The big surprise at the Chita Rivera Awards, which honor dance on Broadway, off-Broadway and film, definitely came in the film category.
The British film “London Road,” about a small town dealing with a serial killer in 2006, beat “La La Land” and “Beauty and the Beast” to win the award for best theatrical release.
When choreographer Javier De Frutos accepted his award even he expressed surprise, saying he thought he was coming to New York just for the cocktails: The movement in the film is meant to look natural, as if there were no choreographer, even while the characters are singing.
The Chita Rivera Awards, formerly the Fred Astaire Awards, brought Broadway’s dance community into the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Sept. 11 with a night that included excerpts of shows including “A Bronx Tale,” “Lala Land” and “West Side Story,” in a nod to Chita Rivera’s role as the original Anita in 1957.
Andy Blankenbuehler won for choreography of a Broadway show for his high-powered swing dance in “Bandstand,” and “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” won best ensemble of a Broadway show.
Two stars of “Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical” — Corbin Bleu and Megan Sikora — won outstanding male and female dancer. Their choreographer Denis Jones, who was nominated for a Tony Award, accepted on behalf of Corbin Bleu, and afterward the cast all called Bleu from the sidewalk outside the theater.
Sikora paid tribute to her first dance teacher who taught her to “dance from an actor’s point of view, not just doing the steps.”
The documentary “Restless Creature,” about former New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan won in its category over “Alive and Kicking” (about swing dance), “Dancer” (about Russian dancer Sergei Polunin) and Mr. Gaga (about Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin).
After the event, co-directors of “Restless Creature” Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger explained that they initially they set out to film Whelan as she prepared an independent stage program, but as her life took a path than included injury and retirement, the film followed.
“London Road” is an important cross-over between theater and film: It started when the show was a musical at London ‘s National Theatre in 2011.
As the film shooting began, De Frutos was told to make the movement be “transparent” he said, explaining that the filmmakers did want it to seem like there was a choreographer. “I had to take myself out of it. Everybody needs to look like they just decided to move.”
Mr. Frutos’s stage work can be seen at the Charlotte Ballet this fall, when “Elsa Canasta” opens and in spring 2018 when his collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys, “The Most Incredible Thing,” opens.
The full list of winners can be found at the Chita Rivera Awards website.