DANCE | 2010 SAGE Awards honor Twin Cities’ best dancemakers


Starting with next year’s SAGE Awards, the several panelists who determine the award winners will not be themselves eligible to recieve awards. When that announcement was made Tuesday night at the Southern Theater, a voice rose from the back: “Who’s left?”

The joker was acknowledging the modest size of the Twin Cities dance community, a group that precisely filled the Southern: two latecomers, arriving just as the ceremony was beginning, were handed the last two tickets remaining to be sold. Still, what the ceremony most resoundingly demonstrated was the richness of the local dance scene. Hundreds of shows and performers were considered for this year’s 11 awards. (How were the winners chosen? The awards’ website has detailed information, but panelist Penelope Freeh summed it up by saying they used “an anonymous voting mathematical process.”)

The SAGE Awards, founded by choreographer Stuart Pimsler and first awarded in 2005, are named for longtime performer, choreographer, and educator Sage Cowles. (Why the capitalization? These are dancers—they do things big.) Tuesday night’s ceremony, hosted by composer Mary Ellen Childs and featuring live music by 6th and Vine, featured panelists honoring “final nominees” and naming winners in six categories. There were also dance performances by past SAGE winners Vanessa Voskuil, Jane Shockley, and the Wild Goose Chase Cloggers with the DeLaSoulja Steppers and RDM.

The evening’s highlights included Zenon Dance Company director Linda Andrews accepting her company’s award for Outstanding Performing Ensemble and speaking frankly of how the local dance community is beginning to overcome longstanding divisions (“There was always this or that shit going on”); and the mother of Brian Evans, one of the three winners for Outstanding Performer, accepting on her son’s behalf. (He was out of town filming a movie.) Explaining how she became a widow when her son was only seven years old, Evans’s mother acknowledged her parents (“My dad is probably thinking, ‘I guess that first dance was about a bird or something'”) and read a gracious note of acceptance from her son.

Gary Peterson, executive director of the Southern Theater, paid tribute to the three final nominees for the Special Citation award—the SAGE version of a lifetime achievement award. The winner was Patrick Scully, founder of Patrick’s Cabaret, who said he’d learned from the Video Music Awards that a good acceptance speech should have three parts: a thank you (done and done), something inspiring (the Berlin Wall falling, advances in gay rights), and a shameless plug (his upcoming one-man show, the story of 25 years of being HIV-positive).

All recipients were awarded rectangular plaques with renditions of Sage Cowles rendered by artist Amy Rice. At the post-show reception, Andrews carried hers around under her arm. Outstanding Design winner Paul Herwig held his in one hand and accepted contragulatory handshakes with the other. Freeh, a winner for Outstanding Performer, stuck hers in a shopping bag and headed out the door to continue dancing, teaching, and creating.

2010 SAGE Award winners

Outstanding Performance
Francis Kofi and Hayor Bibimma, Anyendo Hwendo “Rainbow Spirit”
Uri Sands, Earth
Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy, Ihrah: Sacred Water

Outstanding Design
Paul Herwig, set design for The Jury
Deborah Jinza Thayer, concept and production design for Ode to Dolly

Outstanding Performing Ensemble
Zenon Dance Company, fall season, spring season, and The Pearl Fishers

Outstanding Performer
Brian Evans, Just One More, In Between-Between Places, The Jury, Abandon Me, A Word With You Dear, Tales from the Book of Longing
Penny Freeh, We’ll Survive If We Don’t Protect Ourselves, Tributes, The Ballet Works Project, Ode to Dolly, Moving Works
Rachel Barnes, Femme de la Swashbuckle Box, Ode to Dolly, Dougieland, Blue Channel Rivulets, and INwards

Special Citation
Patrick Scully

Outstanding Educator
Becky Stanchfield