The 1999 Astaire Awards, the Broadway choreography honors named for the legendary stage and film dancer Fred Astaire, will be presented May 27 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 will be made by Harold Prince, Arlene Dahl and Shirley MacLaine at a benefit luncheon in Manhattan that will also mark Astaire's centennial year.
Birch (A Little Night Music, Band in Berlin) won for choreography for Parade at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre; Cooper for the menacing/loving swan of Swan Lake at Neil Simon Theatre; and director-conceiver choreographer Matthew Bourne for staging the homoerotic, modern royal-family concept of Swan Lake.
Astaire's career will be saluted at the ceremony with performances. Born Fred Austerlitz May 10, 1899, the dancer-actor who conquered vaudeville, Broadway, film, TV and radio, died at age 88 in 1987.
The luncheon program will be hosted by Bebe Neuwirth (who won the 1997 Astaire Award for her work in Chicago), with special appearances by Greg Mitchell & Julio Monge (dancing a piece by 1998 Astaire Best Choreography co-winner Graciela Daniele), Natalie Rogers & Norwood Pennewell (dancing "Stepping Out With My Baby," choreographed by 1998 Astaire Best Choreography co winner Garth Fagan), Judy Kaye & David Green (performing an Astaire-Ginger Rogers medley). Film clips from "Dancing Lady" (Astaire's film debut) and "Three Little Words" (his M-G-M picture with Red Skelton based on the story of songwriters Kalmar and Ruby) will be shown.
Administered by Theatre Development Fund, the awards and noon benefit lunch will be at the Supper Club, 240 W. 47th St. For information, call TDF at (212) 221-0885.
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 1999 Astaire Awards panel of judges includes Douglas Watt, New York Daily News, chairman; Clive Barnes, New York Post; Nancy Franklin, The New Yorker; 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 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, Fred 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 Kenneth Jones