The Bay Area Dance Awards put on one classy party Tuesday night. The Yerba Buena Center for the Art?s grand lobby was packed, hugs were abundant, and ?community? was the buzzword. Michael Wade Simpson was on the scene for the Chronicle, and wraps up the winners:

?From Senegalese choreography to Aerial Dance, Theatre for Incarcerated Women to kids programs, premier ballet danseurs to the modern dancers who perform in tiny theaters, the awards highlighted excellence on many levels . . .

Several categories fielded multiple winners. Gina Dawson, who won an Izzie for individual performance in Rhodessa Jones’ “The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women,” shared the platform with San Francisco Ballet star Gonzalo Garcia, who won for his performance in George Balanchine’s classic “Apollo.” Choreographer Jones told the audience she had given Dawson an interesting dance assignment: “I want you to go onstage and die in front of our eyes. Sister, go for it. And I want you to wear high heels.” ?

A supremely quotable moment came when former New York Times chief dance critic Anna Kisselgoff took the podium and pronounced San Francisco the country?s ?most vital community of dance.?

Sadly, I was only able to stay for half of what must have been a very long evening. The two live performances I saw?flamenco artist Carola Zertuche and young ballet choreographer Amy Seiwert?were both scintillating additions. But for the most part the speeches are still way too long and too dull (reluctant thanks to Michael Smuin for knowing how to tell a snappy anecdote in his laugh-spiked tribute to departed ballet teacher Svetlana Afanasieva). In the plus column, the slickly cued slides gave the night an Oscar feel, and music mixer Albert Matthias kept the gaps plugged with chic sounds.

I wish I?d been able to stay on for the post-party. The opening reception alone, with so much talent and goodwill crammed into one room, made me feel outrageously fortunate to play a small part on the dance scene here. Among the wild range of gifted artists I saw mingling: Joanna Haigood, Gonzalo Garcia, Elizabeth Miner, Margaret Jenkins, Brett Conway, Krissy Keefer. It?s a scene worth celebrating, and that?s the most important thing the Bay Area Dance Awards do.

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