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Capezio A.C.E. Awards 2013

Erica Sobol Capezio ACE Awards Erica Sobol's winning piece 'Black Flies/Heavy Skies' at the Capezio A.C.E. Awards. Photo courtesy of Dance Teacher Summit.

By Deborah Searle of Dance Informa.

The 2013 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, held at Dance Teacher Summit NYC on August 6, were once again an exciting display of young choreographic talent from across America. During the same week the Capezio A.C.E. Awards Winners Festival was held at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, showcasing the work of last year’s three prize winners Melinda Sullivan, Dana Foglia and Bree Hafen.

The A.C.E. Awards, fist held in 2009, have become a prestigious platform for emerging choreographers to display their work. Those lucky enough to place receive $15,000, $5000 or $3,000 dollars and a chance to present a full length work in New York City.

Lindsay Nelko's Awakening

Lindsay Nelko's 'Awakening' at the 2013 Capezio A.C.E. Awards competition. Photo courtesy of Dance Teacher Summit.

2013 Capezio A.C.E Awards Winners Festival

Attending this year’s Winner’s Festival, I was able to see the role that the Capezio A.C.E. Awards has played in the careers of last year’s competition winners. The three budding choreographers were given a valuable opportunity to present work in New York City and a chance to build on a work that had been validated by the judging panel of the Capezio A.C.E. Awards. The show was even marketed and produced for them by Break the Floor Productions, ensuring a packed house.

I personally enjoyed seeing what the three choreographers created and felt that they all brought a professional, interesting product to the stage. Melinda Sullivan’s Gone was a tap and theater piece about loss and grief. Although not as gritty or punchy in a full length work as her short prize winning piece from the 2012 Awards, the work was real and full of high quality tap dancing.

Bree Hafen’s Positive Space displayed the skills of the young talented dancers of Dallas Repertoire Ballet and her pretty, lyrical style of contemporary. She presented three different pieces full of warmth and life. They were all well performed and easy to follow, with engaging, emotional story lines.

Dana Foglia’s work, I Am...We Are..., was an edgy, sexy and sharp tornado of jazz and hip hop infused commercial dance that left the audience in a standing ovation. With clever use of mirrors, tape, balls, hats, wheeled desk chairs and checkered floor squares the work had many interesting elements and was thoroughly entertaining.

2013 Capezio A.C.E. Awards competition

The 2013 Awards, although not as varied as past years, gave the audience a display of contemporary, jazz, hip hop and even some break dance.  The lucky choreographers chosen to present work were Juliette Irons, Lindsay Nelko, Elissa Edwards, Eryn Waltman, Missy Lay Zimmer with Andrew Hubbard, Liz Schmidt, Ashley Lindsey, Derek Mitchell, Jacob Jonas, Abdur-Rahim Jackson, Andrea Viola, Jon Bond, Erica Sobol, Rhapsody James, Jeremy McQueen and Andre Kasten.

The stand out piece of the night was Erica Sobol’s Black Flies/Heavy Skies. With seven male dancers dressed in old fashioned white pajamas, the work was very gestural with great musicality. The movement was pure and organic. The male dancers were perfectly synchronized and so committed to every nuance of movement. A crowd favorite, it was also the pick of the judges, with an elated Sobol taking home $15,000 cash. I personally can’t wait to see how she develops this dance into a full length show at next year’s Winners Festival.

Capezio ACE Awards Jacob Jonas

Jacob Jonas' 'In A Room on Broad Street'. Photo courtesy of Dance Teacher Summit.

Lindsay Nelko presented a neo-classical, contemporary ballet piece, Awakening, that also caught the eye of the judges. With six dancers in nude leotards and shorts, the piece featured light and airy partner work with clever use of white netting as a floating and flying prop. It was so ethereal and breathtaking that the audience seemed transported; it became so quiet that you could have heard a pin drop. Nelko’s work was awarded second runner-up alongside a vastly different work by street dancer Jacob Jonas.

“The Capezio A.C.E. Awards was such an incredible experience and I am so thankful. I was honored to have placed second runner up amongst so many talented artists. To be able to mount my contemporary ballet show in NYC next summer is an exceptional feeling,” said an excited Nelko.

Jacob Jonas’s piece, In A Room on Broad Street, showed us inside the lives of strangers sitting in a room with a fun fusion of hip hop, break, animation, jazz and contemporary dance. It was energetic and entertaining, and where some fusions feel clunky, Jonas’ piece soared. The audience was rightly appreciative.

Andre Kasten's Family Matters

Andre Kasten's 'Family Matters'. Photo courtesy of Dance Teacher Summit.

First runner-up was awarded to the last piece of the night, Andre Kasten’s unique Family Matters. Creating a visual spectacle, the dancers rubbed chalk between their hands and all over their bodies, filling the air with white clouds of dust. The music was beautiful and the hurried, desperate choreography and well-constructed floor work all came together to create an engaging and interesting work…and a stage covered in dust!

"The Capezio A.C.E. Awards was an unforgettable experience that I will always look back on as the launching point for my career in choreography”, said Kasten, with high hopes for future in the light of this recognition.

Every choreographer seemed honored to have this platform to present their work and there was a buzz on the stage as the dancers celebrated together after the show. We look forward to next year’s Capezio A.C.E. Awards and particularly the Winners Festival where we can see these four choreographers present their work.