PREVIEW: Bessies Nominees Sean Curran and Darrah Carr
“Speaking an old language in a new way with a contemporary accent,” are the words that come to mind for Bessie nominee Sean Curran while discussing collaborations happening in New York’s dance scene. Curran’s own collaboration with Darrah Carr Dance Company earned both the company and guest choreographer a Bessie nomination for Best Production (of a work that stretches the boundaries of a traditional or culturally specific form).
The category is one of many that are more clearly defined in the recent redesign of the Bessie awards and it’s selection committee. The expansion of the Bessie’s selection committee from 15-20 to 41 and a division into subcommittees has allowed for the Bessie’s to reach beyond primarily modern and experimental work to include performances and choreography including ballet, modern, and cultural dance.
The new system is not without its critics; however, the enthusiasm and growth of the Bessie’s as it prepares for its second ceremony at Harlem’s historical Apollo Theater speaks volumes – both for the dance community at large and the artists that are highlighted as a result.
When invited to see the Darrah Carr Dance Company perform the nominated work at DANY studios this past weekend, the enthusiasm of artistic director, dancers, and choreographer alike were all apparent. Artistic Director and Choreographer, Darrah Carr, works in a style she calls modERIN – a blend of traditional Irish step and contemporary modern dance.
“It’s a fused word that encapsulates my interest in drawing from the traditional Irish dance vocabulary and combining it with modern dance choreographic principles to create a blended genre.”
above: The Darrah Carr Dance Company with Sean Curran at the Bessies preview at DANY Studios
Curran’s work brings an additional element of blending in the use of Asian-fusion singer, Sheila Chandra’s music for the nominated work, Dingle Diwali.
“The unison when you don’t have a strict meter or pulse has to be so intuitive and have such a sense of ensemble,” Curran said.
“It was a great lesson in listening and responding. I would have them listen and respond to the sound of the steps, so they were great collaborators.”
When what was originally a small production turned into a Bessie nominated work, both Carr and Curran were pleasantly surprised, both at the recognition but also what the nomination represents.
“I was totally delighted!” Carr said. “I think particularly for the Irish community we’re excited that Irish dance is being recognized in this broader scope and we really appreciate that.”
“This humble modest little experiment in hybridization in dance. That’s what’s exciting to me about it. I made it because I wanted to do it and so it’s great to be recognized,” Curran said.
For the Bessie nomination committee, seeing a larger body of work has allowed for more diverse nominations and an opportunity to bring together and recognize a diverse group of artists.
“It was an interesting one for us to handle as a nomination because it is equally the company and the guest choreographer,” Bessie Director, Lucy Sexton said.
The work was originally performed in front of a small audience before being invited to “Stam-pede” Percussive Dance Festival at Symphony Space where it was seen by members of the Bessie selection committee.
“It doesn’t need to be a run at New York Live Arts. It needs to be doing something that we want to solute,” Sexton said.
Footage of Dingle Diwali and other Bessie nominated will be shown at the Bessie’s held at the Apollo Theater on Monday, October 15. You can also see Curran and Carr’s collaboration at New York University’s Skirball Center during the Tisch Dance alumni concert in early 2013 (Carr MFA, Curran BFA ).
The Bessie Awards will take place on October 15th at the Apollo Theater. For more information visit DanceNYC. Check back with DancePulp for coverage of award winners.