The 22nd National Dance Awards

Posted on June 16, 2022

The winners of the 22nd National Dance Awards were announced on June 13 during a live ceremony at the Barbican in London. The National Dance Awards have been organized by the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle each year this millennium to celebrate the vigor and variety of the UK’s thriving dance culture. The Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle brings together over 60 dance writers and critics, and the National Dance Awards are the only prizes awarded by the professional dance critics’ body in the UK. The qualification period for performances, both live in the UK and digital (available in the UK), was between January and 31 December 2021.

A total of 355 companies, choreographers, performers and other creative artists were nominated, but this year’s winners were as follows. Edward Watsonof the Royal Ballet, won the Dance times Award for Best Male Dancer, while the Royal Ballet’s Marianela Nunez won the award for best dancer, sponsored by Tendu.

Winner of the Dancing Times Award for Best Male Dancer, Edward Watson, with Dancing Times Editor Jonathan Gray.  Photography: Elliot Franks.

Winner of Dance times Best Male Dancer Award, Edward Watson, with Editor of Dance times, Jonathan Grey. Photography: Elliot Franks.

The Stef Stefanou Award for Outstanding Company was awarded to National Ballet of England. In her filmed acceptance speech, Tamara Rojo, in her final year as artistic director, said it had been an honor to lead the company for ten years. The price for Best Midsize Company was won by Ballet Black to cheers from the crowd – and founder-director Casso Pancho naming each of its dancers in his acceptance speech. Best Independent Business was won by Yorke Dance Project, although unfortunately Yolande Yorke-Edgell tested positive for COVID-19 in the morning, so her prize was collected on her behalf by Stephen Pelton.

The winner for Best Classical Choreography, sponsored by the Ballet Association, was Valentino Zucchini for Anemoi, who thanked his Royal Ballet colleagues for being “rock stars”. The prize for best modern choreography, sponsored by Harlequin Floors, was won by Matthew Bourne for The midnight bell, danced by New Adventures. Bourne invited his dancers to join him on stage for photography and speech, in which he explained how the pandemic had tested for independent artists.

It was a good year for The midnight bellwhich topped the list of nominations for individual productions, with five nominations and one win for Michela Meazza for outstanding female performance. “It’s taken me 25 years to get here, so there’s hope for all of you,” she laughed.

Patricia Ward Kelly, widow of Gene Kelly, said she could top that with the 62-year wait for Starstruck, The revival of Scottish Ballet and the reinvention of Kelly’s no gods, which won Best Dance Film for Gene Kelly and Christopher HampsonCEO and Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet.

The Emerging Artist Award, sponsored by The L&M Trust, was won by Emily Suzuki of English National Ballet, and the award for Outstanding Creative Contribution was won by the composer thomas ades for The Dante Project.

James Vu Anh Phama dancer from the Akram Khan Company, won the Outstanding Modern Male Performance award for outsmart the devil and delivered a moving speech in which he thanked his parents, Vietnamese refugees in Australia, who sacrificed so much to support his dance ambitions.

The award for Outstanding Male Classical Performance, sponsored by the London Ballet Circle, was won by Jeffrey Cirio in the title role of Creature for the English National Ballet, while the award for Outstanding Female Classical Performance, sponsored by Lee McLernon, was won by Natalia Osipova in the title role of Giselle in the Royal Ballet production. “It’s a ballet about love and forgiveness,” Osipova said in her acceptance speech, “and I hate war.”

The event was also host to the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement, for which there are no previous nominations, which was won by John Ashford, former manager of The Place, dance promoter and manager of Aerowaves. It was introduced by dance critic Sanjoy Roy, who praised Ashford’s promotion of artists from Wayne McGregor to Oona Doherty and thanked him for his enormous contribution to dance.

Pictured: The winners of this year’s National Dance Awards: Photo: Elliot Franks.

Nicholas Rayner

Nicola Rayner was editor-in-chief of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for several publications, including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working in the section tango. Today, she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was released last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Nicola Rayner was editor-in-chief of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for several publications, including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working in the section tango. Today, she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was released last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.