I went to the Sage Awards last night, and I feel as though I should write a little bit on it. If you’re simply interested in knowing who won, go here.
What is there to say about award shows? People always look fantastic. Skinny shiney suits and hip-hugging dresses and heels and platforms and legs and limps and make-up and hair styles. I understand finally why a television network like E! will make a point of covering every entrance to every awards show in Hollywood. If you’re looking for action at an awards show, it may be that the only noteworthy thing is what people decide to wear. (Next year, maybe, MinnesotaPlaylist will find a fashion blogger for both the Ivey’s and the Sage Awards. You want the job?)
I have gone to the Sage Awards more than the Ivey Awards even though I work primarily in theater. I enjoy them more because they’re smaller, and I kind of freak out in crowds. Also, I don’t have any opinions about who should be honored. I have little frame of reference in the dance world for what a worthy awardee would be so I’m just happy for everyone.
Rosy Simas made a heartfelt speech about the matrilineal ancestry in her family and their influence on the piece that won an award. Mike Grogan, light designer, remembered to thank the backstage crew at the Cowles Center and choked up when talking about his feelings toward choreographer Marciano Silva dos Santos’s work. Then choked up again when thanking his wife and child. Nice. Judith Howard, who won the award for dance educator (maybe that’s a category the Ivey’s should add?), had a paper doll of a dancer sticking out of her pocket when she picked up her award and riffed adorably if incomprehensively on making paper dolls with her students (and also playing dress-up with them) while accepting her award.
The first Sage Awards I ever witnessed was at the Southern Theater and I remember being thoroughly charmed by how uncomfortable dancers were with the microphone and how collegial the entire affair felt. Dancer discomfort with words was on display again this year—Outstanding Dance Performers Jesse Neumann-Peterson and Duncan Schultz both seemed more comfortable twirling than talking—but more dancers than I remembered seemed both just as articulate and just as awkward as any actors or directors at the Ivey’s. Have people grown more polished? Is the Cowles Center auditorium less an adorably-grassrootsy stage than the Southern? Or does simply everything lose its innocent charm after a few go-rounds?
Regardless—here’s something about the Sage Awards that encapsulates how different an awards show it appears to me: The first excerpted performance of the evening from Patrick Scully’s Leaves of Grass Uncut featured four men moving together in silence. And total silence filled the hall. I have trouble imagining many glitzy, glamourous affairs that would be able to harness the attention of all the bubbly attendees for some silent post-modern movementy stuff. I didn’t understand the piece but I enjoyed the deep attentive energy it was given.
Here are some other differences between the Sage Awards and our own local Ivey Awards, for those of you who either don’t know or like to keep score: The Sage Awards has nominees in set categories, and nominees and winners are chosen by a panel of judges who meet periodically throughout the year to discuss what they’re seeing. (This year’s judges were Diane Aldis, Leah Cooper, Jay Gabler, Paul Herwig, Sam Johnson, Sarah La Rose Holland, Leslie O’Neill, Eve Schulte, Marciano Silva dos Santos, Mary Stark , Edna Stevens, and Taja Will) The judges are predominantly dancers and choreographers but also other knowledgeable people from the performing arts community.
Why do we care about awards shows?
On the other hand, the Ivey’s have no categories and the awards are based on the written evaluations of a much larger pool of general audience members. Does this mean that the Sage awards are less populist and more esoteric? Would one be better than other (if it were true)? Does it mean that more people are motivated to come because they’ve been nominated? Or less people come because they haven’t been nominated? Does any of it matter? (Are foundations or audiences making any judgments on artists and companies based on whether they’ve won an annual award? Should they?) Which all begs the question--why do we care about awards shows?
Here’s my conclusion—not a direct answer to any of those questions and highly personal—for some reason, the Sage Awards remind me to make more and better work that truly honors my own artistic vision. Maybe it is a result of the diversity of the nominees on display or the diversity of the panel. Maybe it is the insider-ish atmosphere that the Sage Awards cultivate. Maybe it is the strangeness of the event for a theater guy. For whatever reason, I left the awards last night eager to sit down with a pen and paper this morning and get to the work of writing. I can’t put my finger on it—cause the Sage Awards are also rag-tag and talky and, like all awards shows, a surprisingly bland experience—and yet here I am inspired as an artist.
Maybe this—The awards are very much presented in the generous spirit of the artist and arts patron Sage Cowles in whose honor the awards are named (and who passed away this year). Maybe in some way, awards are a way of saying to an artist—and the Sage Awards themselves are a way of saying to a community of dance artists what Sage Cowles often said with her attention on dance—We believe in you.
That’s a feeling that makes me want to make more and better work.