The phenomenal Bill T. Jones
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
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
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
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
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
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...
From London to your couch: enjoy National Theatre plays at home
Penn Live Arts Recommends Theatre
London’s National Theatre
is known for its excellent theatrical productions, ranging from classics to cutting-edge new works. No stranger to world-wide broadcasts, the National has been producing high-quality live recordings of its performances and sharing them globally for over a decade through its National Theatre Live initiative. Now, as no one is able to gather in front of a stage or large-scale screen, the National has captivated the world again with over 12 million views of its National Theatre at Home performances, streamed free each week. Make a date on Thursdays for the next five weeks to enjoy the following productions via the National’s YouTube channel
Small Island - The epic stage version of Andrea Levy's prize-winning novel, directed by Rufus Norris
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Gwendoline Christie plays Titania in the Bridge Theatre's immersive production, directed by Nicholas Hytner
Les Blancs - An African country teeters on the edge of civil war in Lorraine Hansberry’s epic, directed by Yaël Farber Read more...
Reflection: Art Is How We Justify Our Existence
Photo by Emilio Parra Doiztua / The New York Times
One of the most beautiful things about art is how it brings people together. Whether we see a concert, visit the museum or take a dance class, we expect to interact with people at every one of those experiences. But what happens when the communal element of art is taken away from us due to a global health crisis? And what role does art play when issues of systemic racism and social justice leave us feeling even more distanced and divided as people?
As international art dealer David Zwirner puts it, “While art can reach into the darkest places of the human psyche, it does so to help us understand and hopefully transcend. Art lifts us up. In the end, I think its mission is simply to make us better people.” In other words, the messages and meaning behind art are how we appreciate our differences as humans. Art is both literally and figuratively our canvas for expression and contemplation. We use visuals, music, dance or whatever art form speaks to us most to depict what words alone cannot. In doing so, we make art that can be poignant, controversial, insightful or whatever we want it to be. Read more...
An update from our Executive & Artistic Director
The Annenberg Center believes that Black lives matter, and we stand in solidarity with the nationwide movement to eliminate the racism, violence, oppression and systemic injustice that is endemic across our country. As part of an institution of higher education and as an arts organization, we recognize that we are often at the forefront of addressing issues that confront our society. We must be leaders of change and part of the solution.
This statement is the beginning of a process, not the end. We recognize that we have much work ahead of us and we pledge to work toward creating an environment that is inclusive and free from discrimination for artists of color on our stages, for our patrons of diverse cultural backgrounds, and for staff, board, faculty, students and all persons of color across the Penn campus.
While we have a long history of supporting artists of color and offering diverse programming on our stages, and that will not change, this is not enough. We must examine our own institution and dig deep to challenge our assumptions and examine the ways our organization has operated out of privilege. We must work not only to ensure inclusivity on our stages and in our operations, but we must also pledge to actively fight against racism and injustice. Read more...
Live Premiere: A Digital Reinvention of Martha Graham's Immediate Tragedy
Dance Virtual Stage World Premieres
Martha Graham Dance Company
is one of the oldest and most celebrated contemporary dance companies on the planet. True to its tradition of social activism, this iconic company continues to respond to the issues of today with a digital reinvention of Graham’s Immediate Tragedy
, to be premiered live online on June 19. Originally created in 1937 in response to the Spanish Civil War, this collaborative piece with composer Henry Cowell was never filmed and considered lost for decades. Today, inspired by archival remnants of Graham’s original solo, this reimagined, digital work draws on the shared experience of our current, immediate tragedy, the global pandemic.
Commissioned by The Soraya, this new iteration of Immediate Tragedy features an original score by Christopher Rountree to be performed by the Los Angeles-based collective, Wild Up. These musicians took inspiration from shards of Cowell’s music notations found in the Graham archives, while 14 dancers each worked to develop specific movement phrases based on photos of the original piece. From around the world, these artists collaborated from the safety of their homes through a variety of technologies to synchronize movement, music and digital design.
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