William Forsythe, Mark Russell and Lisa Viola among honorees at 20th annual Bessies

Monday, September 20th 2004, 12:29 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Teacher Mary Anthony, composer Philip Hamilton and Merce Cunningham Dance Company member Holley Farmer were among those honored at the 20th annual New York Dance and Performance Awards.

Nicknamed the Bessies for educator Bessie Schonberg, the dance world's humbler, funkier equivalent of the Tonys featured mini-performances by the Cunningham company and Ben Munisteri Dance Projects, lots of self-congratulatory applause and its trademark kookie, adjective-laden citations.

There was even a first: Performance artist Kenneth King refused his choreography/creator sustained achievement award as a protest against the war in Iraq.

Hosted by Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace Project and the Joyce Theater, and held Friday night at the Joyce, the 20-member Bessie committee recognized 28 individuals for the 2003-2004 season. Categories included visual design (Christophe Draeger, Brenda Gray, Kathy Kaufmann, Douglas Stein), performance installation and new media (Deborah Warner) and, for the second year, the Time Out New York Dance Audience Award (Saba Dance Theater). Recipients received between $500 and $3,000.

The ceremony did not have a host. Instead, dancer Lawrence Goldhuber's disembodied voice boomed out presenters' astrological signs and favorite foods, while previous Bessie winners performed brief skits or shared their thoughts about the evening.

Besides King, choreography/creator Bessies went to Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion (``Both Sitting Duet''), Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman (Kiki and Herb), William Forsythe (for sustained achievement with the recently disbanded Ballet Frankfurt), Deborah Hay (``The Match''), Koosil-Ja Hwang, Batsheva's Ohad Naharin (``Anaphasa''); and Sasha Pepelyaev and Peeter Jalakas (``The Swan Lake''). Besides the Cunningham company's Farmer, performer prizes were given to Arcell Cabuag of Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, Megumi Eda for work with Karole Armitage, Munisteri and Metropolitan Opera Ballet dancer Christine McMillan, the Wooster Group's Scott Shepherd and veteran Paul Taylor Dance Company member Lisa Viola.

Cabuag drew weary laughter when he thanked Brown ``for giving me the chance to have a dance job in New York City.''

Performance Space 122's longtime artistic director Mark Russell, whose recent controversial departure has sent ripples through the dance world, received a special citation for artistic vision. The two other citations were given to veteran dance teacher and choreographer Anthony and arts advocate Liz Berger.

Kathleen Hughes, the city's assistant commissioner for cultural affairs, received the Susan E. Kennedy Memorial Award for dedicated supporters of the arts.

``The limelight's kind of nice, now that I'm in it,'' she joked.