Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Deirdre Kelly Wins 2020 Nathan Cohen Award for Performing Arts Criticism

Critics At Large's Deirdre Kelly wins the 2020 Nathan Cohen Award for Outstanding Review. (Photo: McKenzie James)

The Canadian Theatre Critics Association has chosen Toronto dance critic Deirdre Kelly as the winner of the 2020 Nathan Cohen Award for Outstanding Review. 

Ms. Kelly won for "Danse Macabre: Three Works by the National Ballet of Canada,” her review of one of the classical dance company’s final performances in Toronto before the lockdowns in early March.

Evoking the vulnerability and ephemerality of the body, a theme whose resonance is amplified within the context of the global pandemic, the piece was published by the independent Canadian digital arts publication Critics At Large:

A second prize, for Critical Essay, was awarded to Quelemia Sparrow and Lois Anderson, authors of “Camas Lilies and Lysistrata,” a scholarly paper published earlier this year in Canadian Theatre Review.

The Nathan Cohen Awards, established in 1981, honour outstanding critical writing about theatre and performance in print or electronic media. They are named after former Toronto Star and CBC critic Nathan Cohen, who died in 1971.

This year’s submissions, representing media outlets from across Canada, were judged by New York theatre and cultural critic Jose Solís, a New York Times contributor and co-host of the podcast series Token Theatre Friends.

“I truly think this is my my favourite piece of criticism that I’ve read all year. It beautifully sums up the limbo that we are in,” said Mr. Solís of Ms. Kelly’s review at a virtual presentation of the Nathan Cohen Awards initiated in Toronto on Dec. 5.

“Besides giving me chills when I read it I was also left with a lot of hope. It was kind of like a summary of what 2020 has been and also a dream of the future, when what we love and what we do for a living will come back.”

Ms. Kelly for many years served as the staff dance critic for Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper. In addition to Critics At Large, her dance writing is also featured in Dance Magazine in New York, Dance Gazette in London and such general interest magazines as Australia Vogue, Elle USA and NUVO in Vancouver. Currently, she is Editor and principal writer of The York University Magazine. Her books, Paris Times Eight and Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection are both national best sellers.

This is the second time Ms. Kelly has received a prestigious Nathan Cohen Award. She last won in 2014 for her review of choreographer James Kudelka’s dance-theatre piece Malcolm, also for Critics At Large

Critics At Large was founded in January 2010 by Kevin Courrier, Shlomo Schwartzberg and David Churchill, with ongoing editorial and technical support from Mark Clamen and Steve Vineberg. Since 2010, Critics At Large has published almost 3,500 pieces of independent criticism of television, movies, books, music, theatre, dance, culture, and the arts.  

— Staff

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