Just keep dancing!
Masterclasses with visiting dance companies and artists are a longstanding tradition at the Annenberg Center. Penn and other university students from around Philadelphia have the opportunity to spend quality time in our dance studio with some of the best of the best several times each season. So, this August, during a time when our mainstage would usually be dark and the dancers would usually be at summer dance festivals or intensives, we seized the chance to adapt this into a virtual format.
5 Questions with Dorothy Wilkie
What first got you into dance?
I always loved to dance as a child and at family gatherings, people always used to call me to dance to certain music. And that’s where it started. Coming up in school, there were Friday lunchtime dances and Friday after-school dances that I never missed. And with live music! People put rhythm and blues to Latin. We were dancing to mambo and cha cha. Slopping and bopping and stranding. Wilk (John Wilkie) and I were known to be dancers. People would make a circle and watch us.
David Parsons/Parsons Dance: A tour-de-force
Reflection: Jazz as protest music
As early as the 1920s, jazz musicians were using their music to call attention to discrimination. In his 1929 recording of Fats Waller’s tune, “(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue,” Louis Armstrong altered the lyrics to emphasize the notion of racial prejudice. Ten years later, Billie Holiday recorded Abel Meeropol’s “Strange Fruit,” a song written in response to the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Indiana. TIME magazine named it the best song of the century in 1999.
5 Questions with Caleb Teicher
We continue our series aiming to discover more about Annenberg Center artists, Penn faculty and others whom we find interesting in just five questions. Today, we hear from New York City-based tap and swing dancer/choreographer Caleb Teicher, whose company made its Philadelphia debut on our stage in 2018.
Recently featured on the cover of Dance Magazine, Teicher is known for his signature style of musicality, humor and warmth, and is the recipient of a 2019 New York City Center Choreographic Fellowship, two Bessie Awards and a 2019 Harkness Promise Award. Read on to learn more about Caleb Teicher!
1. What first got you into dance?
Kids are naturally wiggly, and I was no exception… There was always music playing in my house, and I bounced around like most kids do. I was also growing up in the era of *NSYNC, and dancing was (and still is) a major part of pop culture.
The first art thing I studied, though, was drumming — a neighborhood mom (Ellen Alexander) was an incredible percussionist, and she taught lessons in her garage. After a number of years of doing that, I saw tap dance on TV and asked my mom if I could try a class. I found a great teacher not too far away (Jennifer Dell) who was hosting an all-boys beginner tap class, and that made me feel comfortable enough to try it.
5 Questions with Maori Karmael Holmes
1. There is a lot of great film, discussion, events in the BlackStar Film Festival this year. What one thing should we not miss?
That’s always a hard question to answer. The entire festival is carefully planned by all of us and we want folks to participate in everything!
2. What’s your process for evaluating and selecting films?
This year, we started working with a crew of a dozen student reviewers (many of whom attend Penn) who watched the films in full and made notes.
BlackStar Film Festival
Due to COVID-19, BlackStar has gone digital for this year. More than 80 films representing over 20 countries will be shown, including 24 world premieres. Among the highlights are the world premiere of The Ancestors Live – 50 Years of Kùlú Mèlé African Dance & Drum Ensemble (August 22), which honors Philadelphia-based Kùlú Mèlé’s 50th anniversary and the making of Ogun & the People (which was commissioned by the Annenberg Center and received its world premiere on our stage in November 2019), and Legendary: 30 Years of Philly Ballroom, an inside look at the preservation of Philadelphia’s ballroom scene, a Black and Latinx LGBTQ safe-space that has endured for 30 years (August 22). Visit the BlackStar website for the full schedule of feature films, documentaries, shorts, live panel discussions and special events.
Koresh Dance Company uses film to respond to our current times
Koresh Dance Company recently expanded its digital reach with the release of “Hide Your Face/Unmask Your Heart.” Subtitled A Trilogy of Yearning for Normalcy, Justice and Peace of Mind, the short film trilogy is a specially curated project by founder Roni Koresh intended to refocus and reimagine new ways of dance expression during times of uncertainty and fear. Each film features words or poetry by Karl Mullen, a Philadelphia-based specialist in non-traditional art and music making, and were edited by fellow Philadelphian Sandy Mitchel, a sought-after videographer for her work in capturing dance. “Hide Your Face/Unmask Your Heart” provides relevant commentary to our current times and elevates voices of our Philadelphia arts community.
The first film, 6 feet apart, was a response to social distancing performed by the dancers of Koresh Dance Company. The second, The Elephant is in the Room, featured esteemed dancers Rennie Harris, Raphael Xavier and Zane Booker (all of whom are also natives of the Philadelphia area) in a response to social justice and systemic racism against Black communities.