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Dance Council Honors
Reception . Awards . Performance . Silent Auction
October 29, 2017 . 3 - 5PM
Dallas Black Dance Theater
Each year, the Dance Council of North Texas celebrates the accomplishments of individuals for their lifetime contribution; artistic and educational achievement; and service to the community. The awards are named for four talented and prestigious names in the dance community of North Texas: Mary McLarry Bywaters (founder of Dance Council) award for lifetime achievement to dance, Natalie Skelton (Founder of Dance Council) award for artistic excellence, Mary Warner (Initial Board Member of DCTV) award for outstanding service to dance, Larry White (Premier Dance Educator at SMU) excellence in dance education award, and the Buster Cooper Tap award.
The afternoon recognizes excellence of education, performance, and community support for dance in Texas. Past recipients include such luminaries as Nathalie Krassovska, Tom Adams, Ben Stevenson, Patsy Swayze, Ann Williams, Anita N. Martinez and Veletta Forsythe-Lill.

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Esteemed 2016 Dance Council Honorees:

Edward Villella ~ Mary Bywaters Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance

Edward Villella will receive the Mary Bywaters Award for Lifetime Contribution to Dance. He was one of the foremost dancers in the 20th century and a talented artistic director of the Miami City Ballet. Villella was long associated with George Balanchine. He joined the New York City Ballet in 1957. By 1960, Villella was promoted to principal and a famed career with the company followed. He danced in many of the ballets considered Balanchine’s most brilliant works. Among his unforgettable performances are: Prodigal Son, Apollo, Rubies section of Jewels, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Harlequinade.

Villella’s danced at the White House for four presidents. In 1997 the National Medal of the Arts was awarded by President Bill Clinton at the Kennedy Center Honors. Villella is the only American ever asked to dance an encore at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. After retiring, Villella directed Ballet Oklahoma (now Oklahoma City Ballet) then, for 26 years, Villella was the founding artistic director of the Miami City Ballet. Villella was named on the 100 of America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures by the Dance Heritage Coalition.

Melissa Young ~ Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence

Melissa M. Young, Associate Artistic Director of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre will receive the Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence. “Melissa is one of the most talented and inspiring artists that I have known,” writes Dr. Linda James.
The Honduran-American’s love for Alvin Ailey’s style led her to New York where she graduated from The Ailey School. She joined the Dallas Black Dance Theatre 22 years ago, first as a dancer then taking on increased responsibilities teaching, coaching and directing rehearsals. She worked with the Dallas Theater Center’s production of The Wiz and Porgy and Bess for the Dallas Opera. In 2010, Melissa was chosen as one of The Talented Youth by The Dallas Weekly and in 2014 she received an Award of Recognition from the South Dallas Dance Festival. She has served on the adjunct faculty of SMU, TWU and Visiting Artist for Abilene Christian University.

Elizabeth Gillaspy ~ Larry White Excellence in Dance Educator Award

Elizabeth Gillaspy, Director of Texas Christian University’s School for Contemporary and Classical Ballet, will receive the Larry White Excellence in Dance Education Award. Elizabeth began dancing in Dortmund and Heidelberg, Germany where her father sang in the opera. After studying with the North Carolina School of the Arts and American Ballet Theater, she toured with the Atlanta Ballet and the Atlanta Ballet Chamber Ensemble.

“My true passion,” Elizabeth said, “resides in dance education, training and choreography.” Gillaspy established the high school fine arts dance program at Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth then joined TCU’s faculty. Her ballets have been performed by the Orlando Ballet, the International Ballet Competition, regionally and internationally. In 2006 Elizabeth received the Dance Educator of the Year awards from the TAHPERD and the NDA and the TCU College of Fine Arts Award for Teaching Excellence. She is past president of Ballet CORPS, Intl.

Christian Alan Waits ~ Mary Warner Award for Outstanding Service to Dance

Christian Alan Waits, master photographer, will receive the Mary Warner Award for Service to Dance. Waits is past president of the Dallas Professional Photographers Association and was named a Master of Photography by the Professional Photographers of America and received the Kodak Gallery Award for Photographic Excellence. Over his career Waits has been on movie sets, shot video from helicopters, and worked for major corporations. Today he photographs the Dallas Summer Musicals.

Who would have known, commented Chris, that “dance would influence my life so much.” Waits first became involved with dance covering his daughter’s recitals. Mary Warner urged him to try his hand photographing performances and events. That led him to photograph and videotape DCNT programs and serve on the Board of Directors.

Mary Six Rupert ~ Buster Cooper Tap Legend

Mary Six Rupert is this year’s Buster Cooper Tap Legend. From the very beginning Mary knew she would be a dancer. Starting her dance career at age two and teaching at her mother Nita Braun’s studio at 15, Mary majored in dance at SMU but New York beckoned. Joining the Rockettes, Rupert could visualize the shape or pattern of a dance not just her place in the line; she was an invaluable swing dancer.

Over her 13 years with the Rockettes, Mary became the assistant choreographer and toured worldwide. Rupert toured in a number of Broadway musicals as dance captain and/or choreographer’s assistant. Among them were 42nd Street, Gypsy, Can Can, and Singing in the Rain. She worked with Harold Nicholas of the celebrated Nicholas Brothers. Their friendship evolved while working together in My One and Only. They rehearsed together and later she was his assistant. Rupert is professor of tap and jazz at Wagner College. She developed Tap Dancing Hands Down, enabling people to tap who cannot stand or have balance issues. Mary co-founded Legacy 36, LLC, an organization celebrating retired precision dancers in productions she produces and choreographs.
See more award recipients in the Honors Awards Hall of Fame.