With lyrical dance and spirited song, the 11th annual Sage Awards were announced Tuesday evening in a ceremony at Cowles Center in downtown Minneapolis.
The accolades, which celebrate choreographers, dancers, designers and dance educators in the Twin Cities, went to individuals and ensembles for works that were performed in the past year. Dancers Shohei Iwahama of the James Sewell Ballet and Chitra Vairavan of Ananya Dance Theatre were among the individual winners. Iwahama, who is based in Houston, was celebrated for his work in Sewell’s spring and fall concerts as well as his solo turn in “Suspicious Fisherman.” Vairavan received the award for her performance in several shows, including “Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming,” presented at Cowles Center last fall.
Ananya’s founder, Ananya Chatterjea, a professor at the University of Minnesota, was honored with a special citation for her outstanding contribution in teaching.
The awards, coordinated by dance figures Dana Kassel and Stuart Pimsler, are named for the late dancer and philanthropist Sage Cowles, who, with her husband, former Star Tribune publisher John Cowles Jr., championed the arts and culture in Minnesota and elsewhere. Each accolade comes with a ceramic trophy designed by artist Andrea Leila Denecke.
This year, the creators of two shows were honored. Choreographer and dancer Karla Grotting, a mainstay of the tap-dance circuit who has performed with Flying Foot Forum, was celebrated for “Lost Voices in Jazz: The Choreographers of the Minnesota Jazz Dance Company,” which she crafted with the Eclectic Edge Ensemble. The troupe Brownbody, founded by dancer and figure skater Deneane Richburg, got a trophy for its show “Quiet As It’s Kept.”
The Nenkin Butoh Dan ensemble was noted for its stark performance in “Fu-Ku-Shi-Ma,” presented three years after the nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan.
On the design side, honors went to the team behind Jocelyn Hagen and Penelope Freeh’s “Test Pilot” (the roster for lights, sound, sets, costumes, etc., consisted of Freeh, Hagen, Stephanie Fellner, Lynn Farrington, J. Anthony Allen, Jack Dant, Kevin A. Jones and Justin Schell). The set, lighting, video and sound designers for “Soft Fences,” which premiered at Red Eye Theater in December, also were honored.
The Sages gave a special citation to longtime dance champion Lisa First, executive director of Link Vostok, a self-described “organizational liaison” that helps dancers with international shows.