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Reflecting on the 2014 Capezio A.C.E. Awards

The Capezio A.C.E. Awards never disappoint. This year’s competition, held at the Hilton New York on August 2, was once again an exciting display of young creative talent. Enjoyed by a full and eager audience of dance educators at Dance Teacher Summit, this year’s dance acts were more varied than the last with a mix of contemporary, hip-hop, musical theatre, tap and jazz numbers and the use of many props including leashes, a carpet and tape.

The A.C.E. Awards, first held in 2009, have become a prestigious platform for emerging choreographers to display their work. Those lucky enough to place receive $15,000, $5,000 or $3,000 dollars and a chance to present a full-length work in New York City or Los Angeles.

Talia Favia wins the 2014 Capezio A.C.E. Awards! Talia center, with Braham Crane of ASH and Nina Vance of Capezio. Photo by Dance Informa.

Talia Favia wins the 2014 Capezio A.C.E. Awards! Talia center, with Braham Crane of ASH and Nina Vance of Capezio. Photo by Dance Informa.

The choreographers chosen to present work this year were Jared Baker, Jesus Velasco Mondragon, Cherisse Wakeham, Emma Portner, Jaclyn Walsh, Derek Mitchell, Ashley Schofield, Teddy Tedholm, Vernard J. Gilmore, Abdur-Rahim Jackson, Jessie Hartley Riley, Elissa Edwards, Caleb Teicher, Erin Pasko, Jon Rua, Nathan Madden, Juliette Irons, Talia Favia and Kirsten Russell.

Gil Stroming of Break the Floor Productions made mention that several of this year’s choreographers had come back for a second time, showing persistence and dedication.

To begin the evening, Capezio Athletes Alexis Juliano and Curtis Holland gave us a fun, energetic tap performance in the new Capezio Tapsonic shoes. They showed off the revolutionary new shoes and their own tap prowess. The sleek new shoes and stronger sound definitely caught our attention. Anthony Morigerato, also a Capezio Athlete, gave an engrossing performance on a tap board later in the program, wearing his custom Capezio K360 tap shoes. He is a superstar! The crowd erupted in applause and a standing ovation. I dare say that his performance was my favorite of the night, and he wasn’t even a competitor!

There were many interesting performances from strong, technical, engaging dancers, but the overall standout piece was Talia Favia’s Godhead. The piece had real conviction and was rehearsed to perfection. It started with a stunning duet and progressed into an ingenious group section. The dancers placed tape over their mouths to present the idea of being silenced and captive. The work was thought provoking and it ebbed and flowed. It was the most complete and well-constructed work presented and I wasn’t surprised that it took the top prize.

Cherisse Wakeham

Cherrise Wakeham, 1st Runner Up, with her dancers. Photo by Dance Informa.

Cherrise Wakeham’s breathtaking She received 1st Runner Up. It was a celebration of the beauty and strength of women and it blew the audience away as they erupted in applause. It was colorful and furious, yet precise, and the dancers used long skirts to sweep us away into their world. Wakeham’s She was refreshing and empowering, and a deserved place getter.

Emma Portner’s dark and intriguing Let Go, Or Be Dragged received 2nd Runner Up. It was definitely an interesting and different piece that stood out in the program. Portner’s unique, precise and unusual movement vocabulary caught our attention and a creative use of leashes helped portray her message and keep us entertained. The leashes must have translated into many extra hours of rehearsal for her and the dancers!

Other standout works included Jon Rua’s Stuck, which was a hip-hop piece about feeling trapped. It was strong and performed with the right balance between power and subtlety. Ashley Schofield’s Au. Ton. O. My had the dancers in gorgeous black dresses with open backs presenting beautiful lines and a breathtaking ending. Black & Blue by Teddy Tedholm had a simple, pedestrian quality to it. It was totally mesmerizing and relatable. Elissa Edwards Drifting from our Nature was stunning and Jessie Hartley Riley’s No Need to Fear had some well-constructed partner work, lovely lines and a spirit about it that reminded me of why I love dance.

“Once again we were thrilled to be the title sponsor of the Capezio A.C.E. awards,” said Nina Vance, EVP of Global Marketing at Capezio. As one of the judges, she acknowledged, “The talent this year was amazing, making the judging process more difficult than ever. We would like to thank the emerging choreographers and dancers that participated. They are truly destined to be the stars of tomorrow.”

This photo and top photo: Talia Favia's 'Godhead.' Photo courtesy of Break The Floor.

This photo and top photo: Talia Favia’s ‘Godhead.’ Photos courtesy of Break The Floor.

It’s always such a treat to see the varied work of up-and-coming choreographers and their dancers. I look forward to next year’s Capezio A.C.E. Awards and particularly the Winners’ Festival where we can see these three choreographers present their work.

At this year’s Winners’ Festival, I was lucky enough to see Gray Street by Andre Kasten and Awakening by Lindsay Nelko. Kasten was the 2013 1stRunner Up and Nelko was one of two 2nd Runner Ups. Both works were a true testament to the vision of the Capezio A.C.E. Awards. These talented young choreographers were able to present professional shows in New York at the Ailey Citigroup Theater and build on what they had presented last year in the competition. The prize money and the production support of Break the Floor helped them make their dreams a reality. “Dreams really do come true!” said Lindsay Nelko in her program notes.

Article by Deborah Searle of Dance Informa.

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