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The 2020 Dance Magazine Awards Celebrated Outstanding Talent, Leadership & Joy

Thank you for celebrating this year's incredible Dance Magazine Award honorees with us. Watch on demand here.

As this year like none other finally draws to a close, I've noticed a familiar sentiment popping up: Everything that we've lost since COVID-19 hit has made many of us that much more appreciative of all that we have. For me, I might have felt this most potently with the Dance Magazine Awards.

Putting together our ceremony amid the unique turmoil of 2020—and the deep reflections it's inspired—forced us to take a fresh look at not only how we do this, but why. And it comes down to this: The Dance Magazine Awards are about celebrating the icons among us, declaring that these are our living legends whose work we are honored to experience in our own lifetimes.


This year, the selection committee decided to make a statement with whom we chose to name as those legends. Selecting all Black honorees was meant to reckon with Dance Magazine's history of awarding primarily white artists over the past seven decades. At the same time, this lineup has also served to highlight the undeniable influence Black dance artists have had on this art form. "All of us together makes a statement of where we are today in the dance world," said Debbie Allen in her acceptance speech.

For me, as I gathered all the videos and speeches leading up to the event, and watched each draft come together in the careful hands of Nel Shelby Productions, I got a chance to really look at how much this year's honorees have enriched our field.

I remain in awe of the poetic and elegantly gooey movement of the "philosopher king" Alonzo King; the bold creativity Laurieann Gibson brings to pop stars and TV shows; the boundary-bending storytelling of Camille A. Brown; the physical brilliance and innovative ideas of Carlos Acosta; the iconic inspiration of Debbie Allen; the way Chairman's Award recipient Darren Walker has reshaped the Ford Foundation's philanthropy with an eye to social justice; and the indeed promising choreographic talent of Harkness Promise Award recipients Marjani Forté-Saunders and Kyle Marshall.

Although we were unable to gather in person to celebrate this incredible group, in a gleeful plot twist, holding our ceremony virtually offered new possibilities. We were able to expand our reach of who participated and who was invited, including people who may not have been able to make it to a New York theater like in a traditional year. An exuberant live chat on YouTube took the place of our typical cocktail reception, with dancers, directors, presenters, writers and others virtually mingling and celebrating together in real time. We're now able to make the main ceremony available on demand for anyone who missed it live; you can purchase a pass to watch it on your own time here.

Going digital also allowed us—for the first time ever—to share toasts from several past honorees to this year's cohort in a special preshow celebration. In what was by far the most star-studded Zoom room I've been in during the pandemic, we got to hear personal stories about and well wishes to our 2020 awardees from people like Judith Jamison, Susan Stroman, Alessandra Ferri and many others.

And for an additional online bonus, we hosted a separate Zoom conversation earlier in the day with our two Harkness Promise Award recipients Marjani Forté-Saunders and Kyle Marshall, hearing about their work and what inspires them as engaged artist-citizens.

In his acceptance remarks, Darren Walker quoted Alvin Ailey: "Making dances is an act of progress; it is an act of growth, an act of music, an act of teaching, an act of celebration, an act of joy." Our honorees have proved that statement to be true over and over again.

I'd like to give a big thank you to our sponsors First Republic and Freed of London for helping to make the Dance Magazine Awards happen in these exceptional times. When so much of the dance field remains on hold, it's an honor to be able to lift up the greats among us.


Thank you for celebrating this year's incredible Dance Magazine Award honorees with us. Watch on demand here.

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