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National Dance Awards 2012 - A Personal View

by Stuart Sweeney

February 2013

This year The Place hosted the National Dance Awards for the second time and already it feels like the natural home for this celebration of the art form, and before the awards ceremony the bar was buzzing with energy as artists, directors, and critics caught up on the latest news.

The 60 members of the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle nominated no less than 30-40 artists in each award category, covering all aspects of dance. To my mind, being nominated is the key honour - congratulations to all the NDA nominees.

It was a breakthrough year for one of the newest dance forms when Teneisha Bonner and Tommy Franzén, both of Zoo Nation the spectacular hip hop company, picked up the awards for female and male “Outstanding Performance (Modern)”.

Akram Khan, a previous winner, stepped up this year to receive a different award, “Best Male Dancer”, the first time it has been given to an artist from a South Asian dance tradition, although it is Akram's wonderful fusion of Kathak with contemporary that has made him one of the most sought after dance artists worldwide.

In the company award sections, there was a particularly strong field in the “Outstanding Company” section, with Royal Ballet Flanders carrying off the honours for their brilliant performance of William Forsythe's “Artifact”. I have a soft spot for the “Best Independent Company” award, and when Director and Founder of Ballet Black, Cassa Pancho, accepted her award, she gave us some insights into the perils of independent dance, even losing a key grant in 2011. But she gave heartfelt thanks to the dancers and choreographers for working to pull the company through to a much better 2012.

Another award which gave me great pleasure was “Best Classical Choreography” for Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's “A Streetcar Named Desire” for Scottish Ballet. In this production, the then Artistic Director, Ashley Page, brought together the choreographer with theatre and film director, Nancy Meckler in an innovative and very successful project. The outstanding male and female “Performance (Classical)” awards went to Zdenek Konvalina and Ksenia Ovsyanick, both from English National Ballet; a fitting reward for the nurturing of young dancers by the team headed by the Artistic Director until 2012, Wayne Eagling. Marianela Nuñez picked up the “Best Female Dancer” award for the second time, a tribute to her expressive, virtuoso style.

Arthur Pita was delighted to receive “Best Modern Choreography” for “The Metamorphosis” and memorably thanked his dancers for putting up with performing alongside a pool of stage vomit.

The Dance UK Award puts the spotlight on those who work behind the scenes to make sense of the complicated business of making dance happen - the administrators and consultants who contribute so much to the art form. This year's winner, Jeanette Siddall, received sustained applause from an audience that included many she has helped to achieve their goals. She thanked them all for providing her with such an exciting and rewarding career.

The De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement went to Robert Cohan. After a distinguished career in the US performing and teaching with Martha Graham, he made a huge contribution to the early days of contemporary dance in the UK in the 1960's, and lead one of the foremost companies, London Contemporary Dance Theatre, well into the 1990's. He told us about a visit to the Arts Council with Robin Howard, the founder of The Place, where they had little hope of winning a grant, The palatial interview room had numerous heavy, engraved ashtrays and, before the panel arrived, Bob said - we're not leaving empty handed - and popped one in his bag. The warmth of the applause reflected how highly Bob is regarded by the dance community and co-host, Kenneth Tharp remarked that Bob had done more to change him as a dancer than anyone else.

Kenneth's partner at the podium was Gary Avis and a fine double act “Gazza and Ken” made, opening with a neat show-biz duet. Kenneth took the opportunity to deplore the short-sighted Government policy of cutting arts subsidies and singled out Westminster Council's decision to cut all arts subsidies. Graham Watts introduced the event with a reminder that this is the Centenary Year for the Critics' Circle. He also had two sadder duties: he dedicated the 2012 Awards to three members of the dance section who died in the past year, Charles Hedges, John Percival and Freda Pitt; he also sent all our best wishes to Sergei Filin, Artistic Director of the Bolshoi, as he recovers from a vicious acid attack in Moscow. Filin had defiantly sent the message, “I'll be back!”

And so it's over for another year – it's clear that the NDA now plays a crucial role in the life of UK dance and the fact that the after-party overran by an hour shows how much people enjoy this unique gathering of the dance community from around the country and beyond.

The 2012 National Dance Awards Sponsors are: Grishko, Dancing Times, Dancers Pro, Stef Stefanou, The Office for Architectural Culture, The Ballet Association, Lee McLernon, The Critics’ Circle and Dance UK for the Jane Attenborough Dance UK Industry Award.

The Full List of NDA Winners 2012

DANCING TIMES AWARD FOR BEST MALE DANCER
AKRAM KHAN


GRISHKO AWARD FOR BEST FEMALE DANCER
MARIANELA NUÑEZ


STEF STEFANOU AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING COMPANY

ROYAL BALLET FLANDERS


BEST CLASSICAL CHOREOGRAPHY
ANNABELLE LOPEZ OCHOA (for A Streetcar Named Desire)


BEST MODERN CHOREOGRAPHY

ARTHUR PITA (for The Metamorphosis)


OUTSTANDING FEMALE PERFORMANCE (CLASSICAL)
KSENIA OVSYANICK


OUTSTANDING MALE PERFORMANCE (CLASSICAL)

ZDENEK KONVALINA


DANCERS PRO AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING MODERN PERFORMANCE (FEMALE)

TENEISHA BONNER


DANCERS PRO AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING MODERN PERFORMANCE (MALE)

TOMMY FRANZÉN


GRISHKO AWARD FOR BEST INDEPENDENT COMPANY

BALLET BLACK


DE VALOIS AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT

ROBERT COHAN


DANCE UK INDUSTRY AWARD
JEANETTE SIDDALL

The full list of dancers, choreographers and companies nominated for National Dance Awards can be found at www.criticscircle.org.uk .

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