Do-Re-Me by Nicola Conibere, winner of The Bonnie Bird New Choreography Award 2015–17. Photo: Maria Falconer.

The Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund has announced the recipients of The Bonnies 2017 awards at a ceremony that took place on 1st December 2017 at Sadler’s Wells.

The guest speaker, choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh, presented the awards.  The Bonnies are the portfolio of awards offered by the Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund. It includes the Marion North Mentoring Awards, the Bonnie Bird New Choreography Award and the Bonnie Bird Lifetime Contribution to Choreography Award.

The Bonnie Bird Lifetime Contribution to Choreography Award was awarded to Robert Cohan CBE in recognition of his lifelong contribution to the development of choreography in the UK and beyond.

Robert Cohan CBE giving his acceptance speech. Photo: Pari Naderi

Robert says: “Confucius said ‘If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.’ I have been given this award as someone who hasn’t worked for the last 70 or so years and I am delighted to accept it. Thank you very much.”

The Bonnie Bird New Choreography Award 2017-19 is awarded to Alexander Whitley.  The £10,000 biennial award offers a bespoke range of activities that will support an artist’s overall creative development, rather than producing a completed new work. The ambition is to support a programme of individual research that can effect a step change in the artist’s practice, with the potential to impact nationally.

Alexander says: “Having time to ask big questions, take risks and persevere with ideas in an attempt to open up genuinely new creative territory within one’s practice is a precious luxury in today’s climate of immediacy. I’m enormously grateful, therefore, to have received the Bonnie Bird New Choreography Award and to have the opportunity to embark upon this project with a fascinating group of thinkers who are, in their various ways, helping to widen the field of choreography. It is my hope that together we can shed some light on how the practice of moving, the process of choreographing and the act of performing can respond to the rapidly transforming landscapes of the Information Age.” 

New Choreography Award winner Alexander Whitley with 2015-17 award winner Nicola Conibere, and Shobana Jeyasingh. Photo: Pari Naderi
New Choreography Award winner Alexander Whitley with 2015-17 award winner Nicola Conibere, and Shobana Jeyasingh. Photo: Pari Naderi

The  Marion North Mentoring Awards have been awarded in partnership with South Asian dance organisation Akademi.  These awards see choreographers at the beginning of their careers receiving mentoring over the next year to help overcome artistic challenges by gaining invaluable advice and support from an experienced choreographer or dance artist.  Two out of the four awardees were announced as Archita Kumar and Katie Ryan, who will be mentored by Jose Agudo and Seeta Patel respectively. A second partner organisation and two more awardees will be announced next year.

Brendan Keaney, Chair of the Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund says:

“It has been a great honour chairing the Fund in this awarding year, Bob Cohan has made an extraordinary contribution to dance and it is hard to imagine a more deserving recipient of this award. All the Advisors and Trustees were excited with the partnership with Akademi to deliver the Marion North Mentoring Awards, but it was choosing the New Choreography Award winner from such an exciting and diverse range of applications that was a challenge. Alexander Whitley’s proposal was outstanding and we are really looking forward to seeing the results of his research.  Given that we received so many great applications, the next task for Trustees must be to try and find additional funds; we have great artists and they deserve more support.

The BBCF received almost 70 applications for the New Choreography Award, which demonstrates artists’ ongoing need for more support for research and development of choreographic practice. The quality of the applications was extremely high and the Fund would like to thank everyone who applied for the time, energy and care they put into their applications. It is the ideas, questions and concerns of artists that will inform the Fund’s future direction, and we are committed to finding and encouraging more ways to support choreographic research in the future.