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'The A.W.A.R.D Show!' is the little dance competition that could

January 13, 2011 |  5:00 am

AWARD

During the era in which Neta Pulvermacher produced "The A.W.A.R.D. Show!," every competing choreographer received the same prize for their participation: a miniature Statue of Liberty wearing a hand-sewn tutu. “I tried to create a situation where everyone wins,” she recalls. “And I wanted to remind people that the show was about expressing artistic freedom.”

But "The A.W.A.R.D. Show!" is also indisputably about competition, no matter how anyone spins it. Now produced in six U.S. cities by the Joyce Theater Foundation, the contest for the concert dance crowd comes to REDCAT starting Thursday night, where 12 contemporary choreographers will present their best 15-minute dances in the hopes of winning $10,000 to be used toward the creation of a new work. And in Los Angeles, which has a small and highly interconnected contemporary dance community, those competitive stakes become that much higher as choreographers who have known each other as friends and/or colleagues prepare to publicly compete against each other.

“It could be a popularity contest, where people could try to pack the house with their friends on the night they’re performing,” says Bradley Michaud, a participating choreographer in the Los Angeles show, who takes care to note that his fellow choreographers “agreed to market for each other” when sending out promotional materials.

To that end, Pulvermacher, who ran the show for three years, put a significant amount of thought into creating best practices for how a winner might be chosen. While the audience votes for the best choreographer during the first three nights of the show, the three finalists then compete on the fourth night in front of a panel of judges and the audience, which only counts as one vote. This way, “no one can buy the house,” says Pulvermacher.

Personally, Linda Shelton, the Joyce Theater’s executive director, doesn’t feel a competitive vibe when she attends the event. Having served as a judge for multiple shows, she observes that the atmosphere is always “collegial. During the post-show discussions, people really sit and listen to each other,” she says. “I think the show really helps choreographers move forward with their work.”

To read more about "The A.W.A.R.D. Show!," click here.

-- Susan Josephs

Photo: Competitors, front row left to right, Yuliya Romanskaya, Christine Suarez, Arianne MacBean, Maria Gillespie, Bradley Michaud, Jessica Harper, Chelsea Asman; back row left to right, Rand Dorn, Pam Gonzales, Aaron Drake, Meg Wolfe and Pablo Santiago.  Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu /For The Times.

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