The judging is carried out by three panels of industry experts.

Theatre Judges

Lauren Warnecke

(Theatre Chair) Dance Critic, Chicago Tribune

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic at the Chicago Tribune, and has previously worked at the Windy City Times, Dance Magazine, and Pointe. Based in Chicago, she is founder and editor-in-chief of Art Intercepts, a Midwest-focused critical dance blog created in 2009.
“I mostly write about dance, in which lighting and video/projection are absolutely critical elements. A good, cohesive design provides context, and directs the eye to what the choreographer wants audience members to pay attention to. Particularly in contemporary dance or non-narrative works, it can be challenging to extract meaning from choreography alone.

“Lighting and video have the ability to transform the environment on stage, contextualizing what might otherwise seem just like bodies moving through space.”

Clifton Taylor

Lighting Designer

For more than 29 years Clifton Taylor has created lighting, projection and scenic designs for theatre, dance and opera around the world. Clifton has also been theatre consultant on new large scale theatrical venues in a number of countries. In 2002 he was awarded a grant from the Asian Cultural Council to teach a course in design for the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“Light has been a vital storytelling device ever since we’ve told ourselves stories. Even before we had the incredible technical control over light that we now enjoy, light and shadow were important metaphors in the plays and stories of the cultures that preceded ours.
As the artistic and industrial partnership that makes up the stage lighting community gains increasing mastery in lighting timing, brightness-contrast and color control, the designers who are working with light today are finding new and vital ways to frame the human experience in the 21st century.  These achievements should be recognized and written about and discussed, furthering the age-old role of the theatre to be an incubator for cultural change and human understanding.”

Celia Ipiotis

Dance Critic, Eye on the Arts

Celia Ipiotis began her professional career as a ballet and modern dancer and choreographer. She received a BFA from Ohio State University and an MA in Media Studies from New School For Social Research. In 1976, Ms. Ipiotis began working with the pioneering videodance artist Jeff Bush and their award-winning videodance productions have been exhibited at World’s Fairs and festivals around the world.

She is now the creator, producer and moderator of the nationally recognized culture series EYE ON DANCE & The Arts (EOD) – a television series devoted to artist’s ideas, achievements, and creative approaches.

Ms Ipiotis has also served as a member of university dance faculties including Hunter College, Harvard and Antioch College. She has participated on international and national arts selection panels and functioned as advisor for WNET’s “Dance In America Series,” She has led panels and forums on arts issues and moderated conversations on the artistic process for the NYC Ballet, The Guggenheim Museum “Works and Process” series, the Juilliard Special Projects Series, Marymount Manhattan College, BAM, NYFA, NYU and many others.

Selected as a “Scholar in Residence” at Jacob’s Pillow, Ipiotis sits on the Hunter College Dance Advisory Committee and on the Manhattan Children’s Museum Dance Protal Advisory panel.

Chris Jones

Theatre Critic, Chicago Tribune
Chris Jones is the chief theater critic and a Sunday culture columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His reviews of theater, performance, circus and comedy for the newspaper now  number in the thousands and his weekly, wide-ranging Sunday column explores all aspects of culture and its relationship with American life and ideas.

He also serves as a critic for CBS-2 Chicago, and, in 2014, he became the director of the National Critics’ Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut.  He also is the author of “Bigger, Brighter, Louder: 150 years of Chicago Theater,” published in 2013 by the University of Chicago Press. Prior to joining the Tribune in 2002, Jones served for many years as a critic for Variety and Daily Variety. He has twice served on the drama committee of the Pulitzer Prizes.

Nancy Wozny

Editor in Chief, Arts and Culture Texas

Nancy Wozny (Photo by Christopher Duggan) is editor in chief at Arts and Culture Texas, a frequent contributor to Pointe Magazine, Dance Teacher, and Dance Magazine, where she is also a contributing editor. She has also served as a  scholar in residence at Jacob’s Pillow since 2010.

“I always reminded by the importance of lighting design in by a comment from Nick Phillips (Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Trey McIntyre Project, Houston Ballet) when I was moderating a panel. I gave him the last word and he said something about light being the first and last word, because without light you don’t see the dance. Lighting can make or break a theatrical experience. Choreographers need to think through not only how light helps tell the story be in narrative or abstract, but the audience experience. Have you left us in the dark so we cannot see your brilliant choreography? Are there too may bells and whistles so that we need look away from the dance?  
Projections are a mainstay in the theater right now, often replacing traditional scenery. It can be brilliant or it can scream, “We needed to save money.” The relationship between surface and the content of the projection is key. as is timing and placement. When they are effective we don’t notice that are eyes are being fooled. I would like to see more attention paid to the amount of psychological space that a projection can give. Whether it’s real or projected, what we say has an impact.”

Norma Porter

Journalist, dancer, Black Dance Magazine editor and founder

Norma Porter is a journalist, dancer, educator and arts administrator. She is the Founding Publisher and Editor of Black Dance Magazine. Norma also serves as the Dance Admissions and Recruitment Coordinator, Freshmen Dance Advisor and instructor for the Freshmen Seminar in Dance course at Temple University. As a dance artist, Norma teaches workshops and choreographs for the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, and performs at Temple and with Bessie-nominated artist Lela Aisha Jones|Flyground.

Norma is currently developing two areas of focus: 1) critical analysis of the quality and frequency of media coverage of Black dance and 2) intergenerational working relationships between Black women in dance. She recently moderated a panel discussion on Black Dance in Magazines at the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference in Dayton, OH in January 2019, and presented on Black women challenging racial, cultural and aesthetic norms in dance at the Amplify! Black Women of the Movement Symposium hosted by the African American Museum in Philadelphia in March 2017. Norma is an active member of the National Association of University Women. Norma holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Journalism and a dance minor from American University. She resides in Philadelphia, PA with her preteen son.

“Lighting and projection are essential components of a dance performance that invoke mood, texture and the choreographer’s intent to convey a specific message to the audience. Without the proper lighting of a piece, significant changes in the way a work is performed by the dancers, and experienced by the audience can occur. Therefore, lighting should never be an afterthought, but a key component in the choreographic process.”

Paul Horsley

Critic and Performing Arts Editor, The Independent (KC)

Paul Horsley is Performing Arts Editor for The Independent and in Kansas City, where he writes weekly columns on classical music, dance, and theater. From 2000 to 2008 he was Music and Dance Critic for The Kansas City Star, where he covered local organizations and wrote extensively about visiting opera, dance, and theater companies. During the 1990s he was a senior staff member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he served as Program Annotator and Musicologist. He continues to write program notes for major arts organizations around the United States, and in Kansas City his writings for The Independent are increasingly devoted to the city’s absurdly burgeoning theater scene. He has contributed to The New York Times, Dance Magazine, Pointe, Symphony, Musical America, Chamber Music, the American Record Guide, Playbill, and numerous other publications. Paul earned degrees in journalism and piano performance at WSU before attending graduate school at Cornell University, where he received a PhD in musicology with a dissertation on 18th-century opera. In 2003, he was a National Endowment for the Arts/New York Times Foundation Fellow of the Institute for Dance Criticism at the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC. He is a past recipient of a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship for research in the Czech Republic, a DAAD Grant for study in Germany and Austria, and a Newberry Library Fellowship. He has taught music history and writing at Cornell, LSU, and Park University. You can find Paul on Twitter (@phorsleycritic).


“Attending live opera, dance, and theatre for the past quarter-century has opened my eyes to the visual buffet that masters of lighting and scenic design offer, toward helping us understand what we are seeing on the stage. I have had the privilege of watching, first-hand, the handiwork of Jennifer Tipton, Kirk Bookman, Trad A Burns, and others, and I have observed the fascinating process of “re-creating” original work by designers who are no longer living. In the process, I’ve come to believe that, although audiences do not always fully grasp the importance of, say, Jean Rosenthal’s designs for Jerome Robbins’Afternoon of a Faun, the impact is felt nevertheless—subliminally, on emotional and psychological levels that are difficult to articulate.