The 2000 Astaire Awards, the Broadway choreography honors named for the legendary stage and film dancer Fred Astaire, will be presented May 25 at the Hudson Theatre on West 44th Street. In a new twist this year, the winners won’t be announced until the actual ceremony. Nominees will be announced April 27, directly following a meeting by the nominating committee.
According to spokesperson David LeShay, the event will be hosted for the second consecutive time by Bebe Neuwirth, who won the 1997 Astaire Award for her work in Chicago and will also, coincidentally, help announce the Tony nominees with Kelsey Grammer May 8.
1999 Astaire winner Patricia Birch will be choreographing special material for the event, a benefit luncheon for Theatre Development Fund, which sponsors the Awards.
The 2000 Astaire Awards panel of judges will be the same as last year with the exception of the New Yorker’s Nancy Franklin, who is currently concentrating more on film. Choosing the Astaire winners are Douglas Watt, New York Daily News, chairman; Clive Barnes, New York Post; Howard Kissel, New York Daily News; Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press; Donald McDonagh, Managing Editor of Ballet Review; Richard Philp, Dance Magazine; Charles L. Reinhart, Director of the American Dance Festival; and Linda Winer, Newsday.
* The previous year’s Astaires were presented May 27, 1999, to Patricia Birch, Adam Cooper and Matthew Bourne, who distinguished themselves in the 1998-99 New York season. The respective Best Choreographer, Best Dancer and Special Award presentations were made by Harold Prince, Arlene Dahl and Shirley MacLaine at a benefit luncheon in Manhattan that also marked Astaire's centennial year. Born Fred Austerlitz May 10, 1899, the dancer-actor who conquered vaudeville, Broadway, film, TV and radio, died at age 88 in 1987.
Previous winners of the Astaire Awards are dancers Debbie Allen, Hinton Battle, the late Gregg Burge (twice), the late Charles "Honi" Coles, Don Correia, Charlotte D'Amboise, Pierre Dulaine, Savion Glover, Gregory Hines, The Kit Kat Boys & Kit Kat Girls of Cabaret, Robert Lambert, Robert Lindsay, Natalia Makarova, Yvonne Marceau, Stanley Wayne Mathis, Donna McKechnie, Ann Miller, Bebe Neuwirth, Kevin Ramsey, Herbert Rawlings, Ann Reinking and Chita Rivera. Previous winners among choreographers include George Balanchine, Michael Bennett, Christopher Chadman, Wayne Cilento, Graciela Daniele, Danny Daniels, Garth Fagan, Bob Fosse, Savion Glover, Hanya Holm, Peter Martins, Ann Reinking, Jerome Robbins, Michael Smuin, Susan Stroman and Tommy Tune (twice).
The Astaire Awards were established in 1982 by the Anglo-American Contemporary Dance Foundation and administered, since 1991, by Theatre Development Fund.
The award was established with the cooperation of Fred Astaire to honor him and his sister, Adele, who starred in 10 Broadway musicals between 1917 to 1931: Over the Top (1917), The Passing Show of 1918, Apple Blossoms (1919), Love Letter (1921), For Goodness Sake (1922), The Bunch & Judy (1922), Lady Be, Good! (1924), Funny Face (1927), Smiles (1930) and The Band Wagon (1931).
Before going to Hollywood, Astaire starred on Broadway (without his sister) in Cole Porter's The Gay Divorce (1932), which inspired his later film vehicle, "The Gay Divorcee."
-- By David Lefkowitz
and Kenneth Jones