The Bessies

Our Artistic Director, Maria won a Bessie Award as part of skeleton architecture…!

Earlier this month, at the 2017 New York Dance and Performance Awards (The Bessies) which is our annual concert dance awards ceremony in New York, an unprecedented number of artists of color were nominated for awards and an unprecedented number of artists of color won. It is not just about the numbers. So many artists, of all races, past and present, are deserving. In a field of abundance but also of relative economic dearth compared to other arts, all of us have earned kudos and acclaim for our passion and dedication. But in the past The Bessies have had a palpable (and quantifiable) “downtown” bent, aka a preference for white aesthetics. To finally, and resoundingly, have the imagination, artistry, and work of Black artists and other artists of color publicly recognized at our largest annual event was a watershed moment for all of us. No artist needs a Bessie to know that their work is worthy and valued; we are all adding to the necessary ecosystem of the arts. So, the evening wasn’t about a particular person’s or ensemble’s “win,” but rather about the tipping point that says “We been here. We see us. And now you see us. So, we are all seeing together. YES. Our elders deserve wide recognition. YES. Our young people deserve the option of any platform. YES.”

We ensemble members of the skeleton architecture, or the future of our worlds, gathered by Eva Yaa Asantewaa, were some of the winners for “Outstanding Performer.” To win as an ensemble shows a paradigm shift from persistent individualism to an acknowledgment of group excellence, co-creation, and interdependence. What a win for people of color cultural values! All of the nominees in our category are fierce and extraordinary; thank goodness we are all out here dancing in our own unique ways! After some brief thank yous, we ensemble members took a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and all people of color who speak truth to power. We are not simply individual artists; we are part of a powerful collective of people in multiple fields, all insisting on racial justice and equity.

What a magical night.