Bonnefoux, McBride honored with dance education award

Photo | Courtesy of North Carolina Dance Theatre

Chautauqua Dance leaders Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride, center, are joined by members of North Carolina Dance Theatre. Courtesy of North Carolina Dance Theatre.

Taylor Rogers | Staff Writer

Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, artistic director of Chautauqua Dance, and Master Teacher Patricia McBride were recently honored for their work with dance students with the first annual Ilona Copen Award.

Copen, who died in 2010, was the founder of the New York International Ballet Competition, which is a program devoted to educating young dancers through three weeks of intensive training and performances for international judges.

The award recognizes Bonnefoux and McBride’s dedication to sharing their professional experience and knowledge with young dancers as well as the encouragement and personal growth they provide their students. The NYIBC’s artistic board voted unanimously for the pair, according to a news release.

Bonnefoux serves as artistic director of North Carolina Dance Theatre, which is in residence at Chautauqua Institution during the season. McBride is associate artistic director of NCDT.

The couple accepted the award at a gala on March 22 in New York City. Bonnefoux said one of the most rewarding moments of the evening was when dancers from the NCDT performed.

“To perform in New York, that’s really special,” Bonnefoux said. “So that was what was really exciting for us is that we had some of our best dancers who could show off the quality of the company.”

Bonnefoux brought dance to Chautauqua 29 years ago and has been training and choreographing here ever since.

McBride said both she and Bonnefoux value their summers for the time spent with students, bringing new repertoire and watching the dancers perfect their technique.

“There was nothing like this here before,” McBride said. “Bringing a professional company to Chautauqua has been such an amazing part of our summers here.”

Sasha Janes, guest choreographer and rehearsal director for Chautauqua Dance, said the award is more than deserved.

“What they do for young, pre-professional and professional dancers is fantastic,” Janes said. “The kids that come, they get fantastic tuition. They learn with some of the best teachers around, and they do great performances, and that’s all thanks to Jean-Pierre and Patty.”

Janes, who also works with Bonnefoux and McBride during the off-season as rehearsal director for NCDT, said the pair is iconic.

“I can’t say enough,” Janes said. “People should give them more awards.”

McBride and Bonnefoux said they are both excited for what they expect to be a busy season.

Chautauqua provides an especially great atmosphere for choreographers, said Bonnefoux, who added he is looking forward to showing a piece he created to Johann Strauss’ music.

McBride said she loves staging her annual Balanchine work and simply being with the students.

“Our dancers are brilliant,” McBride said. “They’re amazing people as well as beautiful dancers.”

And while Chautauqua welcomes back the first recipients of the Ilona Copen Award, Bonnefoux said the Institution can expect the same work ethic they have been bringing for 29 years.