A cherished old tradition in the theater, likely dating back to early 20th century vaudeville was to "get the hook." If your act was truly terrible, a long hook wielded by the unseen stage manager would come out on stage and drag you off. A more contemporary version is the gong on the 1970s TV "Gong Show," or the human equivalent, former "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell. If an audience determines performers have done something wonderful, they can receive bravos, various sounds like whistles, stomping, loud and long clapping, yells of various types, or the standing ovation, now seemingly de rigueur, at least in Seattle, for most anything not worthy of getting the hook.
This weekend, On The Boards is presenting four nights of the A.W.A.R.D. Show!, a novel way to honor choreography that is really good, at least as determined by attending audiences, and by a panel of judges. Over four nights commencing this Thursday, twelve local choreographers and their groups will vie for a prize of $10,000 to be used toward creating a new work, the money generously supplied by the Boeing Company. Two runners-up will get $1,000 a piece.
Each night, a winner will be voted on by the audience after seeing the concert, and hearing the choreographers speak about their work post-performance. These victorious works will be performed again on Sunday, the final night when the champion of all Seattle will be crowned by the attending audience, and with a panel of judges also chiming in.
The concept is more than just a popularity contest. Started in 2005 in New York, it now takes place in several cities around the country and is designed to get audiences talking about dance, both among themselves and with the artists, and to nurture new choreography.
It's an excellent opportunity to see some of Seattle's best dance artists, and to hear the creators speak about their work after the performance, up close and personal. The two nights seen last year were near sell-outs with a lot of excitement in the air. The format is not to every artist’s liking and this competition seems frowned upon by some in the local dance community, and several of our best dancemakers are not involved. Don't let that stop you though, as The A.W.A.R.D Show! promises some fine dances, some first-rate performances, some thrills, chills, nail-biting, heart break, and of course, victory for one very happy choreographer.
The A.W.A.R.D. Show! runs Thursday-Sunday (Jan. 27-30) at On the Boards. Tickets are $15 and available by going to www.ontheboards.org or by calling 206-217-9888. Although Sunday is currently listed as sold out, some day-of-show tickets will be released at midnight the night before.