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Penn Live Arts Blog / By / Anne-Marie Mulgrew

A visionary celebration of sound and motion

Posted November 16, 2021

Dance Penn Live Arts Debuts Philadelphia Premieres

Listen, watch and be wowed by celebrity tap star Michelle Dorrance’s sensational sounds and moves when her company explodes onto the Zellerbach Theatre stage December 10-11.

A MacArthur Fellow “Genius Grant” recipient, the first ever for a tap dancer, Dorrance is an unstoppable force of nature. She is a virtuoso tap dancer, visionary choreographer, passionate ambassador, fearless activist, relentless evangelist, supercharged innovator and devoted “edutainer” (educator/entertainer). She honors the rich, diverse history of tap while introducing new audiences to tap’s endless possibilities through her ground-breaking and imaginative approaches. Read more...

Jamey Hampton, Ashley Roland and the unsurpassable BodyVox

Posted September 15, 2020

Dance Special Features

Photo of Ashley Roland and Jamey Hampton courtesy of BodyVox
Audiences have been wooed for decades by the impressive physicality and larger-than-life theatricality of MOMIX, Pilobolus, I’m So Optimistic (ISO) and BodyVox. Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, the Emmy award-winning choreographers and founders of BodyVox, are a major part of the mayhem, memories and magic comprising this incredible legacy of inventiveness in dance. The husband-and-wife duo, who spent years touring the world with Pilobolus, MOMIX and ISO, founded BodyVox in 1997, since creating at least 30 original shows, 12 films and three operas, encompassing more than 200 original dances.

In 1986, Hampton and Roland appeared in MOMIX’s first performance on the Dance Celebration Monday Night Series. The unforgettable program included Woomen (1983) by Hampton and Daniel Ezralow, Fever (1984) by Roland, and Skiva (1983) and Mr. Seawater’s Pool (1985) by MOMIX founder Moses Pendleton, Hampton, Ezralow and Morleigh Steinberg. Hampton and Roland returned with ISO in 1988 to perform their witty duet piece, Scare Myself, and Captain Tenacity, the hilarious signature solo work in which Roland, dressed as a Velcro-clad superhero, runs, jumps and sticks herself onto a wall, defying gravity to thunderous music by Richard Wagner. Both works reappeared sporadically over the years in BodyVox programs and at Dance Celebration galas. Read more...

David Parsons/Parsons Dance: A tour-de-force

Posted August 24, 2020

Dance Special Features

Parsons Dance performing Nascimento
“One of the great movers of modern dance” (The New York Times), David Parsons has had a remarkable career spent innovating and developing the physical prowess and technical skill in modern dance. Having spent his early years training as a gymnast and wrestler, Parsons’ athletic talents had already risen to the surface. His mother enrolled him in summer dance classes at age nine and by age 17, he was on his way to New York City to study at The Ailey School, where he had been awarded a scholarship. In New York, Parsons apprenticed with celebrated dancer/choreographer Paul Taylor before joining the Paul Taylor Dance Company as a principal dancer. He went on to become a guest artist with the New York City Ballet, spending his summers touring with MOMIX and performing for Mark Morris and Mikhail Baryshnikov in the early White Oak Dance Project tours. Following in the steps of Taylor, whom he considered his mentor, he founded Parsons Dance in 1985 with Howell Binkley, a Tony Award winner for his lighting designs in Jersey Boys (2006) and Hamilton (2016). Read more...

The phenomenal Bill T. Jones

Posted June 30, 2020

Dance Special Features

No topic is taboo for Bill T. Jones. For 50 years, the iconic choreographer, theatre director, writer, activist and provocateur has tackled political and social issues including the AIDS epidemic, terminal illness, racism, equality and inclusivity. Hailed as “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” by the Dance Heritage Coalition, Jones’ illustrious career includes over 140 works for concert stages, Broadway, opera and film, which have garnered him honors including a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award, 2010 Kennedy Center Honors, Tony® Awards (Fela!, Spring Awakening), Bessie awards, the 2005 Wexner Prize, the 2013 National Medal of the Arts and numerous honorary doctoral degrees.

Jones, the tenth of 12 children, grew up in Wayland, New York where he was the only African American in his classes. A track star in high school, Jones later attended Binghamton University (SUNY) where he discovered both dance and his sexual identity. It was there, as a Black gay man, he met his life and dance partner, Arnie Zane, a white photographer. Read more...

A salute to trailblazer Arthur Mitchell and Dance Theatre of Harlem

Posted June 10, 2020


Arthur Mitchell, in 2015, holding a photograph of himself dancing with Diana Adams in Agon in 1957. Credit: EYEVINE
The monumental legacy of Arthur Mitchell, self-described as the “Jackie Robinson” of professional ballet, defies definition. His tap audition for LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts propelled him on a trailblazing path, forging creative opportunities for generations of Black and Brown artists worldwide. In 1957, he stunned audiences in George Balanchine’s neo-classic Agon (1957), partnering with white ballerina Diana Adams, and crushing racial boundaries and 400 years of ballet history. Known for his technical virtuosity, powerful artistry, elegant lines and pure charisma, he quickly rose to international stardom. As a Balanchine protégé, he joined New York City Ballet in November 1955, replacing the injured Jacques d’Amboise in Western Symphony, and is credited as being the first African American principal dancer (1962-1968) in a major American ballet company. Mitchell’s legendary roles include his naughty and mercurial Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1962) and his passionate partnering with Suzanne Farrell in Metastaseis & Pithoprakta (1968). However, it was Mitchell’s performance in Balanchine’s Requiem Canticles (1968), a tribute to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. that shaped dance history. Greatly impacted and galvanized by King’s passing, Mitchell needed to follow his dream. Read more...

A 40-year love affair with MOMIX

Posted June 8, 2020

Penn Live Arts Recommends Dance

Photo courtesy of MOMIX
MOMIX has a long and joyful relationship with Philadelphia audiences, wowing dance lovers, newcomers and even skeptics with its theatrical magic. MOMIX has appeared on the Dance Celebration Series presented by the Annenberg Center and Dance Affiliates/NextMove Dance 12 times during a 30-year partnership. The first time I saw MOMIX, I was awed by its outrageous inventiveness, almost reckless physicality, unbelievable beauty, transformative use of props, constructed costumes and lights, new age music, and unusual subject matter.

Early Roots

The MOMIX connection began in the early 1970s when Philadelphia audiences were amazed by the wild and wacky antics of the recently-formed troupe, Pilobolus, on the Walnut Street Theatre Dance Series. Moses Pendleton, the artistic director and founder of MOMIX, was also one of the founders of Pilobolus. While at Dartmouth College, Pendleton, a skier and English literature major, took a dance class with Alison Becker Chase, who required students to create an original dance. Legend has it that three male dancers—Pendleton, Steve Johnson and Jonathan Wolken—new to dance and not wanting to dance alone, created a work they titled Pilobolus, in which they stayed connected the entire time. This work led to the founding of the company Pilobolus and a new dance language based on collaboration, weight-sharing techniques, creative play, physical prowess and sculptural beauty. Read more...

Stream Pilobolus' classic Gnomen at home

Posted April 22, 2020

Penn Live Arts Recommends Dance

Pilobolus, fondly known for its humorous, eye-popping and mind-boggling use of the human form, made its Annenberg Center debut on the Inaugural Dance Celebration Series in 1983 with 17 subsequent appearances. Audiences continue to be mesmerized by Pilobolus’ unfathomable athletic prowess and fluidity, sculptural beauty and collaborative weight-sharing techniques. Named after a phototropic fungus, Pilobolus broke rules and created a new dance language. Who else could fit 26 people inside a MINI Cooper (making the 2011 Guinness World Record), create a Hyundai Santa Fe with dancers’ bodies or be featured at the 79th Annual Academy Awards®?

Pilobolus shares with home-viewers its powerful and passionate Gnomen, a work that premiered at the Annenberg Center in 1998 and was to be performed April 16-18, 2020. One of the 115 works in Pilobolus’ world-touring repertory, Gnomen features four world-class male dancer/gymnasts set to music by Paul Stillman. Gnomen explores the interconnectivity of the human spirit – the need to touch, heal, and lift one another in challenging times.