The ceremony was introduced by Robert Penman, chairman of the Critics’ Circle Dance Section, with Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, chief executive of The Place, acting as master of ceremonies.
The De Valois Award for outstanding achievement went to Alistair Spalding, chief executive and artistic director of Sadler’s Wells. “It’s interesting getting this award from dance critics,” he said, to laughter, “because they don’t always love what we do…” Spalding was glad that the Critics’ Circle recognised what had been achieved at Sadler’s Wells in the past five years, “and I feel I deserve this, as well, because it’s bloody hard work!” He paid tribute to the choreographers, dancers and musicians who appeared at Sadler’s Wells – “Artists are placed at the centre of what we do” – and to the Sadler’s Wells audience. The award was presented by Tony Hall, chief executive of the Royal Opera House.
The award for outstanding female performance (classical) went to Martha Leebolt of Northern Ballet, who stressed how much of a team the company is. The award was presented by Sir Peter Wright.
Akram Khan presented the award for outstanding male performance (modern) to Daniel Proietto for his work with the Russell Maliphant Company. “Wow,” said Proietto, a charmingly laid-back winner. “Oh, I’m very happy with this.” He thanked Russell Maliphant, lighting designer Michael Hulls, his own family and boyfriend and Sadler’s Wells, “who treated me like a diva”.
Judith Mackrell, dance critic of The Guardian, presented the award for best foreign dance company to the Bolshoi Ballet. Lilian Hochhauser, who with her husband Victor presented the company in London, collected the award. Mackrell read a letter of thanks from Bolshoi director Yuri Burlaka, who was particularly pleased to receive an award from British critics. Overseas visits gave the company “a chance to assess our work”, while he praised the British dance world as a group that shared the same ballet language as Russia: “The Russian and English tradition share the same root, the same source.”
Monica Mason, artistic director of The Royal Ballet, presented the award for best classical choreography. She also pointed out that the Royal Opera House box office has received phone calls, asking if The Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake revival “was based on the film Black Swan, and most importantly, when would Natalie Portman be dancing?” The award went to The Royal Ballet’s Liam Scarlett for Asphodel Meadows. “Third time lucky,” said Scarlett, who had been nominated twice before, before paying tribute to his dancers and to Monica Mason.
Dance critic Donald Hutera presented the award for outstanding female performance (modern) to Pieter Symonds of Rambert Dance Company. “We’re really not meant to be talking,” said Symonds, accepting her award, “we’re meant to be dancing…” She thanked Rambert and its director Mark Baldwin, stressing the company’s supportive atmosphere.
David Nixon, artistic director of Northern Ballet, presented the award for outstanding male performance (classical). English National Ballet’s artistic director Wayne Eagling accepted the award on behalf of Vadim Muntagirov. “I’m shorter than I normally am,” he joked. “And a little bit greyer,” agreed Nixon. “But I’m sure the critics know what they’re doing.” Eagling praised Muntagirov as “an outstanding talent”: his only fear, as a director, was “making sure you don’t spoil that talent.” When Muntagirov had started with the company, a shy young man, he had reminded him of “Beaker from The Muppets. He’s developed, in a year and a half, into a danseur noble.”
Betsy Gregory, artistic director of Dance Umbrella, presented the award for best modern choreography to Russell Maliphant for Afterlight. “Sometimes things just come together,” Maliphant said, after teasing Tharp: “I’ve known Kenneth for 33 years, and he still can’t say my name right.”
Yvonne Sherrington and Ivor Guest presented the award for best female dancer. This was won by the Bolshoi Ballet’s Natalia Osipova, and accepted by Lilian Hochhauser.
The choreographer Siobhan Davies announced that the Jane Attenborough Dance UK Industry Award went to dance artist Gill Clarke. Clarke, in a letter of thanks, stressed “collaborative venture – we are very good at that in dance” and accepted on behalf of independent dance in the UK.
David McAllister, artistic director of the Australian Ballet, presented the award for outstanding company to Mark Baldwin, artistic director of Rambert Dance Company. “I’m feeling all this love,” said Baldwin happily: for his dancers, his staff, his board, “almost all of our young choreographers”. He stressed Rambert as a home for new work, and celebrated the fact that fundraising for the company’s new home is almost complete. “Any tatty old shares you have, any five pound notes under the mattress, give them to us!”
Jonathan Gray, editor of our sister magazine, presented the Dancing Times Award for best male dancer. This went to the Bolshoi Ballet’s Ivan Vasiliev, and was again accepted by Lilian Hochhauser.
Finally, Robert Penman presented a special award – essentially, a second De Valois Award for outstanding achievement – to Jann Parry, dance critic and biographer of Kenneth MacMillan. “This is such an accolade, especially from fellow scribblers,” said Parry. She said that her award should really go to MacMillan, the choreographer “who made ballets that dancers want to dance and audiences flock to see”. Her fellow critics responded with prolonged applause.