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Bay Area Dance Awards 2004

by Mary Ellen Hunt

April 26, 2004 -- Yerba Buena Center Forum, San Franciso

Last night's Bay Area Awards, an amalgamation of the Isadora Duncan Awards, The Bay Area Celebrates National Dance Week Awards, and the Award was, as host Brenda Way remarked at one point, a mouthful.

Still, members of the close-knit community came together to cheer the winners, which included such well-loved figures as Chitresh Das, Malonga Casquelourd, Margaret Jenkins. In fact there were so many pillars of the local dance scene honored that that the progression of standing ovations and sitting down and standing ovations and sitting down felt like a Catholic mass at times.

Awards given by the Bay Area Celebrates National Dance Week were handed out first, with Michael Smuin presenting an Award of Special Recognition to the veteran lighting designer Sara Linnie Slocum. Also honored for their advocacy efforts were Bay Area funding stalwarts Zellerbach Family Foundation, represented by Yasmen Mehta, and the Fleishhacker Foundation, whose award was accepted by Delia Ehrlich. offered their first Dance Critic of Merit award, which was based upon the results of a poll of Bay Area artistic directors and choreographers. Presenting the award were Voice of Dance founders Warren Hellman and Lori Smith Sparrow. Hellman, whose wife Chris Hellman chaired the San Francisco Ballet board for many years, recounted Voice of Dance's genesis as a way of "talking back to the critics," noting how adverse dance criticism had affected the San Francisco Ballet's ultimately successful Capital Campaign. One of the most financially stable arts institutions in the area, SFB now boasts a healthy endowment of over $61 million.

This year's Critic of Merit award went to one of the most respected dance writers of the area, Rita Felciano. In her acceptance, Felciano took a moment to acknowledge the consistent support she has received at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and also note that despite the proliferation of dance writing on the internet, online dance coverage would never have the reach of a newspaper, where a casual reader might be serendipitously introduced to the world of dance.

The 2004 Isadora Duncan Awards -- or "Izzies," as they are affectionately termed -- kicked off with an award for Music/Sound/Text design, which went to the Reverend Markus Hawkins, whose work for "ElsewhereHere" was performed at the Noh Space last year. Taking accolades for Visual Design were Allen Willner and Mary Lois Hare for "Heaven's Radio" by inkBoat.

World Dance received its due attention with the presentation of awards to Asian dance masters Chitresh Das, Ni Ketut Arini and Govindan Kutty, whose joint performance as "East as Center" last year brought a dazzling display of styles from Indian Kathak to Balinese dance to ODC's theater. CK Ladzepko, of the UC Berkeley African Music program, also presented a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award to Oakland's beloved Congolese dance and drumming exponent Malonga Casquelourd.

In the category of Performance Awards, Nadia Adame and Jacques Poulin-Denis, who performed in Sonya Delwaide's "Sans Instruments" for AXIS Dance Company, shared the award for ensemble performance with Lorena Feijoo and Joan Boada, who created the lead roles in "Don Quixote" for San Francisco Ballet. Honors for company performance went to Diamano Coura West African Dance Company, who appeared in the 2003 San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. In individual performance, the ubiquitous Kara Davis won for her work throughout a season that included appearances with Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, Janice Garrett + Dancers, and KUNST-STOFF.

Jenkins, too, was honored for her career of dancemaking and particularly for her 30th anniversary show, which brought out practically everyone in the dance community to the Herbst Pavilion to share in her retrospective last spring. Also remembered was music great Lou Harrison, whose love of dance was recalled fondly by dancer and friend Remy Charlip.

The final awards of the evening were presented by Michael Lowe and Chris Hellman, who remarked on the vast variety of dance represented at the awards. Two Bay Area mainstays took home choreography awards: Carla Maxwell, whose award for her staging of Jose Limon's "Psalm" was accepted by Gary Masters, and Robert Moses, who was endearingly tongue-tied as he accepted the award for "The Soft Sweet Smell of Firm Warm Things." Moses noted that it was production week, which for the gathered crowd was probably all he had to say to imply a certain level of exhaustion and incoherence. But like Smuin and Slocum, who rushed off to finish loading in the Smuin Ballet show across the way at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, you had the sense that along with everyone else, his mind was on getting back to the real work at hand of creating dance.

Edited by Lori Ibay

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