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Dance Magazine awards go to Williams, Marks and Holmes, and Bessy; Cortez gets citation.

NEW YORK CITY -- The Dance Magazine Awards, an institution in the dance world since I 1954, this year go to Claude Bessy, Bruce Marks and Anna-Marie Holmes, and Dudley Williams, Dance Magazine editor in chief Richard Philp announced. A special citation goes to Hernando Cortez and Dancers Responding to AIDS. The awards will be presented May 5 at the Asia Society in New York City. This year's winners represent a wide spectrum of what superb dancemakers can do as performers, teachers, directors, and activists to shape the art's history.

The Dance Magazine Award honors significant contributions to dance. Dance Magazine editors and correspondents from around the world submit nominations, with a panel of senior editors selecting the awardees. This year's recipients were chosen by a panel chaired by senior editor Clive Barnes and including Philp, Doris Hering, Marilyn Hunt, Robert Greskovic, Hilary Ostlere, and Tobi Tobias.


Claude Bessy is the director of the Paris Opera Ballet School.

Only a few years after she joined POB, Bessy drew the attention of some of the century's leading choreographers. In 1947 George Balanchine noticed her beauty, grace, and suppleness and gave her solos in Le Palais de cristal (Symphony in C) and Serenade. Serge Lifar displayed her brilliance in Les Mirages in 1954 and in Chemin de lumiere in 1957. She created the role of Venus in John Cranko's La belle Helene and introduced jazz to the Opera in 1960 when she danced in Gene Kelly's Pas de Dieux to the music of George Gershwin.

In 1958 Bessy became the first ballerina from POB to be invited to dance with American Ballet Theatre. She also performed with the Bolshoi and other major companies in Europe and Latin America. In 1967 she was in a serious car accident that might have ended her career, but within a few months she returned to the stage in Daphnis and Chloe, triumphing over injuries that would have felled most performers. Three years later, she became the company's ballet mistress. In one of her last appearances before retiring from the stage in 1975, she designed a program for Maurice Bejart at the Palais des Sports and took the lead in his Bolero.

Bessy has also been involved in theater and film, appearing with Kelly in Invitation to the Dance as well as in many television productions. A gifted choreographer, she created Studio 60, Les Fourmis, and Play-Bach and several other ballets for the school. Under her tutelage, the pupils of the school have won medals and prizes in Moscow and Varna and in Japan. She is an officer of the Legion of Honor and author of two books, Danseuse Etoile and La Danse et l'enfant.



When Bruce Marks was hired to head the financially troubled Boston Ballet in 1985, no one imagined that it would become, under his direction, one of the top companies in the United States. It owed $1.5 million, drew bad press, and was housed in a crumbling garage. To fulfill his mandate to increase the prestige of the company, Marks decided that the only way to succeed would be to acquire the best ballets and best dancers available. Within a year, BB was in the black and on its way to greater profitability. One of Marks's greatest coups was getting Fernando Bujones involved with the company. Having the superstar as a regular guest artist demonstrated to other major dancers that Boston was a good place to perform, and big names meant bigger audiences. How did he do it? "One task at a time," Marks responds.

Marks then turned to revitalizing the repertory. In 1986 he commissioned Mark Morris's Mort Subite, in 1988 Monica Levy's Ghosts, and in 1992, he held a monthlong festival of modern dance that included works by Twyla Tharp, Bill T. Jones, and Bebe Miller. He followed that success with a monthlong "American Festival" of contemporary ballet in 1995.

Marks did more than produce an excellent company. He created a way to ensure its future: an affiliate school which now has more than 2,500 students. Additionally, the Boston Ballet Center for Dance Education offers numerous educational and outreach programs. These include Citydance, a tuition-free training program for public school children, and special performances for the visually and hearing-impaired. To house all these new departments, Marks spearheaded a three-year $7.6 million fund-raising effort to build the company a new home. In 1991 a state-of-the-art facility in Boston's South End opened, and since then he's added two new school locations in the suburbs of Newton and Norwell. Although Marks recently announced his retirement, he will still advise on special events. He wants to finish two books: his autobiography and a book of portraits of great dancers he has known -- among others, Ruth St. Denis, Pearl Lang, and Doris Humphrey.

Anna-Marie Holmes has been Marks's associate director at Boston since he took over. Because of her great knowledge of the Russian style, Marks hired her as a ballet mistress to coach and rehearse the company's varied repertory. Her Russian experience began when she and her then-husband, David Holmes, went to the Kirov Ballet in 1962. The Russians saw in them traces of the Soviet style, a result of their training with former Kirov dancer Lydia Karpova.

The couple were invited to Leningrad, where they studied with some of the Kirov's legendary members, including Alexander Pushkin and Natalia Dudinskaya. They learned many ballets, including the classics, and performed with the company. Dudinskaya called Holmes "one of the finest ballerinas in the West."

Holmes has set Russian classics on companies all over the world. She appeared with the London Festival Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and others. In Boston, she has staged The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Don Quixote, and, this year, with Dudinskaya and Vadim Desnitsky, the American premiere of The Pirate (Le Corsaire).

Holmes becomes director of Boston Ballet when Marks retires this year. "I want us to tour more," she says, "because I want more people to see what we've been able to do."


Dudley Williams has been impressing audiences since he joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1964. The tall, elegant dancer performs all his roles with passion and exquisite detail. "I started to dance by accident," he explains. "I'd gone to the High School of Music and Art to audition as a pianist and found that I was too late to apply. They asked if I did anything else. I replied, `I dance.' I've never looked back."

Among his greatest roles is "I Want To Be Ready" in Ailey's Revelations. Arlene Croce wrote in her book, Afterimages: "Williams's technique transfigures him and becomes, seemingly, the result of the religious idealism of the son -- he is ready."

In recent years, Williams has been passing on his knowledge to students at the Alvin Ailey school. "I try to teach the freedom in movement," he explains, "I want them to feel the liberty to feel differently. I tell them, `Please don't kick and spin for me: I want to see something else. Move with reckless abandon.' " This is how he danced and why audiences who saw him will never forget him.




Hernando Cortez founded Dancers Responding to AIDS with Denise Roberts, another Paul Taylor dancer, in 1991 to raise money for colleagues stricken with HIV and AIDS. The money is distributed to dance professionals living with HIV or full-blown AIDS to subsidize expenses such as rent, health insurance, and other important services. "It was well into the epidemic," Cortez says, explaining why he started DRA, "and every other art had mobilized except dance." He also wanted to remove the stigma attached to the disease so that when dancers and choreographers got sick, they wouldn't feel the need to hide it from the public. Before DRA, dancers only banded together to deal with the problems connected with HIV and AIDS within their own companies. Once DRA was established, they began to interact and form stronger bonds.

Now a part of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, DRA raises money through events and collections at performances. Its first series of gala benefits at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase showed the effectiveness of a united group of dancers. Crowds came and reviewers loved it. DRA made $100,000 in 1996 and $125,000 in 1995.

Last year, performers from ABT, Paul Taylor Dance Company, New York City Ballet, and other troupes drew audiences and money to Fire Island near New York City, Martha's Vineyard, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. At the Kennedy Center, works by choreographers who died of AIDS were performed.

Although Cortez spends most of his time running DRA, he also continues to choreograph and conduct master classes. He left the Taylor company in 1996, and has since choreographed for the ABT Studio Company. He has also started his own troupe, Cortez and Company, which will perform June 19 to 22 at Dance Theater Workshop.
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Title Annotation:Dudley Williams, Bruce Marks and Anna-Marie Holmes, Claude Bessy, Hernando Cortez
Author:Gladstone, Valerie
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:May 1, 1997
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