Duncan Dance Awards Ceremony
by Toba Singer and Azlan Ezaddin
April 28, 2003
Held in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, the 2003 Isadora Duncan Awards reception and ceremony attracted a bigger and broader audience than ever before. By the time the reception, sponsored by CriticalDance.com, ended and attendees finished taking their seats, stragglers had to settle for standing room only. What a fine tribute that demography was to the growth of dance in the San Francisco Bay Area over the past decade!
It was announced from the dais that among dance companies and annual events celebrating their quarter-century anniversaries this year are San Francisco Ballet (70 years), Margaret Jenkins Dance Company (30 years), Ethnic Dance Festival (25 years), Ashkenaz (30 years), and Carnival (25 years). While San Francisco is not thought of as a city steeped in tradition, it is clear that dance and dance theater are firmly rooted here and, tectonics notwithstanding, continue to flourish and draw enthusiastic audiences to a half dozen tried and true venues in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of those, Theater Artaud, which faced the prospect of closing down last year, was singled out for special recognition for its willingness to act as a performance space for first-time out companies, and was very much the linchpin of the awards ceremony. The awards committee deserves congratulations for a job well done.
“The Izzies” was co-sponsored by CriticalDance.com, the Zellerbach Family Fund and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Chairpersons included Virginia Matthews of Dance Magazine, Marnie Wood, a member of the original Martha Graham Company and now the dance faculty chair at University of California, Berkeley, and Frank Shawl, a dancer whose career began in New York and who is celebrating 45 years at Shawl-Anderson Dance School in the East Bay (but who’s counting? “I’m counting,” Anderson quipped).
Among the award presenters were: Interim San Francisco Ballet Orchestra Conductor Jean-Louis Le Roux; Remi Charlip, formerly associated with New Dance Group in New York and currently a children’s picture book author and illustrator; Lines Ballet Artistic Director Alonzo King; Robert Moses of Robert Moses’ Kin; Lauren Jonas, Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet; and Choreographer Val Caniparoli.
The awards embraced a wide body of work, and not exclusively homegrown companies and artists. Among the recipients, for example, was Jess Curtis, for his work Fallen, a work he set on his Germany-based company. Works from the entire San Francisco Bay Area were considered, with awards going to Michael Lowe, Erin Yarborough of Oakland Ballet, and Kelly Teo of Diablo Ballet. [Please see the link to the forum at the bottom at this page for complete lists of nominees and winners.]
A memorable moment included a loving tribute by King, himself a recipient of a special award for The Peoples of the Forest, to one of his star proteges, Marina Hotchkiss, who received a Sustained Achievement Award for her long-standing career in dance, including 20 years of performing with LINES Ballet, teaching at the San Francisco Dance Center, and serving as a union representative for the San Francisco Opera Ballet.
The other individual receiving a Sustained Achievement Award was Sally Streets, a former dancer with New York City Ballet and mother not only of current NYCB Principal Kyra Nichols but also lighting designer Alex Nichols (Jonas’ presentation of the award noted that the Streets-Nichols family had enough talent to put together their own first-rate performance). Streets received her award for her contributions to the community, including her renowned teaching and her shaping of Berkeley Ballet Theater. In spite of her stage experience, Streets confessed, “I’m nervous. Maybe I should teach class,” and proceeded to demonstrate second position.
Another nervous artist receiving an award was Julie Diana, who delivered a very brief acceptance speech. She received an award for ensemble performance in Jerome Robbins’Dances at a Gathering on behalf of herself, Joanna Berman and Katita Waldo, all principal dancers at San Francisco Ballet.
Besides recognizing excellence in dance, the “Izzies” also strengthens bonds within the community by bringing together all those associated with the art form, from all genres and backgrounds, including ballet, modern dance, folk, hula, butoh, flamenco, etc. Both post- and pre-awards receptions were successes in this regard.
What are the implications of such a large outpouring for this year’s “Izzies” ceremony? Yes, we have all absorbed that the trickle in the trickle-down economy for the arts has been reduced to a drop in the bucket. But even so, and especially in hard times, isn’t this year’s “Izzies” a clarion call for more performance venues, a much higher percentage of funds for dance from local government budgets and corporate donors? Isn’t it telling us that we need more live music, more design talent, more dance critics -- not fewer -- writing for Bay Area newspapers and broadcasting over the airways? The talent is rooted and growing; it just needs to be showered with support season after season without letup.
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