If you're a dancer, winning a Princess Grace Award
is a Very Big Deal: the national award, which recognizes emerging artists in performing arts and film, honors only six dancers nationwide every year, typically from major companies (American Ballet Theatre and Boston Ballet among them in 2009). So when Andrea Parson
, a member of Portland's Northwest Dance Project, learned she was a 2010 recipient, she admitted her first response was to bury her head in her hands in stunned disbelief.
“I was completely surprised and overwhelmed with joy,” she said.
NWDP executive director Scott Lewis was also pleased, if slightly less surprised. “We nominated Andrea for the Princess Grace Dance Fellowship because we feel she is an amazingly talented dancer in the early stage of her career that deserved to be recognized for her talents, drive, dedication and hard work,” he said. “It's the thing that will be on the top of Andrea's résumé forever. It speaks not only to Andrea's talents, but the level of the company as well.” To qualify, Parson had to complete an application, submit performance videos and photos, a letter of recommendation and a personal letter.
Like many dancers before her, Parson has struggled financially throughout her dance training and career, she said, which makes the fellowship money that the award conveys particularly sweet. (The foundation wouldn't disclose the amount, but it's enough to cover her salary for the year.) But it's not just the money, she added: It's being included in the company of artists she admires, and feeling like she has a future in a tough industry. “I am enthusiastic about continuing to explore and develop my artistic voice,” she said. “Receiving this award has also strengthened my faith in going for what seems to be impossible.”
Parson and NWDP Artistic Director Sarah Slipper will travel to New York Nov. 10 for the awards gala, presided over by the Princess of Hanover. In addition to the fellowship, Parson will receive a wearable objet d'art
made of precious metals and Swarovski crystal accents.
Photos of Andrea Parson by Blaine Truitt Covert courtesy of Northwest Dance Project.