National Dance Awards 2013 – Leanne Benjamin and Matthew Bourne’s citations for outstanding achievement in dance

An elated Matthew Bourne and Leanne Benjamin.<br />© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

An elated Matthew Bourne and Leanne Benjamin.
© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

2013 National Dance Awards – Winners, Pictures

At Monday’s National Dance Awards two de Valois awards were given for outstanding achievement in dance. Here are Graham Watts citations for Leanne Benjamin and Matthew Bourne, as given on the day.

Huge, huge congratulations to both for the difference they have made.

–oOo–

The De Valois Award for outstanding achievement is the only National Dance Award that has been given continuously in every year since 2000.

The very first winner was David Bintley and there are several distinguished winners of this award in the audience today –  Sir Peter Wright, Celeste Dandeker, Richard Alston, Alistair Spalding, Jann Parry and last year’s winner, Robert Cohan.

Many of them have been dancers.

But no-one has ever won this award in the same year in which that person was STILL dancing

And while acknowledging that we all remain students to some extent, I’m quite certain that no previous winner has been a full-time student enrolled in a programme of study at the time that they have received the De Valois Award or that we are fitting the presentation around a quick break in a tutorial!

So this is a first on at least two counts! 

I might add also that no-one born in Australia has previously received this award.

Since entering the Royal Ballet School in 1980, this year’s winner has enjoyed a remarkable career for over 30 years.

Having been a principal with Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and Deutsche Oper Ballet in Berlin, she served a remarkable 21 years as a Principal at The Royal Ballet.

Her roles are too numerous to contemplate listing but they were always glorious… a truth recognised by the fact that she is one of only three ballerinas to have twice won the Best Female Dancer at these Awards (in 2004 and 2009).

I think her attitude to life and dance can be summed up by a reaction she gave when we talked about this award last week.  We mentioned briefly another ballerina and she asked the dancer’s age.  When I said she was in her early 40s, the reply came “oh, that’s still young…she has plenty of time to carry on dancing”!

If you haven’t already guessed then I am delighted to announce that the winner of this year’s De Valois Award is…

Leanne Benjamin

Leanne Benjamin and Sir Peter Wright, who presented the award.<br />© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

Leanne Benjamin and Sir Peter Wright, who presented the award.
© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

Leanne Benjamin and Sir Peter Wright, who presented the award.<br />© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

Leanne Benjamin and Sir Peter Wright, who presented the award.
© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

{after the award to Leanne, the 11 mainstream awards were given and then…}

Second de Valois projected onto screen

Don’t worry, the announcement behind me is not a mistake because, this year, unusually we are making two awards.

The second De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement is perhaps a significant indicator of the richness of the British dance scene just because it is very hard to believe that it hasn’t already been given to this particular person.

He was a comparatively late arrival into dance.

His passion in younger life was musical theatre and he started formal dance training at an age when most dance students have already graduated but quickly made up time by plunging straight into the task of making work.

He recently celebrated 25 years being in charge of a company that has been an extraordinary ADVENTURE.

And in celebrating this silver jubilee of dance creation we were able to enjoy again some of the works that he made back at the beginning, in the late 1980s.

Even back then, he had the audacious inventiveness and wit to turn ballet on its head and give it a whirl.

He is – after all – the man who turned the Pas de Quatre, Perrot’s love letter to four great Romantic ballerinas, into a 1950s-style underwear advertisement for four narcissistic guys.

There has been an unending torrent of brilliance over this past quarter century, developing an inimitable style through radical reimaginings of romantic and classical ballets – from the Highland Fling of  La Sylphide and The Nutcracker through the iconic success of his wonderful interpretation of Swan Lake and more recently onto Sleeping Beauty.

…not to mention tackling other great stories for the first time in dance – such as Edward Scissorhands and Dorian Gray –  and placing them in the same unique mould.

Ably assisted by a regular team of collaborators, not least in the ever-distinctive designs of Lez Brotherston, he has kept audiences all over the world consistently entertained with work that is rich in imagery and spectacle and in which there is never, ever a dull moment.

He is a choreographer, a director, a story-teller, a magician, and like his early inspiration, Fred Astaire, he is the consummate entertainer.

We love him.

He is, of course…

Matthew Bourne

An elated Matthew Bourne.<br />© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

An elated Matthew Bourne.
© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

 

Graham Watts presents the de Valois Achievement award to Matthew Bourne.<br />© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

Graham Watts presents the de Valois Achievement award to Matthew Bourne.
© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

 

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Dance Writer/Critic. Member of the Critics' Circle, Chairman of the Dance Section and National Dance Awards Committee. Writes for leading dance magazines & websites - in UK, Europe, USA, Japan & cyberspace. Graham is based in London.

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