The New York Dance and Performance Awards, informally known as the Bessie Awards in honor of Bessie Schonberg, are awarded annually for innovative achievement in dance and related performances, particularly so-called "downtown" performances. The awards were established in 1983 and "celebrate the unique creative voices of performing artists while providing the dance and performance community with an occasion to gather together in sorrow, in frustration, in anger, but ultimately in celebration." They honor exceptional choreography, performance, music composition, visual design and others areas of dance and performance. The awards are determined by the Bessie Selection Committee, which consists of dancers, dance presenters, producers, choreographers, journalists, critics and academics.
From 1983 to 2008, the annual award ceremony was presented by Danspace Project and Dance Theater Workshop, generally at the Joyce Theatre in the Chelsea area of Manhattan in New York City. In 2010, it was presented by Dance/NYC at Symphony Space. In 2011 and 2012, the ceremony was presented in partnership with Dance/NYC at The Apollo Theater. The 2013 Bessie Award ceremony will take place on October 7th at The Apollo Theater. Since 2010, the Bessie Awards have been produced by Lucy Sexton, who has re-imagined the award to consider a broader range of dance genres, extend the award's notoriety, and offer a commissioned prize to artists.
Over 400 Bessies Awards have been presented since their founding, including:
- Choreographers: Arthur Aviles, Beverly Schmidt Blossom, Trisha Brown, Donald Byrd, Ann Carlson, Ping Chong, Yoshiko Chuma, Garth Fagan, Molissa Fenley, William Forsythe, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, David Gordon, Bill Irwin, Bill T. Jones, Lisa Jones, Carl Hancock Rux. Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Alonzo King, Édouard Lock, Meredith Monk, Mark Morris, Tere O'Connor, Angelin Preljocaj, Pam Tanowitz, Doug Varone, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Robert Wilson, and Beth Gill.
- Composers: David Byrne, James Baker, Anthony Davis, Peter Laurence Gordon, Julius Hemphill, Lenny Pickett, Dan Siegler and Hahn Rowe
- Designers: Charles Atlas, Power Boothe, Beverly Emmons, David Ferri, Kathryn Kaufmann, Mark Lancaster, Susanne Poulin, Stan Pressner, Philip Sandström, Jennifer Tipton, Howard S. Thies, Philip Treviño and Kyle Chepulis
- Kourlas, Gia (10 September 2010). "Bessies Are Back After a Hiatus, Primed for a Major Makeover". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- Kourlas, Gia (10 August 2012). "Classifications in the Science of an Art". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 August 2013.