Winning moves

Times Staff Writer

If dancers are usually nothing more than sideshows or special effects in contemporary Hollywood, the annual American Choreography Awards allows them one long evening of delirious self-celebration and empowerment.

Divided into eight categories, the awards honor achievements in dance on camera and often confirm the worst about the dancers’ status quo. But the event itself is more a carnival of the dispossessed than a conventional, celebrity-laden trophy giveaway.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Oct. 22, 2004 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday October 22, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Disney relative -- An article in Tuesday’s Calendar section about the American Choreography Awards presentation said Walt Disney’s brother Roy O. Disney spoke during one of the tributes. The speaker was Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday October 25, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Choreography awards -- An article in Tuesday’s Calendar section on the American Choreography Awards identified the creator of “A Song for You,” a solo performed at the ceremonies, as Alvin Ailey. It was choreographed by Ka-Ron Brown Lehman.

As the nearly four-hour 10th edition confirmed Sunday at the Orpheum Theatre, the show releases the commercial dance world’s deep sense of family loyalty. Consequently, the people responsible for sleazy, derivative dance numbers from the most forgettable film musicals or TV shows will frequently earn titanic ovations, compared with the polite approval granted the greatest concert-dance choreographers of our time (Paul Taylor, for example).

However, it’s the concert-dance world that invariably contributes the most indelible live performances. On Sunday, these highlights included the phenomenally pliant Matthew Rushing in Alvin Ailey’s “A Song for You,” the magically buoyant Marty Lawson in David Parsons’ “Caught,” and the daring, hyper-gymnastic members of Diavolo Dance Theatre in excerpts from “The Wheel.”


Soulful ensemble choreography by Ka-Ron Brown Lehman, fierce and buoyant martial-arts gymnastics by Matt Mullins and the Talauegas’ spectacular display of “krumping” (the re-Africanized, militarized successor to hip-hop) also punctuated the proceedings.

In speaking about the late Walt Disney during one of Sunday’s special tributes, his brother Roy O. Disney called movies “a rhythmic medium” and drew attention to the Disney animators’ focus on “the analysis of motion.”

This focus linked Disney’s dances to Parsons (whose “Caught” exploits the same perceptual quirk that allows us to see a series of still drawings as a moving image), to Mullins, to the krumping segment and to all the other choreographies (live or taped) that attempted something more purposeful in movement terms than just a pileup of flashy diversions. And it suddenly made you view Walt D. not only as a film innovator but also as an unlikely but genuine postmodernist.

Along with Walt Disney and Lehman, choreographer/director Kenny Ortega received one of the special (out-of-competition) awards -- and would have deserved it had he done nothing else in his career but the bracingly politicized theater piece “Declare Yourself” at the very end of the program.


Co-directed by Ortega and Robert Egan, this collage of pithy spoken and danced viewpoints on millennial America provided a reality check for the whole event. If it jolted dancers out of their self-obsession long enough to send them to the polls on Nov. 2, Ortega and Egan ought to get a special public service award next year.



Honorees and Winners


Innovator: Walt Disney

Career achievement: Kenny Ortega

Educator award: Ka-Ron Brown Lehman

Feature film


Tie: Sylvain Chomet for “The Triplets of Belleville”

Dave Scott, Shane Sparks and Robert James Hoffman III for “You Got Served”

Short film

Edouard Lock for “Amelia,” La La La Human Steps


Television special

Tie: Jason Samuels Smith for the 2003 Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon: Opening Number

Paul Taylor for “Acts of Ardor,” PBS “Dance in America”

Television variety series


Monie Adamson for “Mad TV,” “Regional Championships”

Episodic television

Fred Tallaksen for “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Jump Jump”

Music video


Hi-Hat, Anwar “Flii” Burton, Cicely Bradley and Olisa Thompson for Missy Elliott’s “Pass Dat Dutch”


Fatima Robinson for Target, “Changing of the Guards”

Fight choreography


Tie: George Marshall Ruge for “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”

Keith Adams, Sonny Chiba, Quentin Tarantino and Yuen Woo-Ping for “Kill Bill Vol. 2"