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Home » News » MANCC Choreographic Fellows and School of Dance Alumni Bessie Award Nominees

MANCC Choreographic Fellows and School of Dance Alumni Bessie Award Nominees

Published July 25, 2013

The Bessie Awards, also known as the New York Dance and Performance Awards, annually honors exceptional dance and related performance by independent artists. On Wednesday, July 17, 2013 the Bessie Awards Annual Press Conference announced nominees and award recipients. The Bessies Selection Committee, an independent committee of 38 dance industry professionals, selected nominations in the Bessie Award categories of Outstanding Production, Outstanding Performer, Outstanding Visual Design, Outstanding Composition or Sound Design and Outstanding Revived Work. After recognition in Dance/NYC press release “The Bessies Awards Announce 2012-2013 Nominees“, the Florida State University College of Fine Arts congratulates MANCC Choreographic Fellows Yanira Castro and Pavel Zustiak; and School of Dance Alumni Jennine Willett, and Tom Pearson, Outstanding Production Bessie Award nominees. Bessie award winners will be honored at the 29th Annual Bessie Awards on Monday, October 7, 2013 at 8:00pm at the legendary Apollo Theater in New York City.

Yanira Castro, Bessie Award Nominee for Outstanding Production

Puerto-Rican born and Brooklyn-based choreographer Yanira Castro has been an artist in residence at MANCC (Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography) twice in the 2012-2013 year. During her residencies, Castro further developed The People to Come and in June 2013 held the New York premiere at The Invisible Dog Art Center. The People to Come has been nominated for a Bessie Award in Outstanding Production (of a work at the forefront of contemporary dance and performance practices).

The work is a participatory performance installation conceived and directed by Castro in collaboration with Lighting and Installation Designer Kathy Couch, Web Director Sam Lerner, Sound Artist Stephan Moore, and five performers. It initiates from a solo choreographed by Castro, which is radically altered each night by the performers from material created by the communities surrounding the performance site and the audience attending the performances. The People to Come website invites audiences to submit images, videos, and/or text as an entry into the performance.  The performance is influenced by audience contributions hosted on the site.

[learn_more caption=”Read more on Yanira Castro”]

Puerto-Rican born and Brooklyn-based choreographer Yanira Castro collaborates with a core group of performers and designers on individual projects under the name, a canary torsi. Her work has been presented in New York by New York Live Arts (formerly Dance Theater Workshop), Performance Space 122, ISSUE Project Room, The Invisible Dog Art Center, The Chocolate Factory, The Experimental Media & Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), and HERE Arts Center, among others. Her work has been presented nationally and internationally and often incorporates untraditional spaces including warehouses, former bathhouses, and gardens.

For more information on MANCC Choreographic Fellow Yanira Castro, visit



Pavel Zustiak, Bessie Award Nominee for Outstanding Production

MANCC Choreographic Fellow Pavel Zustiak was nominated for a Bessie Award for Outstanding Production (performed in a small capacity venue of less than 400 seats) for his work The Painted Bird Trilogy Cycle. In 2011, Zustiak developed “Strange Cargo Part III” of The Painted Bird Trilogy Cycle while in residence at MANCC. “Strange Cargo” premiered at Performance Space 122 in May 2012 and the full trilogy The Painted Bird premiered at LaMama in 2013.

The title comes from Jerzy Kosinski’s controversial 1965 novel set in post-war Eastern Europe, and the project excavates the novel’s themes of displacement, migration and transformation in three separate performance events within a yearlong period. With the belief that exposing vulnerability, doubts, bewilderment and half-formed beliefs can be done in the service of authentic dialogue, Zustiak asked community members to provide him with information about their experiences along the spectrum of the work in progress showings.

[learn_more caption=”Read more on Pavel Zustiak”]

Pavel Zuštiak is a choreographer, dancer and sound designer living in New York City. He was born in the former Czechoslovakia where he received his first dance training. At the age of seventeen he made his choreographic debut with a work for 23 dancers of the Tremolo Dance Company set to M. P. Mussorgsky’s music Pictures at an Exhibition. He appeared in the children’s TV series Golden Gate for seven years and in numerous TV and radio plays. Zuštiak received his MBA in 1993 and moved to study dance composition and production at the School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam.

Zuštiak was awarded a prestigious 2007 Princess Grace Choreography Award to support his collaboration with Laboratory Company Dance in Pittsburgh, PA, and was a finalist in the 1999 Choreography Competition in Amsterdam for Wrinkle in Time. He also received 2006 Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant that allowed his dance research in Vienna, Austria and Brussels, Belgium.

Zuštiak is the artistic director of Palissimo, a New York City based dance theatre company he established in 2003. Through Palissimo he produced three evening-length works shown in New York City in venues such as Performance Space 122, Dance New Amsterdam, University Settlement, Chashama, HERE Arts Center, Dixon Place and internationally at venues in Poland, Slovakia, and Czech Republic.

Zuštiak choreographed for the Yale University production of Edward II (2006) and Bertold Brecht’s Baal (2007). He was commissioned by Of Moving Colors Productions in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to choreograph three dance theater pieces: Search (1999), Within Without(2001) and All That I Can’t Leave Behind (2005). In December 2007, Zuštiak choreographed(S)even, a work commissioned and performed by Laboratory Company Dance in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

For more information on MANCC Choreographic Fellow Pavel Zuštiak , visit



Willett, Pearson and Morris of Third Rail Projects, Bessie Award Nominees for Outstanding Production

Third Rail Projects, led by Jennine Willett (MFA 1996, FSU in NYC Faculty), Tom Pearson (BFA 1998, FSU in NYC Faculty), and Zach Morris (FSU in NYC Faculty) continues work in New York City, on tour, and abroad. Their long-running immersive theater hit Then She Fell was listed as one of the top Ten shows of 2012 by Ben Brantley in The New York Times, hailed as “extreme theater: fresh, fun, totally absorbing” by TIME Magazine and as “One of the most hauntingly lovely pieces of theater that I’ve ever experienced” by VOGUEThen She Fell continues to run, 12 show a week, in Williambsurg, Brooklyn and features FSU alumni Roxanne Kidd (BFA 2012) and Joshua Reaver (BFA 2011). Then She Fell has been nominated for a 2013 New York Dance & Performance (Bessie) Award for Outstanding Production. This past year they have created their multi-disciplinary works, taught, and lectured in New York City and throughout New York State and internationally in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) and Almaty (Kazakhstan), through CEC Artslink and the Trust for Mutual Understanding. They launched their first ever touring work, Roadside Attraction, a mobile site-specific work for 6 dancers (including alumna Tori Sparks, BFA 1999) and a vintage pop-up camper.

The Florida State University College of Fine Arts and The School of Dance also congratulates MANCC Alum Choreographic Fellow Darrell Jones, Juried Bessie Award Recipient!


Congratulations again to MANCC Choreographic Fellows Yanira Castro, Pavel Zustiak; and School of Dance Alumni Jennine Willett, Tom Pearson and Zach Morris of Third Rail Projects, Bessie Award Nominees!

The Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC), at the FSU School of Dance, is a choreographic research and development center whose mission is to raise the value of the creative process in dance.