2014 Bessie Awards Bring New York's Widespread Dance Community Together
The Bessie Awards are given to the past dance season's cream of the crop in categories like performance, choreography, and visual design. The awards are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, and New York City's dance landscape has changed quite a bit over the past three decades.
Bessie Awards' Director Lucy Sexton got her start in professional dance right around the time the awards were established in 1983. She recalls living in downtown Manhattan as a young artist.
"Everyone that I knew was really living within one or two square miles of my apartment," she said. "So we were all working in restaurants, or in bars, or going to see the same shows."
Sexton says the enormous cost of rent in Manhattan these days has drastically changed where many dancers live and perform.
"They can't afford to live in Manhattan," she said. "So they're living farther and father into the boroughs, and creating great scenes there. You were never able to get a person to come see your show in Brooklyn, and now it's quite common."
Sexton says artists in the culture industry today face a serious challenge trying to make a living in New York.
"[The culture industry] is why tourists come, it's why people come, it's why people write about the city," she said. "But the workers in that industry are paid very little, and now that it's an increasingly hard place to afford, there's an interesting crunch."
Sexton says events like the Bessie Awards serve as a rare opportunity to bring the increasingly-dispersed dance community together for a night to reflect on the best performances in New York City as a whole.
The Bessie Awards are tonight at 7:30. Anyone interested in attending the ceremony can purchase tickets for $10 online or in person at the Apollo Theater box office. Some highlights include live performances from three decades of Bessie-recognized work, as well as the presentation of two special awards to Arthur Mitchell and Dr. Chuck Davis. Click here for a full list of nominees and performers.