Arts Desk

Kennedy Center, Performing Arts Society Announce Annual Dance Prizes

Company E's Paul Emerson

The Kennedy Center announced the 2012 recipients of its Local Dance Commissioning Project earlier this month, but the news didn't seem to travel very far; I couldn’t find the announcement on the Kennedy Center’s website, and only received a press release about it this week.

But it’s nonetheless worth noting. This year’s winners are Company E and Sydney Skybetter, and both will be creating and performing pieces with children at their core. Company E, a new professional ensemble that had its D.C. premier last weekend, will develop and show Sancho, Dulcinea, Their Knight and His Quest. A tale for young audiences, the piece will draw from sections of Don Quixote and use puppetry, projection, song, film, and shadow to tell the story of Sancho Panza and Dulcinea, two of the book’s characters.

Skybetter is a recent New York transplant and apparently something of a renaissance man who teaches, choreographs, produces, and works as a marketer and technology consultant. He’ll create a piece called Inclement Weather, which focuses on a young boy and his memory of his grandmother. According to the press release, Skybetter will be collaborating with a local company, Christopher K. Morgan and Artists, on this project, but neither he nor Morgan returned messages seeking comment.

The Kennedy Center’s choice of Company E seems, at first glance, a tad odd. Most of the past recipients have been individual choreographers or fairly small companies rather than fulltime, paid ensembles like Company E—for whom the $7,500 stipend is fairly small potatoes. But the rules don’t appear to bar professional groups from applying and receiving the commission.

The Local Dance Commissioning Project is a 12-year-old Kennedy Center initiative that helps foster new dance pieces by local choreographers. The project provides funding, rehearsal space, technical support, and a performance venue to premier the work. The pieces will be performed in the fall on the Millennium Stage.

Speaking of winners, the Washington Performing Arts Society announced yesterday the two recipients of its 2012 Pola Nirenska awards, which were created in 1993 to honor members of the Washington dance community who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to the field of dance.

This year, Lucy Bowen McCauley was given the award for outstanding contribution to dance. She’s the founder and artistic director of Arlington’s Bowen McCauley Dance (which is performing Le Sacre du Printemps at the Kennedy Center tonight and Friday), and teaches classes in the area, including a series for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Sali Ann and Alan Kriegsman were awarded the Pola Nirenska Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement. The Kriegsmans have been deeply engaged with dance for decades: Sali Ann has served as executive director of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, director of the NEA’s dance program, and president of the Dance Heritage Coalition, while Alan was The Washington Post’s dance critic from 1966-1996. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1976.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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