Viktor Usov, who rejoined contemporary chamber company Northwest Dance Project last year, has won a Princess Grace Award, a resume topper for a dancer.
The Princess Grace Foundation USA, named after Grace Kelly, gives the awards to emerging U.S. artists in dance, theater and film. The winners also receive various amounts of money, depending on need. Usov is among eight choreographers and dancers to win the award this year. Other winners include members of such companies as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Trisha Brown Dance Company.
Usov was born in Užgorod, in western Ukraine, but he moved to Portland when he was 9. A former Jefferson Dancer, he trained with Northwest Dance Project artistic director Sarah Slipper early in his dance career, and danced with Northwest Dance Project before moving to Germany four years ago. After a nearly three-year in stint with Johannes Weiland at Germany's Staatstheater in Kassel, he moved back to Portland and rejoined the company. Slipper at the time called him a "prodigal son."
Two other current Northwest Dance Project company members have won the award: Andrea Parson in 2010, and Franco Nieto in 2012.
"I think that the Princess Grace Foundation-USA looks for the same things in dancers that we do," Northwest Dance Project executive director Scott Lewis wrote in an email to WW. "We both are drawn to dancers that are true artists and have had to 'overcome challenges' to get where they are. None of our three dancers have 'ideal ballet bodies' but all of them kick ass in the studio and on stage, and I think PGA recognizes and wants to support a more complete artist than the typically stiff ballerina type."
Usov, at 5-foot-7, says he's been called "too short and too stocky." He goes on: "I don't have long legs, I'm not hip extended, and I don't have turnout, but those are all little things that in the end don't matter. "
Dancers write an essay as part of their Princess Grace Award application, explaining his or her greatest challenge to becoming a dancer. Usov said his was overcoming narrow expectations, especially the physical ones, so he could express himself.
"How I found to do that," he says, "was to try to understand why I was dancing on stage. And for me, being on stage is the most honest thing I have ever done in my life."