by Sandi Durell
The 2019 Chita Rivera Awards was a star-studded evening on the red carpet, during interviews and in amazing performances at the NYU Skirball Center for Performing Arts throughout a 2 hour homage to everything and everyone connected to dance. Produced by Joe Lanteri (Founder and Executive Director of New York City Dance Alliance Foundation, Inc. in conjunction with Patricia Watt. Joe Lanteri is currently on the cover of Dance Teacher Magazine as co-owner and Executive Director at Steps on Broadway. Carol Paumgarten, winner of this year’s Vanguard Award, is the founder/co-owner/artistic director of Steps and offered up some wonderful history when accepting her Award.
Hosting the evening were icons Ann Reinking and Ben Vereen and they were fun and funny in their presentations. The evening opened with the Radio City Rockettes giving a rousing “New York, New York” welcome and the inimitable Joe Lanteri talking about NYCDA (with video) and the many scholarships and awards offered to talented teens – the future generation of dance. Smokey Joe’s Cafe singer-dancers Dwayne Cooper, John Edwards, Jelani Remy and Kyle Taylor Parker performed “On Broadway,” followed by the first off- Broadway awards presentation by Luann DeLesseps, Marilu Henner and Ethan Slater (all nominees/winners listed below).
Favorite Angie Schworer with Gabi Campo did more than justice to what they do eight times a week in The Prom – “Zazz” (choreography Casey Nicholaw) followed by Michael Riedel who presented awards in the film/documentary category.
Kiss Me, Kate‘s talented cast Corbin Bleu, Will Burton, Rick Faugno and Stephanie Styles provided some grand comedy performing “Tom, Dick or Harry”(choreography Warren Carlyle) and Ain’t Too Proud-The Life and Times of the Temptations cast members (Saint Aubyn, Shawn Bowers, E. Clayton Cornelious, Taylor Symone Jackson, Jelani Remy, Nasia Thomas, Curtis Wiley and Candice Marie Woods – choreography Sergio Trujillo) had the audience bopping in their seats to some of the tunes “Get Ready”/ “You Can’t Hurry Love”/ Baby Love” and more.
Ambassadors for the Arts Award was announced by Damon J. Gillespie and Micaela Diamond and presented by Andy Blankenbuehler to Flody Suarez, Jeffrey Seller and Cher (who was on a bus to a gig in Canada); Patricia Watt and Lee Roy Reams, together with Richard Thomas presented the Douglas & Ethel Watt Critics’ Choice Award honoring Fay Driscoll, followed by an astounding tap routine from Curtis Holland choreographed by Savion Glover, with Mark Hummel on piano. Camile A. Brown led the presentation by Savion Glover to George C. Wolfe, with the SDC Director Award . This was followed by a heart rending, powerful performance of” Wheels of a Dream” (Ragtime) sung by Brian Stokes Mitchell and wife Allyson Tucker.
Leading up to the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to the iconic Graciela Daniele was an excerpt from “Cada Noche…Tango” restaged by Nancy Turano, featuring Shelby Colona, Julius Anthony Rubio and Jhusen Torres, of Grazicela’s 1988 Tango Apasionado for Ballet Hispanico. Film clips of her life and work was riveting. Mary Testa led the presentation as Chita Rivera and partner danced onto the stage in tango! A WOW moment! The Award was presented by Chita with extraordinary film clips of Ms. Daniele’s life in the arts. She thanked her husband of 45 years “who lived with a crazy Latin woman.” TheBroadway Presentations came next and you can see the winners below.The heart warming closing Just Getting Started was to “Colorful” (Jukebox The Ghost) featuring a bevy of young up and coming young dancers (ages 10 thru teens) from Dance Academy of New Jersey – choreographer Jason Luk, all outfitted in white. They are the future of dance and after witnessing the exceptional talent of the evening, it’s evident the genre will survive and thrive.
Photos: Magda Katz
Filming/Editing/Interviews: Sandi Durell