Founded in 2009, The Capezio A.C.E. Awards is a competition designed to present the work of young or emerging choreographers. Each year hundreds of applicants representing a wide variety of dance styles that include tap, jazz, ballet, modern and musical theatre submit a 4- to 5-minute video of their work for consideration. This is the first year, the competition will take place in Los Angeles Wednesday, January 15 – Saturday, January 18, 2020 under the title MOVES at The Montalbán, produced by Break the Floor Productions and presented by Capezio in partnership with The Montalbán. Venue location, performance times and ticket information are listed at the end of this article.

I spoke briefly with Brad Bauner, one of the producers from Break the Floor Productions, who explained that in past years the Capezio A.C. E. Awards were presented during the summer months in combination with other dance events such with DancePalooza or Dance Teacher Summit. “Everything has been shifted, so technically the people presenting works this year are the 2018 winners.” He went on to say that due to the calendar changes that there will not be winners for 2019, but those selected from the January 15th performance of Moves at The Montalbán will be listed as 2020 award recipients. The host for the awards showcase is Kenny Wormald who appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, ELLEN Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and Dancing with the Stars, as well as appearing in several films. At the time of our interview, the judges had not been confirmed.

In addition to having their work presented and fully produced at the spacious Montalbán Theater, the winners will receive a monetary prize. The first place winner will receive a check for $15,000 with Second and Third place winners receiving $5,000 and $3,000 respectively. All funding is provided by Break the Floor Productions in partnership with Capezio. “Anyone who wins receives prize money to cover their expenses for putting the show together, but we put up money to rent the theater and to pay for the technical equipment, etc.” Bauner said. “None of that is the responsibility of the winner.”

Bauner explained that throughout the entire process, Break the Floor Productions works in conjunction with the choreographers. “We talk to them a little bit about what they want to accomplish, and that this [Moves at The Montalbán] is really meant to be a showcase for their work so that they can advance their careers.”

Rudy Abreu - Photo by Joey Guthman

Rudy Abreu – Photo by Joey Guthman

Choreographer Mary Grace McNally was the 2018 winner with JA Collective placing second, and Erik Saradpon and Rudy Abreu tying for third place. Not all of the winners are total unknowns within the business. For example, Abreu has had some recognition by appearing on the hit TV show So You Think You Can Dance. “This showcase in Los Angeles allows him the opportunity to invite a bunch of industry people, music artists or other people who he would like to work with, ”Bauner said. “so that they can see his work and hopefully advance his career.”

Although Break the Floor Productions takes part in the creative side of other dance events such as the touring of the Shaping Sound tour of the Travis Wall Dance Company or Al Blackstone’s Broadway-style dance play Freddie Falls in Love at the Joyce Theatre in New York, Bauner said that they stay away from the creative side of the Capezio A.C.E. Awards showcase. “This is really meant to offer the winners an opportunity to express their creativity, get new fans and make new work.” He said. “It is also important for a city such as Los Angeles to embrace a festival like this, and the opportunity to see new talent in venues like The Montalbán that aren’t always packed, but that are still amazing venues in great locations.” Bauner feels that this beautiful theater which presents great works and employs a staff that is wonderful to work with, is sadly underutilized.

Mary Grace McNally - Photo by Jenna Maslechko

Mary Grace McNally – Photo by Jenna Maslechko

Mary Grace McNally is the Founder and Artistic Director of New York based MG + Artists. The work that earned her first place in the 2018 Capezio A.C.E. Awards competition involved excerpts of her first evening-length work titled Not For Picking. The performance ran for three nights at the Theatre Lab in New York City. McNally explained that along with the 4- or 5-minute video clip that applicants submit, one may choose to add a brief description of their work along with its credits.

It’s a nice application.” McNally said. “You get to show what you want to show or share however you would like to present yourself.” This was not the first time that she had applied but stated that with each submission she learned more about how to apply, better ways to present her work, and that it also gave her a deeper insight into how she was developing artistically over the years.

The work that McNally and her company will be performing on January 17th at The Montalbán Theatre is titled When It Falls and, as part of her winnings, the full evening is produced by Capezio and Break the Floor Productions covering the theater rental, lighting designer, tech crew and all the PR and marketing costs.

Aidan Carberry and Jordan Johnson - JA Collective - Photo by Celine Kiner

Aidan Carberry and Jordan Johnson – JA Collective – Photo by Celine Kiner

For some perspective, the venue where she presented her last evening-length work seated approximately 60 people and the company performed 3 nights. The Montalbán seats approximately 900. So, with only one performance McNally’s work will potentially be seen by almost 800 more people. “It’s really a large platform,” McNally said. “and, for me, it is very exciting to be able to present my work on such a large scale. It’s been exciting to be given the opportunity by their saying that you will have a show, here it is, and to be given the money to budget the show and show how ideally I would like to run my company.” She went on to say how thankful she is to have the opportunity to perform her work in Los Angeles where dance is experiencing a booming artistic growth.

Wednesday, January 15 at 8:00 pm is the competition showcase of the 28 Finalists for the 2020 Capezio A.C.E Awards. Their names, in alphabetical order, are Will B. Bell, Steven Blandino, Chase Bowden, Caleb Brauner, Laure Courtellemont,  Brandon Croisetiere, Eoghan Dillon, Matthew Fata, Mitchel Federan, Kevin Jenkins, Matthew Kazmierczak & Daniel Bernardo, Renee Kester, Leah LaGrange, Grayson McGuire & Shiori Kamijo, Noelle Marsh, Mackenzie Martin, Nick Meola, Megan McBride Moore, Sam Neas, Easton Blake Payne, Justin Pham, Alan Salazar, Baden Silva, Sarah Steben, Gigi Torres, Azuki Umeda.

Erik Saradpon - Photo by FORMCREATIVE

Erik Saradpon – Photo by FORMCREATIVE

The work of choreographer Erik Saradpon will be featured on Thursday, January 16 at 8 pm. Saradpon is a graduate of San Diego State University, the founder of his dance company FORMALITY, and the director of the hip-hop program at Temecula Dance Company.

Friday, January 17 at 8:00 pm features 2018 First place winner Mary Grace McNally’s full evening work When It Falls.

The final night, Saturday, January 18 at 8 pm will be a shared evening of works by Rudy Abreu and JA Collective. Rudy Abreu is originally from Miami and has performed on various reality TV shows including Paula Abdul’s Live to DanceAmerica’s Got Talent and NBC’s World of Dance and he placed in the top 8 of the hit TV show So You Think You Can Dance. JA Collective is a choreographic collaboration between Los Angeles natives Jordan Johnson and Aidan Carberry who met while attending the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at the University of Southern California. Their work has been seen in LA at the Odyssey Theater and Diavolo Performance Space.

Moves at The Montalbán runs January 15 – 18, 2020. Tickets range from $40 to $100 and can be purchased by clicking here.  The Montalbán Theatre is located at 1615 Vine Street, Hollywood, CA 90028.

To visit the Break the Floor Productions website, click here.

To visit The Montalbán website, click here.

Featured image: Mary Grace McNally – Photo by Jenna Maslechko