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Take a New Victory Arts Break

Posted July 28, 2020

Penn Live Arts Recommends Family

Fill your summer days with the performing arts by taking an Arts Break! This family-friendly, educational series by the New Victory Theater offers weeklong, step-by-step activities centered on rotating themes of culture and the performing arts. Check out arts from around the world, explore Juneteenth, try the “awe-inspiring, ta-dah world” of acrobatics and so much more.

Developed and led by New Victory’s outstanding teaching artists, each Arts Break spans five days, offering a different activity for each weekday. With age recommendations and material lists, most activities take around 30 minutes and can be done using easy-to-find household objects.

The teaching artist program at New Victory is focused on the impact of live performing arts on kids. With a foundation of robust research, the company seeks to continue its meaningful educational programming in the at-home setting. Read more about New Victory’s research-based approach and be on the lookout for the next Arts Break.

ListenUp: Dance Me / Music of Leonard Cohen

Posted July 21, 2020

Dance ListenUp Music

Last September, there was hardly a dry eye in the house as we kicked off our dance season with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal’s Dance Me / Music of Leonard Cohen, a riveting homage to famed poet/singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen. Set to some of Cohen's most beloved songs including “Suzanne,” “So Long, Marianne” and “Hallelujah,” choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Andonis Foniadakis and Ihsan Rustem created a stunning multidisciplinary work. Writing in The Dance Journal, Debra Danese said, “Under the artistic direction of Louis Robitaille, [Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal] strives to present work that is both high quality and accessible to audiences. Dance Me truly represented those key values with brilliant dance artists and innovative musical, light, and media design.” Grab a tissue and have a listen to Cohen’s evocative soundtrack.

5 Questions with Emmet Cohen

Posted July 20, 2020

Jazz Music Special Features

Emmet Cohen protesting alongside Jon Batiste of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

In five questions, we aim to discover more about Annenberg Center artists, Penn faculty and others whom we find interesting. This time, we feature Harlem-based piano phenom Emmet Cohen who made his Annenberg Center debut back in 2019. Cohen blew us away with his prodigious technique, innovative sound and exuberant charm. And now, you can enjoy this rising jazz star from the comfort of your home every Monday night for his Live from Emmet’s Place series. Read on to learn more about Emmet Cohen, and join us tonight at 7:30 PM as we share his Monday night concert on our Facebook page!

1. What first got you into music?  

I first started piano lessons at three years old, and there was always a lot of music – not in my immediate family, not my parents – but on my dad’s side of the family. I think he always wanted to be a musician and it was something that he considered going into as a profession when he was a teenager in the 1960s. Out of high school, he had a recording contract with Brunswick, the same record label with the same management as Jackie Wilson. Jackie’s record came out the same time as his record and no one ever called him back again. Read more...

A lobby full of masterpieces

Posted July 15, 2020

Special Features

When the Annenberg Center opened its doors in 1971, visitors were immediately captivated by a spectacular two-story sculpture, Homage to the Performing Arts, by Harry Bertoia (1915-1978). The sculpture is a site-specific commission designed for the two-story circular light well. Its bronze tensile spandrel rods extend from the ceiling to descend 35 feet into the lower level. An Italian-born American, Bertoia is best known for his sculptures, furniture design and jewelry. He began his career as a furniture designer. While working for Knoll, Bertoia created his most famous piece, the Diamond Chair, made entirely from polished steel wires in a basket-like shape. With his success in the 1950s, he devoted himself entirely to art. Bertoia began to make metal and wood sculptures that made various sounds when the rods were struck together. He became obsessed and made hundreds of them.

“I build sculptures that can move in the wind, or that can be touched and played, like an instrument,” Bertoia said in an NPR interview a few years before his death in 1978. A pioneering sound artist, Bertoia made recordings as he touched various sculptures together in his barn. The recordings were released as Sonambient albums. Unfortunately, we don’t know if Bertoia ever tried playing Homage to the Performing Arts. This sculpture was entirely conserved to its original splendor in 2015 and returned as the centerpiece of the lobby. Read more...

The joyful a cappella of Nobuntu

Posted July 14, 2020

Family World Music

Photo by Werner Puntigam Ear X Eye
Internationally renowned all-female a cappella ensemble Nobuntu brightened our stage in 2018, wowing audiences with a mix of traditional Zimbabwean songs, Afro-jazz and gospel. While celebrating their vibrant African culture, these women continue to showcase how music can be a vehicle for change, one that transcends boundaries of race, religion and gender.

Recently, Nobuntu appeared as part of Lincoln Center’s #ConcertsforKids series, bringing their pure voices and diverse musical stylings front and center. Check out this beautiful performance by Nobuntu, and be sure to browse the rest of the #ConcertsforKids programs, allowing your family to be inspired by world class artists while at home.

A feast of digital content from the Dunedin Consort

Posted July 13, 2020

Penn Live Arts Recommends Early Music

Over the past few months, the Dunedin Consort has taken to many formats of the virtual stage. Within the first weeks of quarantine, the Gramophone Award-winning baroque ensemble hosted a lighthearted and casual livestreamed Q&A with its Music Director, John Butt. In April, Dunedin’s musicians honored Good Friday with a socially distanced recording of Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. The video, along with Dunedin’s corresponding podcast episode, took the place of the group’s annual performances of the work that were cancelled. Since then, we’ve enjoyed Dunedin’s educational video series, Making Music with Dunedin Consort, and fun introductions to instruments such as the baroque horn, the oboe and the theorbo.

We were also very excited to see Dunedin release its performance at the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington, D.C. This video brought us right back to January of this year when we presented Dunedin’s Philadelphia debut just two days before the LOC concert. Read more...

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...