On Monday, December 5, Dance Magazine recognized outstanding members of the dance community who have made invaluable contributions to the field. Honored that night: Dr. William Hamilton, ballerina Jenifer Ringer and choreographers Alexei Ratmansky, Yvonne Rainer and Kathleen Marshall. (Click their names to read about each artist.)
Though there were five tangible awards given that night, here are a few superlatives that deserve mention:
Most interesting fact:
Dr. William Hamilton, who was approached by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein to be the official doctor for New York City Ballet and School of American Ballet, said this: “Mr. B was the first person that allowed us to establish therapy within the theater for the company.” So due to Mr. B and Dr. Hamilton, physical therapists working with dance companies is now, thankfully, common practice.
Happiest news mentioned:
Ballerina Jennifer Ringer is pregnant with her second child!
Best dry humor:
It’s a tie between Alexei Ratmansky and Yvonne Rainer’s acceptance speeches.
–Here, Ratmansky speaks about his upbringing at the Russian Bolshoi Ballet School during communist reign: “Our teacher never taught us about Baryshnikov; he was not allowed to. He knew if the word would be out, he would be fired. I knew the names of Balanchine, Ashton, of Robbins, and of Tudor. And I knew that Balanchine made a fatal mistake by going to America: He started to make meaningless, emotionless ballets that were just bare entertainment or intellectual exercises for capitalist states.”
–And after a film of Yvonne Rainer and Group (including Becky Arnold, Barbara Dilley, Douglass Dunn, David Gordon and Rainer) during a residency at ADF in 1969, Rainer frames her out-of-the-box and thought-provoking career:
“I am totally honored to be here with so many luminaries. I mean looking at this film, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘You call that dance?’ I guess that’s been my mantra for all these years.”
Sutton Foster: The short, camisole black romper with silver beads was absolutely stunning, and showed off her legs. Which, by the way are approximately a mile long.
Most blunt statement:
Mikhail Baryshnikov, who presented the first award to Dr. Hamilton, opened his speech with this zinger: “Anyone who knows me, knows that this event is not my favorite way to spend an evening. But when I was approached to present this award to Bill Hamilton, how could I resist? And this morning, as I was writing these few words, I realized that just my standing up here in front of you would be the best testament to Bill.”
But the overarching best moment of all during the awards was when the awardees thanked their teachers, first and foremost, for their success. Here’s what they said:
There were four people who brought me back to loving dance, and the first was my ballet teacher, Nancy Bielski, who has taught me since I was 14. I bumped into her on the street, and she said, “You know, just come and take my class. You can take for free. I don’t care what you look like or how you dance. I just think it’d be nice for you to move to some music.” And I did. She gave me a supportive environment with no judgments in which I could just go and take class. And I started to love to dance again.
I studied with Merce Cunningham, and he opened up a whole new world of possibility for me—Cunningham and John Cage. I quickly realized that I wasn’t fit to join his company—my legs too short, torso too long, no turnout. But Merce opened up a way to think about the body and think about movement in a whole new way, and his early dances were truly revelatory to me.
When I met John [Meehan], he brought my wife and I to Canada. At the beginning I was skeptical; what could he teach me? I know about Sleeping Beauty, a little more than him I thought. But he said, “When you do double assemblé, you push from the floor with a lttle more force.” And when I found myself higher in the air, I started to trust him. Then came Merrill Ashley, and she said, “Cross your legs when you do tendu.” …I realized there is so much more in ballet than I knew… There are many other styles and by learning different things you can only enrich yourself.
I didn’t start dancing until I was 13; I thought ballet was for snobby little girls on Saturday mornings, and I didn’t want to have any part of it. But then when I became more interested in musical theater, I found dance was something I could do, and started taking ballet class with Mario Melladia. It was a packaged deal with ballet and tap. I had no interest in tap, but tried it because it came with the package, but I’m glad I did! We wouldn’t be here without people that helped us along way, and those are my teachers.