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Gotta Dance! Astaire Award Winners

June 5th, 2013 Comments off

New Jersey's The Art of Dance. (photo: David Dubuy)

Guest contributor Lindsay B. Davis kicks up her heels at the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards.

For performers used to being seen not heard (unless they are triple threats who can skillfully sing, story tell and do a grand jeté), last night’s Fred and Adele Astaire Awards was an out loud affirmation of the art of movement. Broadway performers, Hollywood celebrities and cultural critics were on hand to honor the best in dance and choreography on Broadway and in film.

Well, someone’s died and gone to Heaven! That would be me, sitting second row, gaze affixed upon a little podium and very large stage filled with Bebe Neuwirth, Harry Belafonte, Marge Champion, Judith Jamison, Charlotte d’Amboise, performance selections from Contact, 42nd Street, and Carousel, plus video montages highlighting the nominees and honoring the career of Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and 93-year-old dance legend, Marge Champion.

My working emotional age throughout the evening was probably around nine, which is how old I was when I gleefully interviewed Cassie and Diana from the original A Chorus Line in 1986 for a school project and could be found taking ballet, jazz and tap classes hoping to become their replacements (that didn’t happen). My guess is the audience that filled NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts for the entertaining, upbeat and oft-times very touching 2-½ hour ceremony held equally powerful memories and appreciation of the art form Martha Graham called “the hidden language of the soul.”

There were simply four categories, two achievement awards and one scholarship recipient (see full list of winners below) so the presenters and performances were as much a central focus as the actual awards. Performance stand-outs included “Simply Irresistible” from Contact (that Yellow Dress!) presented by American Dance Machine for the 21st Century, New York City Ballet dancers Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild’s breathtaking rendition of “Pas de Deux” from Carousel, the “Audition” number from 42nd Street and “Dancin’ Fool,” presented by the adorable and energetic children of Chester, New Jersey’s Art of Dance. Pass me a tissue, please!

Presenters lit up the stage as well, including Broadway heavies Susan Stroman, Karen Ziemba, Cady Huffman and Kathleen Marshall, writers Rex Reed and Michael Riedel, plus TV personalities Carson Kressley, Dancing With the Stars’ Tony Dolovoni and The Real Housewives of New York City‘s  Countess LuAnn de Lesepps, but the night belonged to the winners. Each one shared personal stories about the importance of dance and arts community support in their lives.

Winner Charlotte d’Amboise (center) and Billy Porter (left). (photo: Charles Dubuy)

Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Show recipient, Eric LaJuan Summers (Motown), recounted how he came to dance late in his career after training mainly as an actor/singer. He was moved to tears by the honor. Another team MOTOWN winner, Warren Adams, became a choreographer only after an Achilles tendon tear ended his dance career. His co-collaborator and winner, Patricia Wilcox, recounted her childhood in dance therapy that eventually led to dance performance followed by choreography. Charlotte d’Amboise (Pippin) won the Outstanding Female Dancer in a Broadway Show award and in her excitement actually dropped the trophy (which broke in half)—endearing her to the entire audience. She went on to thank her extraordinary cohorts at Pippin (three of whom were also nominated in the same category) and incredibly supportive husband, Terrance Mann.

Lifetime Achievement Award winner Marge Champion with Rex Reed. (photo: Charles Dubuy)

But the most heart-warming moment came when Marge Champion, of MGM musicals, Walt Disney, and The Marge & Gower Champion Show fame, accepted her Lifetime Achievement Award from Harry Belafonte. His introduction followed by her speech captured the essence of the night — that love and dance are inseparable. Dance, said Champion, taught her that other people can do the same thing but do it their own way. That dances are none other than love scenes and a graceful, curtsey never gets old. She closed by sharing one of her own favorite quotes, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain.”

The Winners:

Outstanding Choreographer in a Feature Film: Sidi Larbi Cherkaouit (ANNA KARENINA)

Outstanding Female Dancer in a Broadway Show: Charlotte d’Amboise (PIPPIN)

Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Show: Eric LaJuan Summers (MOTOWN)

Outstanding Choreographer of a Broadway Show: A tie between Chet Walker (PIPPIN) and Patricia Wilcox & Warren Adams (MOTOWN)

Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award: Marge Champion

Outstanding Achievement in the Preservation of Musical Theatre: Ted Chapin

Adele Astaire Scholarship Award: Connor Yockus

Lindsay B. Davis is an arts/culture journalist, actress, playwright and director. She resides in New York City.

Gotta Dance! Astaire Award Nominees

May 30th, 2013 Comments off
Billy Porter in “Kinky Boots.” (photo: Matt Murphy)

After seeing A Chorus Line from the last row of the balcony on my very first trip to New York City, I spent about a week trying to replicate the opening dance sequence in my college apartment. Without the ability to touch my toes or do a single pirouette, it was a futile effort, but it did give me a great appreciation for the art form of dance.

This year’s Fred & Adele Astaire Awards will honor those masters of movement whose skill set is more developed than my own. The Astaire Awards is the only awards show to honor excellence in dance and choreography on Broadway and in film and were first started in 1982 by the late Fred Astaire and the late Douglas Watt (a critic and writer for the NY Daily News and The New Yorker).

Tony Award-winners Susan Stroman, Bebe Neuwirth, Cady Huffman, Kathleen Marshall and Karen Ziemba are set to present at the awards, taking place on Monday, June 3 at 7:30pm at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Also set to present at the awards are Mary Testa, Christiane Noll, Harry Belafonte, Rex Reed, Michael Riedel, Anna Bergman, Lee Roy Reams, Dancing with the Stars’ Tony Dovolani, Carson Kressley and Countess Lu Ann de Lesseps.

This year, The Astaire Awards will also honor dance legend Marge Champion with its Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award and special presentation by Harry Belafonte. Ted Chapin will be presented with a brand new award, Outstanding Achievement in the Preservation of Musical Theatre. Choreographer Warren Carlyle will present the pas de Deux from The New York Philharmonic’s performance of CAROUSEL with New York City Ballet’s Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck as part of this tribute.

Taylor Trensch, Lesli Margherita and Gabriel Ebert in "Matilda The Musical." (photo: Joan Marcus)

This year’s nominees include:

Outstanding Female Dancer in a Broadway Show
Charlotte d’Amboise (PIPPIN)
Taylor Louderman (BRING IT ON)
Laura Osnes (CINDERELLA)
Patina Miller (PIPPIN)
Andrea Martin (PIPPIN)
Lesli Margherita (MATILDA)
Stephanie Pope (PIPPIN)

Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Show
Eric LaJuan Summers (MOTOWN)
Rob McClure (CHAPLIN)
Andy Mills (CINDERELLA)
Billy Porter (KINKY BOOTS)
Charlie Sutton (KINKY BOOTS)

Outstanding Choreographer of a Broadway Show
Andy Blankenbuehler (BRING IT ON)
Warren Carlyle (CHAPLIN)
Peter Darling (MATILDA)
Jerry Mitchell (KINKY BOOTS)
Josh Rhodes (CINDERELLA)
Sergio Trujillo (HANDS ON A HARD BODY)
Chet Walker (PIPPIN)
Patricia Wilcox & Warren Adams (MOTOWN)

Outstanding Choreographer in a Feature Film
Sidi Larbi Cherkaouit (Anna Karenina)
Alison Faulk (Magic Mike)
Mia Michaels (Rock Of Ages)
Mandy Moore (Silver Linings Playbook)
Poonam Shyam (Trishna)
Jamal Sims, Christopher Scott, Chuck Maldonado & Travis Wall (Step Up Revolution).

The Details:
The 31st Annual Fred & Adele Astaire Awards
Monday, June 3
7:30pm
Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University (566 LaGuardia Place).
Select tickets are available to the public priced at $425, $200 & $75
www.FredandAdeleAstaireAwards.com