In the Spirit of Namesake Bessie, Dance Awards Honor Artists

For the first time in the 14-year history of the New York Dance and Performance Awards, affectionately and officially known as "The Bessies," the awards were without their namesake. Although teacher, mentor, and critic Bessie Sch…nberg died earlier this year, she was omnipresent at the Sept. 17 ceremony.

The awards, which were jointly presented by Dance Theatre Workshop and Danspace Project, honored 40 choreographers/creators, performers, designers, composers, and even a technician, with 24 different citations.

"This truly is the first Bessies without Bessie," said Laurie Uprichard, executive director of Danspace Project in her opening remarks. Describing the dance community as family, she heralded Sch…nberg as mother-figure. "She remains that in the processes we pursue Thank you, Bessie."

"It's so wonderful to gather under the banner of her name," said David Dorfman, who won a Bessie last year and was presenting the choreographer/creator awards. "We should do it more often."

Monetary awards of $1,000 for creator/choreographers and $500 for performers were underwritten by The Village Voice. Deborah Jowitt, chief dance critic for the paper, was on hand to present her autobiographical work, "Body (in) Print." A mixture of dance and spoken word, the piece chronicled some of her experiences as a dancer and a writer. "It is given to very few to be utterly original," recited Jowitt during the performance. The critic is a founding member of Dance Theater Workshop.

Also performing at the awards this year were performance ensemble Ancient Vibrations, and the Doug Elkins Dance Company, which presented an excerpt from "Center My Heart." Elkins was given a choreographer/creator award for "Heart," along with another work, "The Stuff of Recoiling."

Merce Cunningham, himself a Bessie recepient in 1991, presented a special citation to Mikhail Baryshnikov for "creating a safe haven for dancers and dance-makers alike" with The White Oak Project, of which Baryshnikov is founder and artistic director.

Choreographer/creator awards were given to Mark Dendy for sustained achievement, Dianne McIntyre and Olu Dara for "A Brand New People on the Planet," Jennifer Monson for sustained achievement and "Sender," puppeteer Basil Twist for "The Araneidae Show," Lucy Guerin for "Two Lies,"and Sham Mosher, Ronald K. Gray, and David Pleasant for "Hybridium."

Angelin Preljocaj, choreographer of "Annonciation" at the Joyce Theater, was also lauded, as were two dancers in the work, Claudia De Smet and Julie Bour.

Philip Glass and Susan Marshall were awarded for their collaboration on "Les Enfants Terribles" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. "This has been one of the happiest collaborations I've ever worked on," Glass said. Visual designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone was also awarded a Bessie for her contribution to the same work, and cited for her "exquisite costumes."

For their performances in "The Politics of Quiet," Meredith Monk's Vocal Ensemble, including Carlos Arevalo, Theo Bleckmann, Thomas Bogdan, Janis Brenner, Allison Easter, Dina Emerson, Katie Geissinger, Ching Gonzalez, Stephen Kalm, and Randall Wong, all received performer awards.

Other performers who received a Bessie were Gerald Casel for his achievements with Steven Petronio, Zvi Gotheiner and Stanley Love; Tom Thayer for his work with David Dorfman; Kimberly Bartosik for achievements with Merce Cunningham; and Sheri Williams for her work with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.

Composers honored were Zeena Parkins for Jennifer Monson's "Sender," and Amy Denio for David Dorfman's "Skydown." A third composer award was given posthumously to David Tudor, for his achievements with Merce Cunningham and "Ocean."

Visual design awards were given to lighting designer Margie Medlin for her work in Lucy Guerin's "Two Lies," and to lighting designer Philip Sandstr…m, also for David Dorfman's "Skydown."

Leo Janks, who has been technical director and lighting director for numerous dance and theatre companies, and currently the production manager for Twyla Tharp, was the chosen technician honored for the evening.

The emcees for the event were two performance artists, Dan Froot and Lisa Kron, who received Bessies in 1991 and 1993, respectively. The awards were then handed out by other Bessie alumni, including lighting designer Roma Flowers, composer/musician Junior Wedderburn, performers Sondra Loring and Jamie Bishton, choreographer David Dorfman, and Circus Amok founder Jennifer Miller.

A native of Hanover, Germany, Bessie Sch…nberg was chairperson of Dance Theatre Workshop's board of directors. She studied with Martha Graham, and went on to mentor such acclaimed dancers as Meredith Monk, Lucinda Childs, Robin Becker, and Eliza