Posted on January 28, 2013
The Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards for 2012 were held at The Place on Monday, January 28. Hosted by Gary Avis of The Royal Ballet and KennethTharp of The Place, the awards celebrated a broad spread of dance performances in Britain, from hip hop to narrative ballet. Tharp and Avis opened with a touch of showbiz, dancing on with a flourish. This year’s awards were dedicated to the memory of critics John Percival, Charles Hedges and Freda Pitt.
The Grishko Award for Best Independent Company went to Ballet Black, from a shortlist that also included Ballet Cymru, Rosie Kay Dance Company and Shobana Jeyasingh Dance. Cassa Pancho, Ballet Black’s director, said that 2011 – when her company lost its Arts Council England funding – had been its hardest, and thanked her choreographers and dancers for making 2012 its best.
The Dancers Pro Award for Outstanding Modern Performance (female) went to Teneisha Bonner for her performance in ZooNation’s cross-dressing comedy Some Like It Hip Hop. The other nominees were Azzurra Ardovini, Wendy Houstoun and Hannah Kidd. Bonner, glamorous in pinstripes, exclaimed, “My skirt’s so tight I can hardly breathe!” then laughed that she had won a Best Female award “for a show where she spent most of the time pretending to be a guy!”
The award for Best Classical Choreography, sponsored by The Ballet Association, went to Annabelle Lopez Ochoa for A Streetcar Named Desire, which she created with director Nancy Meckler for Scottish Ballet. The other nominees were David Bintley for Faster, created for Birmingham Royal Ballet, Christopher Hampson for Storyville for Ballet Black and Alastair Marriott and Christopher Wheeldon for Trespass for The Royal Ballet.
The award for Best Modern Choreography, sponsored by Stef Stefanou, went to Arthur Pita for The Metamorphosis. He thanked the stage crew “for cleaning up so much black vomit, and the dancers, for spending so much time in black vomit”. The other nominees were Alexander Ekman for Cacti, performed on a UK tour by Nederlands Dans Theater II, Akram Khan for DESH and Kate Prince for Some Like It Hip Hop.
The Dance UK Industry Award, given in memory of Jane Attenborough, went to Jeanette Siddall. She said she was “flabbergasted”: “I must be one of the luckiest people alive, because I’ve worked in dance more years than I have fingers.” She paid particular tribute to Caroline Miller of Dance UK, and to the many inspiring dance artists she has worked with in her career – “Career? No, call it a life”.
The award for Outstanding Male Performance (Classical), sponsored by The Office for Architectural Culture, went to Zdenek Konvalina of English National Ballet. The other nominees were Yonah Acosta, Paul Kay and Dawid Trzensimiech.
The Outstanding Female Performance (Classical), sponsored by Lee McLernon, went to Ksenia Ovsyanick of English National Ballet. The other nominees were Yuhui Choe, Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Jia Zhang.
Since Konvalina and Ovsyanick could not attend the ceremony, they were filmed, looking rather shy and giggly, accepting their award at the London Coliseum.
The Dancers Pro Award for Outstanding Modern Performance (Male) went to Tommy Franzén of ZooNation and the Russell Maliphant Company. The other nominees were Dane Hurst, Christopher Marney and Liam Riddick. “It’s an unfamiliar feeling, winning,” said Franzén. “I’m used to coming second!”
The Stef Stefanou Award for Outstanding Company went to Royal Ballet Flanders. It was accepted by two principal dancers of the company, Aki Saito and Wim Vanlessen, who had appeared in William Forsythe’s Artifact at Sadler’s Wells last summer. They thanked Forsythe and the theatre, and spoke of new beginnings under the company’s new director. The other nominees were Merce Cunningham Dance Company, New Adventures and Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.
The Dancing Times Award for Best Male Dancer was presented by our own editor Jonathan Gray, who dedicated it to the memory of Freda Pitt, who wrote for Dancing Times for 50 years. The award went to Akram Khan. The other nominees were Jonathan Goddard, Vadim Muntagirov and Edward Watson. Khan is currently in Japan, so the award was accepted by his producer, Farooq Chaudhry. This is the second time that has happened: Khan missed last year’s ceremony, when he won the award for best modern choreography, because he was having an operation. Collecting this year’s award, Chaudhry said, “I promise you, Akram does exist…”
The Grishko Award for Best Female Dancer, given in memory of Richard Sherrington, went to Marianela Nuñez of The Royal Ballet. It was, Gary Avis pointed out after she returned to her seat, the second time she had won this award. “Yay!” said Nuñez, waving her trophy. The other nominees were Begoña Cao, Eve Mutso and Tamara Rojo.
The ceremony ended with the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement, which went to Robert Cohan, the founding artistic director of The Place. “It’s amazing to get an award on a stage that I designed,” Cohan said. When he and Robin Howard looked at the Drill Hall building that would become The Place, Howard asked him to mark out the stage space. He marked out a stage space and an audience space. Howard, who lost both legs in the second world war, measured out the space with his stick. “He said, ‘That’s a small audience,’” Cohan remembered, “I said, ‘It’s a big stage.’”
Cohan was delighted to receive an award named for Ninette de Valois, founder of The Royal Ballet, whom he greatly admired. He remembered that De Valois had chaired the Arts Council meeting to decide whether Cohan and Howard would get a grant to start the London Contemporary Dance School and company. They waited in a room with tables and huge ash trays. “We may not get the money,” Howard warned him. “I had my dance bag with me,” Cohan remembered. “I said, ‘Well, I’m not leaving with nothing!’” – and mimed taking one of the big ashtrays.
At first, De Valois seemed unsympathetic in the meeting. Cohan got angry, he remembered: “I thumped the table, and I said, we only want to do what you did – we want to start a company, but in a very different style.” Afterwards, he heard, De Valois had said, “Who is that boy? I like him.” Howard and Cohan got their funding.
All photographs by John Ross. From left Robert Cohan; the winners of the National Dance Awards; Farooq Chaudhry accepting the award for Dancing Times Best Male Dancer on behalf of Akram Khan; Marianela Nuñez.