All-male Swan Lake star and Cuban truck driver's son take top British dance awards

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The Independent Online

His role as a male swan was featured in the ending to the film Billy Elliot. Yesterday Adam Cooper, the star of Matthew Bourne's acclaimed all-male production of Swan Lake, won the plaudits of critics and audiences at Britain's national dance awards.

He won the critics' vote for best musical theatre choreography with his production of Rogers and Hart's On Your Toes, commissioned by the Leicester Haymarket and later a hit at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The work beat the National Theatre's riproaring Anything Goes to the title.

Cooper also won the newly introduced Audience Award, voted for by visitors to dance venues across Britain.

Accepting the award from the musical's star, Elaine Paige, at a ceremony at Sadler's Wells, London, Cooper thanked the Leicester Haymarket for taking a chance on him with On Your Toes, in which he also starred. "I'd never been in a musical before and I'd never choreographed a musical before," he said.

But he was not the only popular winner in what are the only professional awards in Britain dedicated solely to dance. They are chosen by critics and writers.

Carlos Acosta, the son of a Cuban truck driver who became a star of the Royal Ballet and premiered his own autobiographical show last year, was named Best Male Dancer. Akram Khan, Britain's premier Asian dancer, won the best modern choreography title for work with his own company, notably Kaash (Hindi for "If"), with which he collaborated with the sculptor Anish Kapoor and the musician Nitin Sawhney.

As Khan was in the Netherlands yesterday, his company manager, Farooq Chaudhry, accepted the award and warned: "In the immortal words of General Custer: Watch out, the Indians are coming!"

His rivals included Rafael Bonachela, nominated for his work with Rambert but also known for Kylie Minogue's pop videos.

The final choreography award, for classical work, went to Michael Corder, for Melody on the Move, commissioned by the English National Ballet.

The English National Ballet itself beat the Northern Ballet Theatre and George Piper Dances, the new company of the Channel 4 Ballet Boyz stars, to take the company prize for outstanding classical repertoire.

Scottish Dance Theatre, one of only three Scottish Arts Council-funded dance companies, took the company prize for outstanding modern repertoire. Janet Smith, its artistic director, said she was particularly grateful for the recognition as the company works mainly in the Highlands and islands of Scotland.

Zenaida Yanowsky, a Royal Ballet principal, was Best Female Dancer. Ana Lujan Sanchez, of the Rambert Dance Company, won Outstanding Young Female Artist for modern dance and Henry Montes won the male equivalent for work with the Siobhan Davies Dance Company.

Oxana Panchenko, of George Piper Dances, and Robert Parker, of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, were named outstanding young classical artists.

Theresa Beattie took the UK industry award for running The Place, an information and support centre. Val Bourne, the artistic director of Dance Umbrella, was awarded the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement. The Paul Taylor Dance Company was Best Foreign Dance Company and a special award went to the designer Lez Brotherston for his work on many ballets.

A special Children's Achievement award went to Harry Walker, 11, of Weston-super-Mare, who has became the first person to win distinction in tap dancing's bronze exam with a prosthetic leg. He lost his natural leg at birth.

Jeffery Taylor, co-chairman of the awards committee, said if dance received the recognition it deserved then its stars, like the England rugby team, would be fêted at Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.