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The 22nd National Dance Awards

Posted on June 16, 2022

Franks Dance Awards 1414

The winners of the 22nd National Dance Awards were announced on June 13 at a live ceremony at the Barbican, London. The National Dance Awards have been organised by the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle in each year of this Millennium to celebrate the vigour and variety of the UK’s thriving dance culture. The Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle brings together more than 60 dance writers and critics, and the National Dance Awards are the only awards given by the body of professional dance critics in the UK. The qualifying period for performances, both live in the UK and digital (available in the UK), was between January and December 31, 2021.

In total, there were 355 companies, choreographers, performers and other creative artists nominated but this year’s winners were as follows. Edward Watson, of The Royal Ballet, won the Dancing Times Award for the Best Male Dancer, while The Royal Ballet’s Marianela Nuñez won the award for Best Female Dancer, sponsored by Tendu.

Winner of the Dancing Times Award for Best Male Dancer, Edward Watson, with the editor of Dancing Times, Jonathan Gray. Photography: Elliot Franks.

Winner of the Dancing Times Award for Best Male Dancer, Edward Watson, with the editor of Dancing Times, Jonathan Gray. Photography: Elliot Franks.

The Stef Stefanou Award for Outstanding Company went to English National Ballet. In her filmed acceptance speech, Tamara Rojo, in her last year as artistic director, said it had been an honour to lead the company for ten years. The award for Best Mid-Scale Company was won by Ballet Black to cheers from the audience – and founder-director Cassa Pancho naming every single one of her dancers in her acceptance speech. Best Independent Company was won by Yorke Dance Project, though sadly Yolande Yorke-Edgell had tested positive for COVID-19 in the morning, so her award was collected on her behalf by Stephen Pelton.

The winner of Best Classical Choreography, sponsored by The Ballet Association, was Valentino Zucchetti for Anemoi, who thanked his Royal Ballet colleagues for being “rock stars”. The award for Best Modern Choreography, sponsored by Harlequin Floors, was won by Matthew Bourne for The Midnight Bell, danced by New Adventures. Bourne invited his dancers to join him on stage for the photograph and speech, in which he discussed how testing the pandemic had been for freelance artists.

It was a good year for The Midnight Bell, which topped the list for nominations for individual productions, with five nominations and a win for Michela Meazza for Outstanding Female Performance. “It’s taken me 25 years to get here, so there’s hope for all of you,” she laughed.

Patricia Ward Kelly, widow of Gene Kelly, said she could top that with the 62-year wait for Starstruck, Scottish Ballet’s revival and reimagining of Kelly’s Pas de Dieux, which won Best Dance Film for Gene Kelly and Christopher Hampson, the CEO and artistic director of Scottish Ballet.

The Emerging Artist Award, sponsored by The L&M Trust was won by Emily Suzuki of English National Ballet, and the award for Outstanding Creative Contribution was won by the composer Thomas Adès for The Dante Project.

James Vu Anh Pham, a dancer with Akram Khan Company, won the award for Outstanding Male Modern Performance for Outwitting the Devil and made a touching speech in which he thanked his parents, Vietnamese refugees in Australia, who sacrificed so much to support his dance ambitions.

The award for Outstanding Male Classical Performance, sponsored by London Ballet Circle, was won by Jeffrey Cirio in the title role as Creature for English National Ballet, while the award for Outstanding Female Classical Performance, sponsored by Lee McLernon, was won by Natalia Osipova in the title role as Giselle in The Royal Ballet’s production. “It’s a ballet about love and forgiveness,” Osipova said in her acceptance speech, “and I hate war.”

The event was also host to the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement, for which there are no prior nominations, which was won by John Ashford, former director of The Place, dance promoter and director of Aerowaves. He was introduced by dance critic Sanjoy Roy, who praised Ashford’s promotion of artists from Wayne McGregor to Oona Doherty and thanked him for his huge contribution to dance.

Pictured: The winners of this year’s National Dance Awards: Photograph: Elliot Franks. 

Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

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