Penn Live Arts Blog

Recent Highlights: Jan – Mar 2023

Posted April 5, 2023

Dance Theatre of Harlem, Credit Mark Garvin
On a cold mid-January evening, Dance Theatre of Harlem heated up the Zellerbach Theatre, while downstairs in the Prince Theatre, the Italian experimental theatre company Teatro delle Albe immersed our audiences in an utterly riveting depiction of the last visions of Dante. A week later, noted medieval music specialist Benjamin Bagby brought the epic poem of Beowulf to vivid life, and the month ended with families and hundreds of schoolchildren in awe of Acrobuffos’ magical Air Play.

It was all part of what Penn Live Arts does best: inspire, entertain and transform lives through a diverse array of artistic experiences.

Penn Today illuminated Teatro delle Albe and brought great context to both Benjamin Bagby’s performance and academic discussion co-organized with the Penn Libraries and departments of English and music.

In February, we featured the second half of the Negro Ensemble Company’s Brownstein Residency with the world premiere of Mecca is Burning, which WHYY hailed as an “ode to Harlem,” in its preview. In addition to the five well-received performances, the company worked closely with over 150 students at Penn and in Philadelphia schools, examining and discussing how a new play comes to fruition. The Pennsylvania Gazette wrote in depth about the residency, the process, the rehearsals and ultimately, the performance itself in “Rich History, New Visions.” Read more about NEC’s outreach with students on the PLA blog.

We were thrilled to present two of the world’s greatest dance companies at the Annenberg Center this winter. Longtime friends Dance Theatre of Harlem came in January, giving the world premiere performance of William Forsythe’s Blake Works IV (The Barre Project). Retiring company artistic director Virginia Johnson was profiled in The Philadelphia Tribune and honored with an opening night reception, while incoming artistic director Robert Garland was welcomed by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

It is always a great honor to present the Martha Graham Dance Company. The Philadelphia Inquirer connected with company member Anne Souder who teaches Graham technique locally. Read more about the rich history of this company and its legendary founder on the PLA blog.

We also saw a broad array of musical styles over the winter, including new music with The Crossing’s world premiere of Martin Bresnick’s Self Portraits 1964, Unfinished and a powerful program of Philadelphia premieres with Sō Percussion and Caroline Shaw. We welcomed both a cappella group VOCES8 and early music sensation and recorder player Tabea Debus to the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, a wonderful new venue for us. In partnership with World Cafe Live, we presented Anaïs Mitchell, the writer of the critically acclaimed Broadway musical Hadestown which was one of XPN’s top concerts to see that week. And we offered two hybrid live/virtual performances with the Philadelphia debut of jazz drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. and the Penn Live Arts debut of vocalist Theo Bleckmann in a program of Weimar-era music.

As we move into spring, we look forward to more diverse programming including Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (April 13), Paul Taylor Dance Company (April 21-22), our Philadelphia Children’s Festival (May 20-23) and many more. Plus, watch for the exciting announcement of our 23/24 season on April 21. Hope to see you soon!

related events