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5 Questions with Natacha Diels

Posted July 8, 2020

Special Features Music New Music

We continue our new series aiming to discover more about Annenberg Center artists, Penn faculty and others whom we find interesting in just five questions. This time, we’re featuring Natacha Diels who will be joining Penn’s music department faculty this fall. A founding member of the innovative Ensemble Pamplemousse, Diels is a composer who integrates visual and sound art with touches of whimsy and irony to reflect on the human condition. Read on to learn more about Natacha Diels.

1. What themes do you pursue in your work?

I primarily consider myself a collage artist— using as source material existing concrete music/sound/video. I do this to repurpose the emotional response to the material, pay respect to others, mark history through relevant reference, and also largely because of the sheer joy of creating in this manner. Broadly, I attempt to make art that approaches life and currently, highlights its absurdity by treading the tenuous line separating profound mundanity and a nearly fantastical loss of touch with reality. Read more...

5 Questions with Tyshawn Sorey

Posted July 7, 2020

Music New Music Special Features

Photo by John Rogers
In this brand-new series, we’re asking five questions to discover more about Annenberg Center artists, Penn faculty and others whom we just find interesting! To kick us off, we’re highlighting Tyshawn Sorey, one of two new faculty joining Penn’s music department this fall. A 2017 MacArthur Fellow and multi-instrumentalist, Sorey is “a composer of radical and seemingly boundless ideas” (The Wall Street Journal) who defies distinctions between musical genres, composition and improvisation. Let’s learn more about this new figure at Penn.

1. How would you describe the music that you typically create?

Without getting into my issues with genre names because of their inability to accurately describe music, the music that I typically create as both a composer and performer comprises myriad styles – almost always with an experimental bent. I like to think of myself as an individual who creates music that traverses many musical/art worlds and, ultimately, expands one’s consciousness and their sense of what music can do. Put another way, I musically am free to do whatever I want to do and create whatever music I wish. I think this compositional and performative attitude cuts directly to the chase and it seems the best way to describe it. Read more...

Mark Morris Dance Group Video Vault: The Early Years

Posted July 6, 2020

Penn Live Arts Recommends Dance

Please note, video was only available through July 19.

As our inaugural Artist-in-Residence, Mark Morris' preeminent modern dance company graced our stage in 2018, marking the group’s triumphant return to Philadelphia after 14 years. Known for its exceptional dancers, sophisticated choreography and live music, the company has many iconic works that have been seen around the world frequently throughout its 40-year history. In fact, Morris has choreographed 185 works, but some were performed only a handful of times or even just for a single performance. Luckily, many of these lesser known works were captured on video, and now, at a time when we can’t gather to enjoy live performances, Morris is releasing curated archival collections that provide a rare chance to rediscover dances from the company’s history. Read more...

The Guggenheim’s Works & Process Virtual Commissions Series

Posted July 1, 2020

Penn Live Arts Recommends Dance

There’s nothing quite like getting a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process, being able to ask questions of the artist or see a piece before it becomes a hit. For over 35 years, the Guggenheim’s Works & Process program has done just that, providing unprecedented access to artists and their new works. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Guggenheim shifted focus online, supporting artists and their process while also sharing it with the world through a Virtual Commissions series.

Over the past few months, several Annenberg Center artists and companies created and performed new works at home for this series. Most recently, four BalletX co-commissions had their digital premiere, each performed by company dancers. Set to Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time,” 100 Days, choreographed by Caili Quan (also a BalletX dancer), is a playful take on life at home during lockdown. It featured dancer Chloe Perkes and her husband Ammon Perkes, who just happens to be a Penn graduate student. Additional BalletX works include The Under Way (working title) by Rena Butler, Brown Eyes by Penny Saunders and’s okay too. Feel by Hope Boykin. 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...

Dr. Guthrie Ramsey’s A Spiritual Vibe, Vol. 1

Posted June 25, 2020

Music Special Features

On the eve of Black Music Month a few weeks ago, pianist, composer and Penn Professor of Music Dr. Guthrie Ramsey sat down to talk about his new album, A Spiritual Vibe, Vol. 1, with musicology scholars from across the country including Alicia Lola Jones from Indiana University, Fredara Hadley from The Juilliard School and Mark Anthony Neal from Duke University.

In the conversation, Ramsey shared that the project features updated versions of spiritual songs that he has heard since childhood. “I wanted this [project] to sound different than the things I had been writing. That makes you feel alive as a musician – to keep experimenting with different sound worlds and not just get locked into one thing.” Ramsey goes on, “A key [to growing] is to hang around younger musicians and see what they’re up to.” Ramsey does just that. The album includes a host of talented singers and instrumentalists, including Vince Anthony, Bridget Ramsey (Ramsey’s daughter), Rod McGaha and Brendan McGeehan, as well as one of Ramsey’s students at Penn, Anna Fleming. Read more...

Live Event: So Percussion Solos

Posted June 24, 2020

Music New Music Virtual Stage

We are excited to present the acclaimed new music ensemble Sō Percussion in an exclusive, livestreamed performance on July 1 at 7 PM on our Facebook page. The four members of Sō will perform a short series of back-to-back solo works live and then join Erin Busch, a doctoral fellow in music composition at Penn, for a discussion and Q&A. Audience members are encouraged to comment during the event with any questions for Sō.

In advance of its originally scheduled performance in April, Sō Percussion had been collaborating with Busch and the Penn Sound Collective, a graduate composition group, since fall 2019. The April performance would have featured world premieres by Busch, Nathan Courtright, Flannery Cunningham, James Diaz and Ania Vu, but unfortunately had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While we look forward to welcoming Sō for its Annenberg Center debut in the future, for now we are eager to gather online for an evening of mesmerizing solo percussion. See you July 1 at 7 PM on Facebook Live.  (Please note, you do not need to have a Facebook account to watch this event.) Read more...

A virtual trip to Paris with Paul Taylor Dance Company

Posted June 22, 2020


In January of this year, we welcomed back a longtime Annenberg Center and NextMove Dance favorite, Paul Taylor Dance Company, to the Zellerbach stage. It seems like so long ago now! They are among our many friends in New York City who have been in our thoughts these past few months, and looking back on their remarkable artistic accomplishments is providing us some solace as we navigate the road ahead. We were excited to stumble on this wonderful film from 2012, which marks the 50th anniversary of the company’s first-ever performance in Paris. The remarkable program, recorded at the Théâtre National de Chaillot for the Les Étés de la Danse festival, features Brandenburgs, set to Bach’s Brandenburg concertos #3 and #6, and Beloved Renegade, set to music from Francis Poulenc’s Gloria.

Brandenburgs is a magnificent interpretation of one of Bach’s most beloved musical masterpieces. Paul Taylor was the ultimate renaissance man of choreography, tackling music from medieval to rock, and in this case, he does a superb job of communicating through Bach’s sublime music. In a review of the work, the Manchester [UK] Guardian notes, “Beauty is the only word for Brandenburgs…[which] celebrates the good things in life. Such a radiant, seamless flow of invention that the choreography seems an entirely natural way of moving to this music.” Read more...

Good games and new tricks with Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat

Posted June 18, 2020


Photo by Mark Garvin
“I know some good games we could play,” said the cat. “I know some new tricks,” said the Cat in the Hat.

Arden Theatre Company audiences were looking forward to the company’s live adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat this spring. While those performances are on hold until next season, the Cat can instead visit families at home in The Cat in Hat Teaches THAT! Learn how to balance a flower on one finger or stop a spinning coin without knocking it over. Geared for elementary-aged children, Doug Hara, who would have co-directed and starred in the title role at the Arden, demonstrates some of the Cat’s best tricks from the show. Hara even shows off the trickiest trick that he mastered for the role – balancing atop a ball! Don’t try that one at home though. Read more...

Sweet Honey in the Rock honors Juneteenth with an evening of spirit and song

Posted June 17, 2020

Penn Live Arts Recommends

Grammy®-nominated a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock has performed at the Annenberg Center many times over the years. The group’s powerful performances have always left us feeling inspired, encouraged, energized and comforted, with a renewed faith in humanity. On Friday, June 19 at 8 PM, we look forward to Sweet Honey in the Rock’s virtual concert and discussion honoring Juneteenth, the anniversary of when the last enslaved Black Americans received word that the Emancipation Proclamation granted them their freedom, two-and-a-half years after its signing.

In an evening of spirit and song, Sweet Honey in the Rock will reflect on the historical significance of Juneteenth through song, poem and discussion. Read more...