Dance News

Last Night, The Chita Rivera Awards Honored the Unsung Heroes of Stage and Screen—the Dancers

From left, Chita Rivera, Tommy Tune and bebe Neuwirth on the red carpet. Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of The Chita Rivera Awards

The Fred & Adele Astaire Awards have a new name: the Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography, which took place last night to honor the best of theatrical dance and choreography from Broadway, off-Broadway and film.

"Choreography is critical to a show, and the dancers are often the unsung heroes. It's very important to have a specific award that honors those in such a hard-working and short-lived profession," says event producer Nikki Feirt Atkins, who is founder and producing artistic director of American Dance Machine for the 21st Century (ADM21).

ADM21's nominating committee (former Alvin Ailey artistic director Judith Jamison, Dance Magazine editor at large Wendy Perron, former New York City Ballet principal Robert La Fosse, Tony winner Donna McKechnie, former New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff, dance writer Sylviane Gold and Tony nominee Lee Roy Reams) considered shows and films from the 2016–17 season. Nominators considered outstanding choreography, featured dancers and ensemble in Broadway shows and off-Broadway. Theatrical releases and documentaries were selected for outstanding choreography in film.

Five dancers from the revival of Cats received nods, with the whole cast nominated for Outstanding Ensemble. The new musical Bandstand received six nominations, including Outstanding Ensemble in a Broadway Show and Outstanding Choreography for Andy Blankenbuehler, who won a Tony for the show's choreography.

Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of TCRA

"Back when it was the Astaire Awards, I was a Broadway dancer," Blankenbuehler says. "I remember all I wanted was the chance to be recognized among my peers. Now I get to be at this ceremony as a choreographer standing with my friends from 25 years ago—next to Chita Rivera."

For off-Broadway, Sutton Foster's revival of Sweet Charity received six nominations, four for Outstanding Female Dancer and one for choreographer Joshua Bergasse, who was also nominated for Outstanding Choreographer in a Broadway Show for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Choreography in Film nominations included Anthony Van Laast (Beauty and the Beast) and Mandy Moore (La La Land). Mr. Gaga and Alive and Kicking were among the documentary nominees.

And the winners? Drum roll, please...

Theatrical Release

London Road (released September 9, 2016), Javier de Frutos, choreographer


Restless Creature (Abramorama Films), directors: Linda Saffire, Adam Scheslinger

Wendy Whelan, (second from left) with the Restless Creature team and Andy Blankenbuehler (next to Whelan) at the after party. Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of TCRA

Outstanding Choreography in a Broadway Show

Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand

Outstanding Ensemble in a Broadway Show:

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Show:

Corbin Bleu, Holiday Inn

Outstanding Female Dancer in a Broadway Show:

Megan Sikora, Holiday Inn

Outstanding Female Dancer winner Megan Sikora. Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of TCRA

Outstanding Choreography in an Off-Broadway Show:

Joshua Bergasse, Sweet Charity

Josh Bergasse (second from right) with Sweet Charity cast members. Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of TCRA

Outstanding Male Dancer in an Off-Broadway Show

Brandon Espinoza, Baghdaddy

Outstanding Female Dancer in an Off-Broadway Show:

Lyrica Woodruff, Finian's Rainbow

The awards took place September 11 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan. Dance legend Tommy Tune was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

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