Juried Bessie Award:
For her rigorous and utterly unique development of an authentic movement vocabulary, employed in complex and demanding structures to create dances of great energy, intensity, surprise, and danger.
The 2017 Bessie Jury was comprised of Kyle Abraham, Brenda Bufalino, and Beth Gill.
Lifetime Achievement in Dance:
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
For forming Urban Bush Women in 1984 and bringing to the stage a complex, bold, and affirming vision of African-American women. For transforming and diversifying the field by developing new ways of training, curating, connecting, and lifting up choreographers of color. For a visionary life both on the stage and in the world.
Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance:
Eva Yaa Asantewaa
For her capacity to reflect, contextualize, and discern dance work, providing an urgent and necessary voice for dance artists and their varied practices. For her work as writer, educator, mentor, and activist over many decades in print, radio, and online. For strengthening the city’s arts community as an important witness, an intentional healer, and a mindful presence.
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer Bridgman|Packer Dance for Voyeur at the Sheen Center
For groundbreaking use of video in live performance, creating a space where virtual and actual movement merged. For inhabiting Edward Hopper’s imagery and taking the audience on an inventive journey of private spaces and ever-shifting viewpoints.
Antony Hamilton for Meeting at La MaMa with Performance Space 122, COIL 2017
For obsessive, precise choreography that synthesized two men’s movements with a circle of robots’ percussive tapping into a mesmerizing whole. For a work both abstract and profoundly human.
Ligia Lewis for minor matter at American Realness with Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts at Abrons Arts Center
For interrogating the social inscriptions on the black body within the frame of the black box. Moving with the logic of interdependence, three dancers push against the theater’s physical space transforming it into a visceral world pulsing with love and rage.
Taylor Mac for A 24-Decade History of Popular Music at St. Ann’s Warehouse with Pomegranate Arts
For an epic, tireless, and bold 24-hour performance that generated thought and action through the deep investigation of music’s role in our common humanity. A carefully curated concert featuring 246 songs, extravagant visual transformations, and a community-creating ritual of hope.
Abdel Salaam for Healing Sevens with Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, Asase Yaa African American Dance Theatre, Illstyle & Peace Productions, and Dyane Harvey Salaam at DanceAfrica, BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
For the combined efforts of three stellar companies using West African, hip-hop, and modern dance forms to find new ways of storytelling, new ways to deliver healing truths. For exploring how multiple generations of a community can look within to resolve conflict and violence.