The National Society of Arts and Letters supports young talent on a rotating basis, moving among various aspects of art, music, theater and literature with an enviable grace. This year it was dance, focusing on solo choreography and, for the first time, extending the age limit to 33 to include artists with more of a perspective on life. The winners of the Pittsburgh Chapter competition, held at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre studios, were former PBT dancer and current teacher Alan Obuzor, first place; McKeesport native, former Nederlans Dans Theater member and now independent New York City dance artist Frances Chiaverini, second place; Bodiography trainee Alexandra McGee, third place. Judges were Pittsburgh native and Broadway choreographer and performer Tome Cousin, Dance Magazine’s Karen Dacko and West Virginia University dance department director Yoav Kaddar.
I was not in town for the Pittsburgh version, but headed to Maris Battaglia’s The American Academy of Ballet near Buffalo, New York to participate in the Chautauqua competition (which included all of New York state) with fellow judges Jon Lehrer, founder and artistic director of LehrerDance, Monika Alch, artistic director of Chautauqua Regional Ballet, and Ms. Battaglia. I met up with Bonnie Crosby there, who was a longtime supporter of dance in Pittsburgh before she headed for Naples, Florida and a second home in Chautauqua. The winner was Laura Neese, who is a senior at the University of Buffalo with a double major in dance and literature. She recently participated in an exchange program at the University of Chichester in the United Kingdom and is researching the theory and practice of modern dance pioneer Mary Wigman. Second prize went to Theodore Krzkowski of LehrerDance (Mr. Lehrer withdrew from his consideration) and third place to Nathan Madden, a graduate of Juilliard and now with BJM Danse Montreal.
Alan and Laura will head to Birmingham, Alabama on May 19 to participate in the national competition with prizes of up to $10,000. Good luck!