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Looking Back at Vessels

Posted March 4, 2021

World Premieres World Music Theatre Music African Roots

Photos by Kielinski Photography
On March 7, 2019 – one year before the coronavirus pandemic hit – we presented the world premiere of Vessels. An Annenberg Center co-commission, this poignant work centered on the question, “What does freedom sound like in a space of confinement?” Set on an abstraction of a slave ship with neither spoken words nor instrumental music, Vessels explored the journey of African women across the Middle Passage through sound and movement.

Inspiration struck Vessels co-creator Rebecca Mwase when she heard a talk about how millions of enslaved people arrived on these shores with their sanity intact. She immediately thought that song and dance must have played a crucial role. Mwase partnered with Ron Ragin, a singer and composer who focuses on interdisciplinary performance art and music of the African Diaspora, and the two embarked on a four-year journey studying traditional song and dance to create this important work. Read more...

Dance eXchange – Free weekly dance classes for youth

Posted March 2, 2021

Family Dance

Our friends at BalletX are inspiring children to stay active and get dancing! Based on the methodology of the National Dance Institute (NDI) and fueled by the artistry of BalletX, youth in grades K-5 can hop on Zoom to learn some of the basic vocabulary of dance while fostering self-confidence, focus and determination. These FREE classes happen at 3 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays through May and even better, there’s no commitment! Just register once and a Zoom link will be emailed two hours before each class so your kiddo can join whenever they can.  Check it out >>

5 Questions with Thomas Kraines & Kinan Abou-afach

Posted February 22, 2021

New Music

Cellist Thomas Kraines and cellist/oudist Kinan Abou-afach are joining forces on our stage on March 4. Kraines has graced our stage numerous times with the Daedalus Quartet, Penn’s quartet-in-residence. Abou-afach, whose musical output champions Arabic and Syrian traditions, was supposed to perform for us alongside the Daedalus Quartet back in April 2020 but that show was cancelled due to the pandemic. We are so excited these excellent musicians will share our stage soon, but first, let’s learn more about this duo in a special 5 Questions double feature. Read more...

Laughter, Love and a Lobby

Posted February 22, 2021

Nearly 50 years ago, the first chapter of a love story was written in our Zellerbach Theatre when our Board member Rick Feintuch, W’74, PAR’05, PAR’08 and his wife Merry Feintuch, W’74, PAR’05, PAR’08 went on their first date, leading to a long-lasting love and friendship. We are happy to share that with a recent gift from the couple, the new Feintuch Family Lobby at the Annenberg Center will officially be dedicated this spring as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.

Explore Rick and Merry's story >>

Digital dance abounds in February

Posted February 19, 2021

Virtual Stage Dance Penn Live Arts Recommends

Photo of Dance Theatre of Harlem by François Rousseau
We’re always eager to watch more dance. Luckily, companies near and far are continually producing new works and sharing past treasures. There’s particularly lots to love this month as virtual dance offerings are plentiful. Join us in enjoying these while they’re available!

Mark Morris Dance Group
Dance On! Video Vault archives
Available now

The Mark Morris Dance Group has reprised its Dance On! series from the summer which features archival collections of Morris’ rarely performed works. This month, two former company members have selected clips and excerpts from Rock of Ages (2004), I Don’t Want to Love (1996), Rhymes With Silver (1997) and V (2001).

Watch now


Checking in with some family favorites

Posted February 16, 2021

World Music Theatre Family Circus

Photo of MUMMENSCHANZ by Marco Hartmann
For decades, our family programming, Student Discovery Series and annual Philadelphia Children’s Festival have featured artists from around the world for performances that are at once entertaining and educational. As we miss hearing the delighted giggles and exuberant applause from our youngest audience members, we thought we’d check in with a few family favorites from the past two years and bring the show to you virtually. Enjoy a mesmerizing swing act in the Las Vegas desert by Cirque Mechanics; a vibrant exploration of Mexican music, dance and costuming by Mexico Beyond Mariachi; or a classic appearance by MUMMENSCHANZ from The Muppet Show in 1976. We can’t wait to see bright, smiling faces of all ages in our theatres again soon!

Cirque Mechanics 


Mexico Beyond Mariachi 




5 Questions with Michael Novak

Posted February 9, 2021


We continue our series aiming to discover more about Annenberg Center artists and others whom we find interesting in only five questions. Today, we hear from Michael Novak, Artistic Director of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Novak danced with the company from 2010-2019 and became the second Artistic Director upon the death of Paul Taylor in 2018, working to continue Taylor’s vision and nurture the future of modern dance. Read on to learn more and join us for this beloved company’s performance on February 18, including an interactive, post-show Q&A with Novak himself!

1. What is your earliest memory of dancing?

My earliest memory of dancing was "choreographing" (a term I use loosely) a dance with a friend to a song in their basement to some great tunes from the 80s. We were probably seven or eight years old. I don’t think we had any clue what we were doing, but I remember we had a lot of fun. Read more...

Paul Taylor: A Video Retrospective

Posted February 2, 2021


Photo by Paul B. Goode
The Paul Taylor Dance Company has graced our stage many times over the years. So, while we eagerly await the company’s performance on February 18, we’re taking a look at the amazing breadth of Taylor’s choreography over the years. Enjoy!

Esplanade (1975): Footage from 2020

See this performed live on our stage on February 18!

Cloven Kingdom (1976): Footage from 2020 

Images (1977): Footage from 2020 

Airs (1978): 

Brandenburgs (1988) & Beloved Renegade (2008): 

Dancemaker (1998): A documentary film about Paul Taylor 

5 Questions with Samara Joy & Pasquale Grasso

Posted January 28, 2021

Virtual Stage Jazz Penn Live Arts Debuts

She just won the prestigious Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. His guitar technique has garnered high praise from jazz great Pat Metheny. Together, with astonishing talent that belies their youth, Samara Joy and Pasquale Grasso will make their Annenberg Center debut on February 4. In this special double edition of our 5 Questions series, let’s learn more about Samara and Pasquale.

Samara Joy:

1. Name a few artists you love that everyone should check out.

Everyone should check out Sarah Vaughan, Phineas Newborn, and Ben Webster, just to name a few.


Remembering Julia Lang Mally W’83

Posted January 26, 2021

Ed Mally, W’83, and sons, David Mally, ENG’15, GEN’16 (center), and Adam Mally, ENG’13, GEN’14, GR’25 (right)
As we move into 2021 and look towards a brighter future with in-person performing arts, we are also reflecting on where we were at this time last year: all together, in our Zellerbach Theatre. One year ago, on January 31, 2020, we gathered with our board member Ed Mally W’83, along with a group of his family and friends, to honor the memory of Ed’s late wife on her birthday. The evening was the official dedication of the Julia L. Mally, W’83 Stage, and a prelude to Spanish Harlem Orchestra’s performance on the newly named stage. Since then, we have presented many more artists on the Julia L. Mally, W’83 Stage, from before we temporarily closed our doors for the COVID-19 pandemic through now, as we continue to stream live, real-time performances. Read more...

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