On Monday night I got to attend the 2011 Dance Magazine Awards. The event is always chock-full of dance luminaries—both on stage and in the audience—but this year they seemed to shine extra bright.
The 2011 awardees were Dr. William Hamilton, Jenifer Ringer, Alexei Ratmansky, Yvonne Rainer and Kathleen Marshall. The night began with a self-deprecatingly funny Mikhail Baryshnikov presenting to Hamilton, a pioneer in the field of dance medicine. Hamilton was first asked to take care of New York City Ballet in the 1970s by George Balanchine, whom he developed a close friendship with. When accepting his award, Hamilton told of the time he asked Balanchine, "How do you make such beautiful ballets?" Balanchine responed: "It's easy: When I hear beautiful music in my mind I see bodies dancing. Then I just tell the dancers to do that." Right, easy.
New York City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer gave a moving speech thanking all of the people who helped her out of what she calls her "dark years" when she fell out of love with dance. One of those people was her teacher Nancy Bielski, who urged Ringer back into class, and offered a place where she could dance again with no judgment. Another was her now-husband (who presented her with the award) James Fayette who invited her to dance with him in The Nutcracker—no matter how out of shape she thought she was, he just wanted the chance to dance with her.
My favorite part was hearing from Ratmasky, who spoke about his formative years at the Bolshoi School and seeing Balanchine choreography for the first time. Just listening to him, you could tell this was an intelligent artist who lives a rich inner life, who is deeply curious about the world around him. He joked that when he left his post as director of the Bolshoi to become artist in residence at American Ballet Theatre, he rejoiced that he finally had time to go see plays, read books, visit museums—but (fortunately for us) he's been kept busier than ever before, choreographing what feels like a new premiere every other month.
See a highlight reel of the event on dancemedia.com.