Thursday, September 24, 2009
This year I missed the Ivey Awards for the first time since their inception because I was just too busy, but I figured I'd make up for it by attending the Sage Awards for the first time. And go figure, dancers do it quite differently.
For those just looking for the facts, scroll down to read the list of honorees. But as a first-time attendee who's a little on the cynical side about awards events, I'm just dying to share what an amazing experience I had last night.
Here's the background. The event was created by Dana Kassel and Stuart Pimsler five years ago, it honors and celebrates the people who make our dance scene so fabulous, and it was named after Sage Cowles in appreciation for all she's contributed to the dance community. Sounds pretty similar to the Iveys, right? But it's got a whole different vibe.
No red carpet, no paparazzi, no glamorous photos on print ads, no VIP pre-party, and the post-show drinks are cheap and served in a little room next to the Walker Art Center's McGuire Theater. The event is much less formal, and yet somehow more elegant.
Replace ball gowns with whimsical, creative, self-designed outfits, statuesque physiques and really great shoes. Replace the stately super-lit State Theater with a simple teal cyc behind the Walker's stage, bare except for a piano, cello and microphone. Replace big musical numbers with a an eclectic mix of artsy dance like Kats D nearly naked and writhing his way out of a sealed plastic bag. Replace teleprompters with notecards. Replace an austere, abstract trophy with a framed piece of commissioned visual art by a local artist. You get the idea, yes?
The honored recipients are a lot less comfortable on microphone, but their shyness is accompanied by heartfelt expression, beautiful posture, and much more genuine discussion of craft vs. product. Nobody gets cut off for long thank-you speeches, but the evening was still only 90 minutes long. I was so charmed by these artists and truly educated by their thoughts, that not only was the evening an inspiring celebration of community, but it succeeds as a PR event because it made me want to see a whole lot more dance.
Here are some of my favorite moments:
Most awards for the evening went to Kristin Van Loon, who seemed genuinely surprised and moved by the recognition. Which is awesome, because as a dancer with Hijack, and the artistic director at Bryant-Lake Bowl, she masterfully juggles making tons of great art with making it possible for tons of other artists to make great work too.
The show most recognized and most frequently mentioned was Chris Yon's The Infinite Multiverse. Wow, wish I'd seen that. It was at the BLB. Never ceases to amaze me how much great dance work that tiny stage premiers.
My favorite thank-you speech was Vanessa Voskuil, accepting the design award along with John Koch and David Mehrer for design of En Masse. She stood in total, composed, silence for about two full minutes, then proceeded to request house lights up so that all the dancers in the audience who performed in her piece (which had a cast of 70) could stand up and be recognized. And her truly heartfelt thanks to all her collaborators for "working through the unknown" with her.
Best recipient attire had to be the combination of Jeremy Wilhelm's red pants and Karen Sherman's total kilt ensemble.
After the Iveys I usually resolve to get a better dress next year. After the Sages, I find myself resolving to get out of my house and see more dance. Hey theater artists, just in case you're like me, a little late to discover our sister community of dance, you should know this community, like our theater scene, is the most vibrant in the nation. And you should get out of your house and go be inspired by their exceptionally beautiful and brave work. And by the way, I'm just gonna go ahead and say it, they're doing a lot edgier stuff than we are, and they're doing it with less resources and less press coverage. So there.
Here's the list:
Outstanding Dance Educator
—Posted at 11:31 am by Leah
Bethany Simmons directs 'Miniature Horses Don't Go to Heaven' and Other Plays Inspired by Real News Headlines playing at New Century Theatre this month.
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