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How the Capezio A.C.E. Awards Changed My Life

  • April 6, 2016
  • by Laura Di Orio

Past Capezio A.C.E. Awards Winners Reflect

For the past seven years, the Capezio A.C.E. Awards (Award for Choreographic Excellence), have served as a launching-off point for choreographers on the rise. Winners of this honor can receive a $15,000 production budget to go toward their very own show, along with features in magazine advertisements and promotions.

Applications for the 2016 Capezio A.C.E. Awards are now being accepted, and the industry’s next top choreographer could be you! Why could this be a chance of a lifetime? Read on to see what previous A.C.E. winners have been up to since their award and how the Capezio A.C.E. Awards helped get them to where they are today!

What have you been up to since your win at the Capezio A.C.E. Awards?

Al Blackstone, 2011 Capezio A.C.E. Awards Winner
“Most recently, I created duets and groups for So You Think You Can Dance in Vietnam and here in the States. Before that, I worked for a few years as the associate choreographer to the great Sonya Tayeh on a handful of new musicals, including Kung Fu at the Signature Theater, which won her an Obie Award and Lortel Award for Best Choreography. I teach a professional level theater dance class weekly at both BDC and Steps on Broadway and travel with JUMP Dance Convention. Now, I am focusing on my own original work, which includes various events for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Marymount Manhattan College, The University of the Arts, Dancers Responding to AIDS and Pace University. I am about to create my second full-length show that will premiere in NYC in the spring.”

Talia Favia, 2014 Winner
“I was able to choreograph my full-length show, The Difference Between Actions and Words, that performed at DancerPalooza and was more of a success than I could have even hoped for. I also had the pleasure of choreographing a duet on SYTYCD that was chosen by Paula Abdul as her favorite piece of the season to perform on the finale episode, and also went on their SYTYCD tour! I had the pleasure of working with Tim Milgram on a video for DanceOn Network to James Bay’s “Let it Go”, and the video has totally sky-rocketed and was received so beautifully by people all over the world! I’m currently on faculty for a brand new convention, Radix, alongside Nappytabs, Tyce Diorio, Chaz Buzan and many more talented teachers and mentors.”

Peter Chu, 2010 Winner
“I created Nothing Sticks for my project-based company, chuthis., utilizing my prize for winning the award, along with other generous supporters of chuthis. I had the opportunity to premiere Nothing Sticks at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, and I managed to produce a three-week tour after the premiere. Nothing Sticks was then remounted and presented at Dances for a Small Stage in Vancouver, British Columbia, and then reworked for chuthis.’s 2014-15 season in Las Vegas. A few companies that I have created work for since receiving the Capezio A.C.E. Award in 2010 are: New Dialect, BYU Contemporary Dance Theatre, Orlando Ballet, Houston METdance, Carolyn Dorfman Dance, Nederlands Dans Theatre Summer Intensive and SYTYCD.”

Melinda Sullivan, 2012 Winner
“Since the Capezio A.C.E. Awards, my career highlights include: World Dance Award for Choreography for Campfire Vaudeville and DS2DIO “Remixed”; teaching at New York City Dance Alliance and tap festivals internationally; and performances with SYTYCD, Syncopated Ladies, upcoming movie musical La La Land, Postmodern Jukebox, Tap Music Project and Birdland with Tony Yazbeck.”

Kirsten Russell, 2015 Winner
“Since the A.C.E. Awards, I have traveled all around the country and also to Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico to set choreography on some of the most incredible studios. I’ve also taught on conventions such as Jump, 24 Seven, and Radix Dance Convention. I am currently working on my full-length show, which will be premiering in Long Beach, California, this coming August of 2016.”

Erica Sobol, 2013 Winner
“Almost immediately following runaway!, the show that spun from my Capezio A.C.E. Awards win, I went into a sort of creative production hibernation state. During that year (now almost two!), I have trained with and among so many special artists. Most notably, I have traveled the world to study with Tilman O’Donnell and Medhi Walerski. In the fall, I had the honor of assisting Jirí Pokorny on a new creation at Northwest Dance Project in Portland, and last spring, I participated in a very intimate choreography workshop with Crystal Pite. In an effort to spread the good word, and to get more of it myself, I created The Gypsy Project: LA, a seven-week creative intensive program offering an intimate training experience with myself and with artists from The Forsythe Company, NDT, Kidd Pivot, and LINES Ballet. That has been an extraordinary journey. Also, I joined the off-the-charts faculty at Artists Simply Human dance convention, so I get to spend my weekends with a whole host of other educators and artists who really blow my mind, inspire me, and fill me up.”

How did the Capezio A.C.E. Awards help you in your career?

Kirsten Russell
“Before winning the Capezio A.C.E. Awards this past year, I had only a few months of choreographic experience. Back in 2014, I was a finalist for the A.C.E. Awards with the first piece I had ever choreographed. To be a finalist was a huge honor, and I gained a tremendous amount of recognition for it after being so new to this industry. Winning this event in 2015 changed my entire life. Within a month, I was traveling all over the place to set work, and within a few months I was teaching on the largest dance convention in the world. To sum it all up, winning the A.C.E. Awards set my career off in the most amazing way. Now I get to do what so many choreographers dream of – I get to put on my own show!”

Talia Favia
“Being a part of the Capezio A.C.E. Awards in itself was a dream I had had for such a long time. Being a finalist and being able to show my work to so many well-respected choreographers, teachers, studio owners and people from so many other aspects of dance was just so exciting to me and helped me grow. Then to win it was the most unbelievable thing! I knew that by winning, and even being there in general, that it would help me grow as a choreographer and artist, but it helped me grow in every way possible.”

Peter Chu
“I formed chuthis. in 2008. After forming the company, we had activity but not enough funding to make larger work. Due to lack of funding, I read about the Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and it seemed like something that I should participate in. After receiving this beautiful award, the funds allowed me to make a larger body of work for the company. Although very scared and doubtful about creating while on tour with Kidd Pivot, the A.C.E. Awards gave me the push I needed to move forward with the company and confirmed my sentiment of how much I love making dance. After the Capezio A.C.E. Awards, I decided to form and develop a non-profit dance company that not only supports the work I make but also provides movement education programs. The movement education programs, offered nationally and internationally, foster technical and artistic development in a nurturing environment that enables students to build a broader awareness of movement implicit in dance.”

Erica Sobol
“The support of the community that flooded in following the Capezio A.C.E. Awards was really overwhelming – a great push forward.”

Melinda Sullivan
“The Capezio A.C.E. Awards win inspired my collaboration with composer Nikos Syropoulos. Since the show, we’ve continued to create, including a new video/composition series called ‘Portrait of Rhythm’, which can be watched here.”

Al Blackstone
“The Capezio A.C.E. Award completely changed my life. Besides the amazing exposure it provided to me as a choreographer, it pushed me as an artist to do things I never would have thought I could, including making a dance that was more than four minutes long! Having my work seen by that panel of judges and in front of an audience of adult dance enthusiasts pushed me to make something that changed the way I approached my work.”

For information on how to enter for your chance to present your work and be a finalist at this year’s Capezio A.C.E. Awards, click here.

Produced by Dance Informa.

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