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Congratulations to Amelia Reeber for winning the $10,000 prize at the Seattle edition of the controversial modern dance-off last night. The judges for the finals (Kara O'Toole, Donald Byrd, Dayna Hanson, and Linda Shelton of the Joyce Theater in NYC) were split, letting the audience vote call the winner.

The house was packed, and when On the Boards artistic director Lane Czaplinski asked how many people had come to one of the previous three nights, over half of the house—maybe even three quarters of the house—raised their hands, which has to be some kind of record. At a champagne toast in the lobby afterward, one of the OtB ticket officers said The A.W.A.R.D. Show! pulled in a lot of single-ticket buyers whose names she didn't recognize.

The whole point of The A.W.A.R.D. Show! is to bring in new audience members. It worked, despite—or maybe because of—the debate about whether the reality show/Final Four competition was "appropriate." (Of course it's appropriate. This is just a quick-fire, populist version of the constant competition in the dance world for grants, gigs at theaters, audience, etc.)

The founder of The A.W.A.R.D. Show!, New York's Neta Pulvermacher, weighed in on the comments to an earlier Slog post:

I was and am sick and tired of seeing friends and neighbors (only) at modern dance shows, and kind of un-charged, sleepy, self important artists and audiences with high brow and very intelligent comments talk about each other’s work in a small coffee house or bar joints, in NYC, Seattle, Chicago, Philly…. Etc… I thought long and hard - how to make something - grass roots for artists with artists with NO RESOURCES to change that sort of boring scene - to force people (that includes both artists and audiences) to see deeper, think deeper and cut the crap out of the inherent duplicity and elitists talk which is so prevalent in our field. Art should not be a rarified thing. It should be like air (Duchamp said it — before me) just breath. It should be as open as the internet - open to all that want to see it and get to it... so few people in this world know about the works that are being created in our field… how the hell can one change that? How can you shed light on works of artists and bring the media attention to it in this culture? Those are some of the questions that I asked and trying to ask with The A.W.A.R.D. Show!.

The competition is a very smart marketing conceit so far as I am concerned to get people in the theatre to see works that they otherwise are un-likely to see or hear about. I also insisted that each of those events is a party, a community party, complete with wine and cheese reception and mingling and informal talk where more talk about the work can take place. I wanted people to get out of their comfort zone… their skins and try something new.

And they did. Amelia won with a solo danced to audio from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with breaks of dark, brooding burbles and intense red washes of light. Hers was the only piece that addressed the format itself, playful with the goofy reality-show voice-overs about kitchen tiles and leaky roofs, with occasional dives into darkness.

The runners-up were all comedy (Deborah Wolf choreographed a pack of men to doggerel by Edward Gorey) or all seriousness (Catherine Cabeen danced a meditative solo, heavy on yoga-like balances in a column of white light shot diagonally across the stage, with musician Kane Mathis playing an instrument that looked like a sitar and sounded like a cross between a guitar and a harp). They got $1,000 each.

Congratulations to On the Boards and Amelia—and Neta and the Joyce Theater for having a new idea and making it work.