At Bessies, Solidarity and Community: ‘Love You, Aunt Joan’

The emphasis was on community at Monday evening’s Bessies, or the New York Dance and Performance Awards. Not one winner left the stage at N.Y.U. Skirball without emphasizing the contributions of collaborators and colleagues, many of whom were in the audience.

The winners of this year’s outstanding performers awards showed the depth and diversity of this year’s dance offerings. Gabrielle Hamilton won for her performance in the dream ballet section of Daniel Fish’s reimagined “Oklahoma!” Taylor Stanley, a principal at New York City Ballet, was recognized for his role in Kyle Abraham’s “The Runaway.” The other two winners were selected for their work in multiple pieces, Shamar Watt for his work with Nora Chipaumire; and Leslie Cuyjet for her work with Niall Jones, Juliana F. May and others.

Outstanding production awards were bestowed on Nick Cave’s “The Let Go,” Ms. Chipaumire’s “#Punk 100% POP* N____,” “Tania El Khoury’s “As Far as My Fingertips Take Me” and “Night of 100 Solos,” staged by Patricia Lent and the Merce Cunningham Trust.

The ceremony was punctuated by performances from Camille A. Brown & Dancers, who presented “Migration,” the concluding section of Ms. Brown’s 2017 dance “ink”; and Benjamin Kamino in an excerpt from “Laborious Song” by Daina Ashbee, the winner of this year’s breakout choreographer award.

Jeroboam Bozeman of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed a new piece by Hope Boykin as a part of the tribute to Joan Myers Brown, who was on hand to receive a lifetime achievement award for her work as a dance education pioneer. Ms. Myers founded the Philadanco dance company and the International Association of Blacks in Dance to increase opportunities for African-American dancers. Shouts of “love you, Aunt Joan” could be heard over the applause.

The ceremony’s memorial segment honored Andy de Groat, the downtown dancer and choreographer known for his spinning movements and his collaborations with the theater director Robert Wilson; JoJo Smith, a Broadway dancer who served as a dance consultant on the film “Saturday Night Fever;” and the experimental choreographer Stanley Love.

A bit of dark comedy worked its way into the evening when Sue Samuels, who was onstage to speak about Mr. Smith, informed the audience that Constance Valis Hill, a tap and jazz dancer, choreographer and historian, was included onscreen among the deceased but was actually still alive.

For the full list of winners visit The ceremony will be broadcast on Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. on WNET’s All Arts channel.

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