PHILADANCO’s Joan Myers Brown And Thunderbird American Indian Dancers’ Louis Mofsie To Receive Special 2019 Bessie Awards

Louis Mofsie – Hopi/Winnebago (Photo by Jonathan Slaff)

(New York) – The NY Dance and Performance Awards, The Bessies, New York City’s premier dance awards honoring outstanding creative work in the field, announced the recipients of two special awards.

The 2019 Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance will go to Joan Myers Brown, Founder and Artistic Director of the Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO), in recognition of decades of choreographic influence on and support of the work of black American dance artists. The 2019 Bessie Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance will be presented to Louis Mofsie, Director of Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, whose work has kept Native American dance forms alive for generations of young people.

“We are thrilled to honor Joan and Louis, two legends in our field,” said Lucy Sexton, Executive Director, NY Dance and Performance Awards. “Their work has inspired dancers and educated audiences in ways that have enriched and strengthened dance in our country and we look forward to celebrating their accomplishments.”

The two awards will be presented at the 35th annual Bessie Awards ceremony on Monday, October 14, at 7:30pm, at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts (566 LaGuardia Place, New York, NY 10012). Tickets for the event are available online at:

Joan Myers Brown (Photo by Deborah Boardman)

Joan Myers Brown is an artist, a visionary, and an entrepreneur, listed in Who’s Who in America as a powerhouse “Philadelphia Leader.” She is the executive artistic director of the Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO), which she founded in 1970, and the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts, which she created in 1960. She also serves as honorary chairperson for the International Association of Blacks in Dance, an organization she established in 1991, which received a Bessie Award in 2000. Brown is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts, which bestowed upon her an honorary doctorate of fine arts. She was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Ursinus College, and is a member of the dance faculty at Howard University. She also received an honorary doctorate of arts from the University of Pennsylvania.

Brown has served a broad range of regional and national organizations, including NEFA’s National Dance Project, the United States Information Agency, Arts America, the National Endowment for the Arts, National Forum for Female Leaders, Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council, and many others. Among Brown’s many honors is the “Dance Women: Living Legends Award,” a tribute to five African-American women, who founded distinguished modern dance companies with deep roots in black communities around the country. She has also received Dance USA’s Honor Award. She is a recipient of a 2012 National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest civic honor for excellence in the arts.

President Barack Obama cited her for carving out “an artistic haven for African American dancers and choreographers to innovate, create, and share their unique visions with the national and global dance communities.” Her legacy has been documented in the 2011 book Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Bio-history of American Performance.

Louis Mofsie, a lifelong champion and custodian of the Native American culture, is the director of the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, the oldest resident Native American dance company in New York City. The troupe was founded in 1963 by a group of ten Indigenous men and women, all New Yorkers, who were descended from Mohawk, Hopi, Winnebago, and San Blas tribes. Within a few years, the company was traveling throughout the continental U.S., expanding and sharing their repertoire and learning new dances on the reservations. Over the years, Thunderbird works, activities, and events have assisted more than 400 students. The company has toured all over the United States, Japan, and Israel.

Mofsie, who was born in Brooklyn and is of Hopi and Winnebago heritage, is also a founding member of the American Indian Community House, where he has served as the chairman of the board for over 15 years. His New York City choreographic credits include Operation Sidewinders with the Lincoln Center Repertory Company, among others. As an artist, he has illustrated the children’s books The Hopi Way, Coyote Tales, and Folktales of the American Indian, written by Dee Brown. He has also recorded two albums, Louis Mofsie Traditional American Indian Songs & Music and Dances and Songs of the American Indians.

Mofsie is the recipient of many accolades, including a 1991 N.Y.C. Leadership Award from Law Department and Mayor’s Office. In 2017, Mofsie was honored (along with Garth Fagan and Martha Myers) with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Dance Guild.


The NY Dance and Performance Awards have saluted outstanding and groundbreaking creative work in the dance field in New York City for 35 years. Known as “The Bessies” in honor of revered dance teacher Bessie Schönberg, the awards were established in 1984 by David R. White at Dance Theater Workshop. They recognize outstanding work in choreography, performance, music composition, and visual design. Nominees are chosen by a selection committee comprised of artists, presenters, producers, and writers. All those working in the dance field are invited to join the NY Dance and Performance League as members and participate in annual discussions on the direction of the awards and nominate members to serve on the selection committee. For more information about The Bessies, visit

The 2019 Bessie Awards Steering Committee, responsible for setting policy and providing oversight for the Bessie Awards throughout the year, is comprised of Cora Cahan, Beverly D’Anne, Jeanne Linnes, Stanford Makishi, Nicky Paraiso, Carla Peterson, Gus Solomons jr, Paz Tanjuaquio, Judy Hussie-Taylor, Laurie Uprichard, and Martin Wechsler.

The 2018–2019 Bessie Awards Selection Committee: Ronald Alexander, Elise Bernhardt, Charles Vincent Burwell, Diana Byer, Tymberly Canale, Alexis Convento, Parijat Desai, Maura Donohue, Boo Froebel, Angela Fatou Gittens, Diane Grumet, Brinda Guha, Joseph Hall, Mai Lê Hô, Iréne Hultman, Celia Ipiotis, Koosil-ja, Fernando Maneca, Lydia Mokdessi, Harold Norris, Craig Peterson, Doug Post, Rajika Puri, Tiffany Rea-Fisher, Susan Reiter, Walter Rutledge, George Emilio Sanchez, Andrea Snyder, Sally Sommer, Risa Steinberg, Carrie Stern, Catherine Tharin, Tony Waag, and William Whitener.

Follow The Bessies on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: #theBessies

Press Release Via: The Bessies

Related Coverage:
The Bessies Announce 2019 Award Nominees Plus Recipients Of Juried Bessie And Outstanding Breakout Choreographer Awards


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