The Bessie Awards Announce 2016 Lifetime Achievement and
Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance Awards
All 2016 Bessie Nominees to Receive Cash Award from
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
New York, NY, September 19 – The NY Dance and Performance Awards, The Bessies, New York City’s premier dance awards honoring outstanding creative work in the field, announce legendary tap innovator and choreographer Brenda Bufalino as the recipient of the 2016 NY Dance and Performance Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance; and The Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and Alex Smith, Executive Chairman of the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center, as this year’s recipients of Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance.
The Bessie Awards are recognizing Brenda Bufalino for her decades-long contribution to the dance field. Bufalino is a co-founder of the American Tap Dance Foundation (originally called American Tap Dance Orchestra), which has helped sustain and spread the art of tap dance throughout the world. A master teacher, director, and performance artist, Bufalino has influenced and mentored generations of tap dancers.
This year, two Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance Awards will be presented—one to an organization and one to an individual. The Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will be honored for its invaluable archiving of material from generations of dance makers in one of the world’s leading collections. Alex Smith, Executive Chairman of the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center, will receive a Bessie for keeping the center a vital home for choreographers of color for nearly three decades.
The three awards will be presented at the 32nd Annual Bessie Awards ceremony on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House.
The Bessies are also thrilled to announce that all of the 2016 nominees will receive a cash award of $500, made possible by a generous gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF). The grant will allow the Bessies to give cash awards to nominees for three years. “This gesture of support for all of our nominated artists is profound,” says Lucy Sexton, Executive Director of The Bessies. “We are enormously grateful to DDCF for this additional salute to the dance makers working so hard in this city.”
The 2016 Bessie Awards ceremony will include a tap tribute to Brenda Bufalino, curated by Tony Waag, a performance by Joya Powell, recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Emerging Choreographer Award, and Donald McKayle’s Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder, performed by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (2016 Bessie for Outstanding Revival).
Tickets for the 32nd Annual Bessie Awards can be purchased by calling 718-636-4100 and online at www.bam.org. The BAM Howard Gilman Opera House is located at 30 Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn.
Brenda Bufalino, poet, composer, and tap dancer, is a mixed genre performer. As a tap dance soloist and choreographer/director of the American Tap Dance Orchestra (ATDO), she has performed and taught internationally for more than 35 years. Her collaborations with her partner and mentor, the great Charles “Honi” Coles, have infused her with the essence of the form that she now shares with her stories, teaching, and dances.
Bufalino has appeared as a guest soloist in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, the Apollo Theater, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Kennedy Center, and for Tony Waag’s Tap City at the Doris Duke Theater and the Joyce Theater in New York City. With her company American Tap Dance Orchestra, she appeared in a PBS special with Gregory Hines Tap Dance in America. The ATDO has toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe.
As a master teacher, author, actress, producer, composer, director, and performance artist, Bufalino has influenced and mentored generations of tap dancers.
She has written music/lyrics and text for her many one-person shows: Cantata & The Blues, Journal of a Woodpecker, Unaccompanied, and Primordial Memories. These shows, accompanied by piano and bass, are still delighting audiences in New York City and on tour throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia, Israel, and Brazil. For her company, Bufalino has created the libretto and vocal chants for her tap opera Gertrude’s Nose, with electronic vocals by Jay Clayton. Gertrude’s Nose was performed with the company and as a duet with Clayton in the U.S. and in Berlin.
Bufalino has been awarded numerous National Endowment Fellowships, and was awarded a reconstruction grant by the NEA for two of her choreographies, deemed American Masterpieces. She has received the Flobert Award, the Tap City Hoofer and Hall of Fame Awards, and the Dance Magazine Award, all for Lifetime Achievement and contributions to the field.
Alex Smith Jr. was born in Montgomery, AL. His parents, both veterans of the Montgomery bus boycott, migrated to Brooklyn, NY, when he was three years old. He has resided in Brooklyn ever since. Smith is the Executive Chairman of Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center (THPAC). This association began in 1988, when its then executive director, Melvin Davis hired Smith to assist in rebranding THPAC’s image. This job turned into a long-term business relationship with THPAC that continued until the untimely death of Davis in 1995. At this point Smith was asked by the THPAC board to consider becoming the executive director. He accepted the position along with choreographer Marshall Swiney, who became artistic director of THPAC.
Under Smith’s continuing tenure at THPAC as Executive Chairman, more than 300 artists have been presented in performance including: Ron Brown, Camille Brown, George Faison, Louis Johnson, Marlies Yearby, Fred Benjamin, Urban Bush Women, and Philadanco, among many others; seven new programming formats have been added; THPAC’s annual Lifetime Achievement Awards were established; new relationships with performance venues at Long Island University and the Actors Fund Arts Center were formed; a development department for THPAC was established; new works for THPAC (Audre Lorde In Motion and Ramp to Paradise) were produced; the administrative staff and THPAC boards were restructured; and the relocation of THPAC’s headquarters was accomplished. At present, Smith is spearheading the production of a documentary on THPAC’s 40 years on the dance scene as well as laying out a digital archival structure for THPAC.
Smith is passionately committed to the uplift and exposure of new talent in the field of dance as well as the ongoing establishment of THPAC as a powerful presenting organization on the New York City cultural scene. Smith is also the founder and president of Lex Graphics, a design firm
offering cutting-edge design with the use of the latest technology with a directive toward excellence in all facets of graphic, cyber-graphic and visual design expressions.
The Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
is the largest and most comprehensive archive in the world devoted to the documentation and preservation of dance. Chronicling the art of dance in all of its manifestations, the division is much more than a library in the usual sense of the word. It is part museum, part film production center, and part consulting service to the professional dance community. It preserves the history of dance by gathering diverse written, visual, and aural resources, and it works to ensure the art form’s continuity through an active documentation program.
With a history in The New York Public Library that can be traced back to 1944, the Jerome Robbins Dance Division is used regularly by choreographers, dancers, critics, historians, journalists, publicists, filmmakers, graphic artists, students, and the general public.
While the division contains more than 44,000 books about dance, these account for only a small percentage of its vast holdings. Other resources available for study free of charge include moving image records, audiotapes, clipping and program files, prints and designs, and manuscripts. The Jerome Robbins Dance Division also undertakes two unique projects as a way of providing outreach to the community. Through its Original Documentation program, the division has been able to videotape thousands of performances over the last three decades to provide an enduring link between generations of dance practitioners. Equally, the Oral History Project, which began in 1974, has captured the life stories of over 4,000 luminaries from the dance community, giving dancers the rare opportunity to allow their voices to be heard. As part of the New York Public Library system, these materials are available free of charge, along with a range of special programs, including exhibitions, seminars, and performances making the Jerome Robbins Dance Division a treasured resource for the communities it serves.
About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties.
About the Bessies
The NY Dance and Performance Awards have saluted outstanding and groundbreaking creative work in the dance field in New York City for 31 years. Known as “The Bessies” in honor of revered dance teacher Bessie Schönberg, the awards were established in 1984 by David White at Dance Theater Workshop. They recognize exceptional work in choreography, performance, music composition, and visual design. Nominees are chosen by a 40-member selection committee comprised of artists, presenters, producers, and writers. All those working in the dance field are invited to join the NY Dance and Performance League, as members participate in annual discussions on the direction of the awards and nominate members to serve on the selection committee. www.bessies.org
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