Dame Beryl Grey receives the De Valois Award

Dame Beryl Grey, receiving the Ninette de Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement, praises the current crop of young dancers for their wide variety of dance skills inherited from many parts of the world, which, she claims, were unimaginable in her youth.

The Critics Circle

The 17th National Dance Awards

Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells

Graham Watts

Published: 08/02/2017

The Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards for 2016 were presented today, Monday 6th February 2017, at a ceremony in London, hosted by Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy MBE and Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante, the creative team behind the highly successful dance company, Boy Blue Entertainment.


Dame Beryl Grey was awarded the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement in recognition of her remarkable career, which began as a fourteen year-old, entering the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, in August 1941.  Famously, on her fifteenth birthday, she was given the opportunity to dance Odette/Odile in the full length Swan Lake.   Dame Beryl was the first western dancer to appear as a guest artist with the Bolshoi Ballet (1957/8) and she also performed as a guest ballerina with the Kirov and the Peking and Shanghai Ballets (1964).  She went on to become the artistic director of London Festival Ballet (now renamed as English National Ballet) from 1968 to 1979.   Her award was presented by Dame Monica Mason, the former director of The Royal Ballet.


For the first time ever, the awards recognised a cross-gender performance with Chase Johnsey, an American dancer with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, winning the Dancing Times Award for Best Male Dancer for his performance in the title role of Paquita, dancing as his alter-ego ballerina, Yekaterina Verbosovich.  The “Trocks”, as they are affectionately known, were also nominated in the Outstanding Company category.  


Although this was generally a year of new winners, the Royal Ballet principal dancer, Francesca Hayward won the Grishko Award for Best Female Dancer, just two years after winning the Emerging Artist Award.   That latter award was won for the third year in succession by a rising star from The Royal Ballet with first artist, Reece Clarke, from Scotland, picking up the 2016 Emerging Artist Award.   Zenaida Yanowsky – a ballerina who is to retire at the end of this season – made it a hat-trick of wins for The Royal Ballet with the award for Outstanding Female Performance (Classical) for her performance in the title role of Elizabeth. She won the Best Female Dancer Award in 2003.


English National Ballet was named as winner of the Stef Stefanou Award for Outstanding Company for the second time in the three years of Tamara Rojo’s artistic leadership and its rising star, Cesar Corrales, received the Outstanding Male Performance (Classical) an award for which his ballet master, Irek Mukhamedov, was also nominated – at 56 - for his role as Diego Rivera in Broken Wings; a ballet by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa about Frida Kahlo. 


Jonathan Watkins picked up his first award, winning the Best Classical Choreography for 1984 for Northern Ballet.     The winner of the Dance Europe Award for Best Modern Choreography was Kim Brandstrup for his Transfigured Night, made for Rambert.


This year’s Best Independent Company was Gary Clarke Company, which has been touring Coal during the year.


The awards for Outstanding Performance in Modern Dance went to Canadian actor, Jonathon Young for his performance in Betroffenheit for Kidd Pivot/Electric Company Theatre; and Ching-Ying Chien for her performance in Until the Lions for Akram Khan Company.


And the One Dance UK Industry Award, determined by a separate panel of judges chosen by Dance UK, went to Brenda Last, a dancer and ballet mistress who was a founder member of Western Theatre Ballet (which was formed 60 years ago, this year) and went on to join the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet and became artistic director of the Norwegian National Ballet.  Her award was presented by the artistic director of Scottish Ballet, Christopher Hampson.           


With the exception of the One Dance UK award, the National Dance Awards are decided by the members of the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle after an extensive round of nominations and voting.   To be eligible, performances had to be given in the UK between 1st September 2015 and 31st August 2016.





EMERGING ARTIST AWARD [sponsored by the L&M Trust]  

            Reece Clarke (first artist, The Royal Ballet)

BEST INDEPENDENT COMPANY [sponsored by DWFM Beckman]  

Gary Clarke Company 

BEST CLASSICAL CHOREOGRAPHY [sponsored by the Ballet Association]  

Jonathan Watkins for 1984 by Northern Ballet

OUTSTANDING MALE PERFORMANCE (MODERN) [sponsored by the Critics’ Circle]  

Jonathon Young in Betroffenheit by Kidd Pivot/Electric Company Theatre


Zenaida Yanowsky in the title role as Elizabeth by The Royal Ballet


Kim Brandstrup for Transfigured Night by Rambert

OUTSTANDING MALE PERFORMANCE (CLASSICAL) [sponsored by the Office for Architectural Culture]

Cesar Corrales as Ali in Le Corsaire by English National Ballet

OUTSTANDING FEMALE PERFORMANCE (MODERN) [sponsored by Northern Ballet]  

Ching-Ying Chien in Until the Lions by Akram Khan Company


Brenda Last OBE  


Francesca Hayward  


Chase Johnsey   


English National Ballet  


Dame Beryl Grey


The Chairman of the Awards committee, Graham Watts OBE, stressed the importance of expert opinion as the determining factor for these awards.    ‘More than 30 critics with several hundred years’ of experience between them, collectively watching thousands of performances, each year, provide a considerable assurance of quality in these awards’, he said, opening the event.  ‘450 dancers, choreographers and companies were deemed of such high quality by critics to be recommended for an award this year.  A new record that again surpasses that set, last year.  It has clearly been a bumper year with nominees coming from a range of genres and companies.  In particular, it has been a year in which the nominees originate from more than 20 different nationalities, both in the EU and from elsewhere in Europe and other continents.  More than half the nominees and award winners come from outside the UK and long may that diversity continue.   These awards celebrate excellence across a rich diversity of dance forms that have both entertained and challenged us over the past year.  ’


The dance section of the Critics’ Circle is delighted to honour and thank the 2016 National Dance Awards Sponsors:


Grishko, Stef Stefanou, Dancing Times, Dance Europe, The Critics’ Circle, The L&M Trust, One Dance UK, DWFM Beckman, The Ballet Association, Lee McLernon, The Office of Architectural Culture, Sprizzato and the Construction Industry Council.



Enquiries about the Critics' Circle should be made to the Hon Gen Sec Rick Jones by email criticscircleallsections@gmail.com or telephone 020 8698 2460.