The national field of dance recently celebrated artistic achievement at the 35th annual New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Awards ceremony, held at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on Monday, October 14, 2019.
FSU School of Dance alum Shamar Watt won a “Bessie” for ‘Sustained Achievement’ in the work of Nora Chipaumire, which is both an honor and a testament to their collaborative relationship that began four years ago at FSU’s Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC).
Watt graduated from Florida State’s School of Dance in 2015 with a BFA. While in school, he was often involved in departmental productions and frequently performed on the Nancy Smith Fichter stage.
In 2015, MANCC was thrilled to welcome Chipaumire into a 19-day residency to develop her work, portrait of myself as my father, during which she invited two School of Dance students to engage in her rehearsal process. One of these students, Watt, originally came into the process to serve as an understudy, but Chipaumire ended up creating a role in the work specifically for him. As a result of this process and their time together at MANCC, their artistic relationship continued to grow and prosper. MANCC also provided financial assistance via a scholarship for Watt’s travel to Senegal in 2015 to work with Chipaumire. (Watt later returned to MANCC as a performer/collaborator with artist Cynthia Oliver in June 2016, and with artist Camille A. Brown in November 2017.)
Often considered the “Academy Awards” of the dance field, the Bessies were established in 1984 by David R. White at Dance Theater Workshop and named in honor of renowned dance teacher Bessie Schönberg. These awards highlight exceptional work across the dance field in choreography, performance, music composition, production, and visual design as well as in service to the field. Nominees for these notable awards are put forth by the Bessies selection committees, which are made up of artists, presenters, producers, and writers, with the winners selected by the full membership of the committees.
In a 2015 interview at FSU, Watt spoke about his first experience of working with Chipaumire:
She helped me to be fearless, to push the line or cross the line as needed. To consider approaching subject matter that is uncomfortable, but needs to be addressed…this experience with Nora and Kaolack [Chipaumire’s other collaborator in portrait …] has helped me personally embrace all of who I am, the good, bad and the ugly (beautiful).
Watt has been on frequent tour with Chipaumire in the U.S. and abroad since that 2015 MANCC residency as a fierce and powerful performer in three of her works: portrait…, 100% POP, and #punk.
To view footage of Watt in Chipaumire’s work, check out these links: