citation:

Eiko Otake
2015 Danspace Project Platform: A Body in Places
For making herself “radically available” in public and private spaces over several weeks, actively engaging with pressing political and environmental issues of our time. For collaborating with a wide range of artists through performances, readings, films, discussions, and rituals to evoke the power and meaning of the human body inhabiting a planet in crisis.

Lifetime Achievement in Dance:

Brenda Bufalino
For her visionary work ensuring the future of the American art form of tap dance with the formation of the American Tap Dance Orchestra and Foundation. For introducing innovative concepts to tap choreography and for inspiring a new generation of tap artists to expand the art form.

Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance:

Alex Smith
For his 21-year commitment to the presentation and preservation of dance by choreographers of color through the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center. For offering emerging and established artists performance opportunities and for developing audiences from underserved and underrepresented communities.

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
For giving the ephemeral art of dance a rich afterlife through its unrivalled collection of video, writing, photos, choreographers’ notes, and more. Thanks to decades of work by dedicated staff and leadership, dance’s past is there to be remembered, recovered, discovered, and imagined.

Outstanding Production:

Souleymane Badolo
Yimbégré at BAM Fisher
For investigating the artist’s experience of home and not home, of African and American identity, of ancient rhythms and modern jazz in a work that gloriously communicated the clash and reconciliation of the different traditions held within one’s life, one’s body.

Pat Graney
Girl Gods at Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University
For a visually stark and surreal depiction of the emotions, strength, and rage of generations of women and girls struggling under the constraints of society’s image of what it is to be female.

Maria Hassabi
PLASTIC at MoMA
For masterfully transforming the museum environment into an inclusive performance space in which the viewer’s gaze was directed from performer to spectator, putting all bodies on display.

Ralph Lemon
Scaffold Room at The Kitchen
For a complex meditation on the black female experience in our culture, exploring its expression, projection, and manipulation. For mining Southern family stories and pop culture icons to create a work that troubled, entertained, and challenged its audience.

Outstanding Emerging Choreographer:

Joya Powell
For her passionate choreographic engagement with issues of justice and race in our communities and our country, for connecting with the audience in ways that make it clear that these concerns belong to all of us—and action is required.

Outstanding Revived Work:

Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder
by Donald McKayle, performed by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and produced by Paul Taylor American Modern Dance at the David H. Koch Theater
For giving a classic modern dance powerful new life, transforming the midcentury portrayal of an African-American prison chain gang into a searingly resonant cry for our current times, performed with humanity, craft, and beauty.

Outstanding Performer:

Ephrat Asherie
For her body of work
For a presence and a skill that is immediate and unmistakable, explosive and captivating. For her vibrant contributions to the works of Michelle Dorrance, Doug Elkins, Rennie Harris, Bill Irwin, Cori Olinghouse, Gus Solomons jr, and others.

Kazunori Kumagai
For Live at the Blue Note
For his powerful athletic technique combined with a riveting clarity. For extending the improvisational tradition of tap with a show danced in dialogue with musicians Alex Blake, Bill Ware, and Samuel Torres at the Blue Note.

Molly Lieber
For her body of work
For her introspective and tenacious performances, demonstrating her clear intention and visceral choices, and embodying the choreographic intention of a wide range of artistic processes in the work of luciana achugar, Maria Hassabi and Donna Uchizono.

Jamar Roberts
Sustained Achievement with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
For impeccably representing the traditional values of classic modern dance while forging new paths with his sublime artistry, technical precision, and passionate presence with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Outstanding Musical Composition/Sound Design:

Dan Trueman in collaboration with Sō Percussion and Mobius Percussion
For There Might Be Others by Rebecca Lazier at New York Live Arts
For building a sound system which enabled an infinitely varied aural world, using drums, percussion instruments, pieces of paper, mobile phones, wine bottles, and more. The percussionists and dancers equally inhabited an everchanging composition in Rebecca Lazier’s There Might Be Others.

Outstanding Visual Design:

Holly Batt
For Pat Graney’s Girl Gods at Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University
For creating an immersive and interactive environment of boxes that metamorphosed in tone and purpose, from towering backdrop to dresser drawers to ritual containers for Pat Graney’s Girl Gods.

Jamar Roberts
Sustained Achievement with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
For impeccably representing the traditional values of classic modern dance while forging new paths with his sublime artistry, technical precision, and passionate presence with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Read the list of the 2015 nominees
Search the archive of Bessie Awards from 1984 to the present