First time winners dominate the National Dance Awards

NDA logoThe Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards for 2016, voted for by Britain’s dance critics, were presented today (February 6, 2017) at a ceremony at the Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre at Sadler’s Wells in London, hosted by Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy MBE and Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante, the creative team behind the highly successful dance company, Boy Blue Entertainment.

Presented by Monica Mason, former artistic director of The Royal Ballet, the prestigious De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement, given for a lifetime contribution to dance or specific major contribution in a given year, was awarded to Dame Beryl Grey in recognition of her remarkable career, which began when she joined Sadler’s Wells Ballet in August 1941, aged 14. That seems remarkable enough these days but then, on only her fifteenth birthday, she danced Odette/Odile in the full-length Swan Lake. She went on to be the first western dancer to guest with the Bolshoi Ballet in 1957-8, later also performing with the Kirov and the Peking and Shanghai Ballets in 1964. She went on to become artistic director of London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) from 1968 to 1979.

Dame Beryl GreyPhoto Andrew Frey-Lempicki
Dame Beryl Grey
Photo Andrew Frey-Lempicki

For the first time, the awards recognised a cross-gender performance with Chase Johnsey, an American dancer with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, winning the Dancing Times Award for Best Male Dancer for his performance in the title role of Paquita, dancing as his alter-ego ballerina, Yekaterina Verbosovich. The ever-popular ‘Trocks’ were also nominated in the Outstanding Company category.

Although this was generally a year of new winners, The Royal Ballet principal dancer, Francesca Hayward was a popular choice for the Grishko Award for Best Female Dancer, just two years after picking up the Emerging Artist Award. That latter award was won by The Royal Ballet first artist Reece Clarke, the third year running it was been picked up by a rising star from the company. Zenaida Yanowsky, who is due to retire at the end of this season, made it a hat-trick of wins for The Royal Ballet with the award for Outstanding Female Performance (Classical) for her performance in the title role of Elizabeth.

Cesar Corrales as Ali in Le CorsairePhoto Laurent Liotardo
Cesar Corrales as Ali in Le Corsaire
Photo Laurent Liotardo

For the second time in the three years of Tamara Rojo’s leadership, English National Ballet was named as winner of the Stef Stefanou Award for Outstanding Company. The award is fully deserved for a company that has made massive strides in its repertory and dancing, and indeed its appeal, in that time. ENB’s dynamic rising star, Cesar Corrales, received the Outstanding Male Performance (Classical) for his bravura showing as Ali in Le Corsaire. Now 56, ballet master Irek Mukhamedov, was also nominated in the category for his role as Diego Rivera in Broken Wings; Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s ballet about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

In the choreography sections, Jonathan Watkins picked up his first award, winning Best Classical Choreography for 1984 for Northern Ballet. The Dance Europe Award for Best Modern Choreography went to Kim Brandstrup for Transfigured Night, made for Rambert.

Northern Ballet in Jonathan Watkins' 1984Photo Emma Kauldhar
Northern Ballet in Jonathan Watkins’ 1984
Photo Emma Kauldhar

This year’s Best Independent Company defined as any of small or medium-scale that does not receive significant external public funding or the significant support of a large theatre) was Gary Clarke Company, which has had such a hit with Coal during the year.

It was surely no surprise that the awards for Outstanding Performance in Modern Dance went to dancers who appeared in the two large-scale stand-out shows of the year. Canadian actor, Jonathon Young took the male award for Betroffenheit for Kidd Pivot/Electric Company Theatre, seen at Sadler’s Wells and back this season, while Chien Ching-ying (簡晶瀅) picked up the female award for her powerful performance in the remarkable Until the Lions for Akram Khan Company, a production that deservedly picked up multiple nominations.


Finally, the One Dance UK Industry Award, determined by a separate panel of judges chosen by Dance UK, went to Brenda Last, dancer, ballet mistress and wonderful teacher, who was a founder member of Western Theatre Ballet sixty years ago this year. She later joined Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet and was subsequently artistic director of the Norwegian National Ballet.

Gary Clarke Company in CoalPhoto Joe Armitage
Gary Clarke Company in Coal
Photo Joe Armitage

Chairman of the Awards committee, Graham Watts OBE, stressed the importance of expert opinion as the determining factor for the awards, noting in his opening remarks that they are determined by more than 30 critics with several hundred years of experience between them, who collectively watch thousands of performances, each year. Such is the quality they found, that some 450 dancers, choreographers and companies were recommended for an award this year, a new record. Reflecting the incredible range and international nature of dance in the UK, this year’s nominees came from a range of genres, and featured nominees of more than 20 nationalities. “More than half the nominees and award winners come from outside the UK and long may that diversity continue,” He said.’

With the exception of the One Dance UK award, the National Dance Awards are voted for by the members of the Dance Section of the UK Critics’ Circle. To be eligible, performances had to be given in the UK between September 1, 2015 and August 31, 2016.

Miguel Altunaga and Simone Damberg Wurtz in Kim Brandstrup's Transfigured NightPhoto Johan Persson
Miguel Altunaga and Simone Damberg Wurtz in Kim Brandstrup’s Transfigured Night
Photo Johan Persson

Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards Winners 2016 in summary

Emerging Artist Award (sponsored By The L&M Trust)
Reece Clarke (first artist, The Royal Ballet)

Best Independent Company (sponsored by DWFM Beckman)
Gary Clarke Company

Best Classical Choreography (sponsored by The Ballet Association)
Jonathan Watkins for 1984 by Northern Ballet

Outstanding Male Performance (Modern) (sponsored by The Critics’ Circle)
Jonathon Young in Betroffenheit by Kidd Pivot/Electric Company Theatre

Outstanding Female Performance (Classical) (sponsored by Lee Mclernon)
Zenaida Yanowsky in the title role as Elizabeth by The Royal Ballet

Dance Europe Award for Best Modern Choreography
Kim Brandstrup for Transfigured Night by Rambert

Outstanding Male Performance (Classical) (sponsored by The Office for Architectural Culture)
Cesar Corrales as Ali in Le Corsaire by English National Ballet

Outstanding Female Performance (Modern) (sponsored by Northern Ballet)
Chien Ching-ying (簡晶瀅) in Until the Lions by Akram Khan Company

Jane Attenborough One Dance UK Industry Award (sponsored by Sprizzato]
Brenda Last OBE

Grishko Award for Best Female Dancer
Francesca Hayward of The Royal Ballet

Dancing Times Award for Best Male Dancer
Chase Johnsey of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Stef Stefanou Award for Outstanding Company
English National Ballet

De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement
Dame Beryl Grey