Recent Highlights: Apr – Jun 2021
Kun-Yang Lin performing The Wind in our Zellerbach Theatre, Apr 22, 2021
As our country began to see a light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, arts lovers were eager to process feelings and emotions through music and dance performances. The final weeks of our spring season offered up just such an opportunity through a host of evocative programs. Here are some highlights.
Rennie Harris Puremovement gave us a powerful, message-driven performance, including works about police violence and the Black male experience. In its review of the performance, The Philadelphia Inquirer said, “His narrative voice is as compelling here as it is in his storied contemporary dance career with Philadanco and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.” Viewers commented that it was “mesmerizing” and “showcasing community pain.” Learn more about Philadelphia-native Harris in our 5 Questions article or this Philadelphia Tribune profile. Read more...
5 Questions with Wang Lu
We are thrilled to be partnering with The Crossing for The Month of Moderns 2021, offering three outdoor music programs performed outdoors across the Philadelphia area. This annual summertime festival features numerous world and U.S. premieres, including the At which point by composer Wang Lu. Based on Forrest Gander’s raw, brutally honest poem Beckoning, the score is described by The Crossing’s conductor Donald Nally as an “ongoing, florid recitative – a musical language bursting with potential song yet intent on the concentrated delivery of words. Transparent and fragile, each phrase from one singer to another, across the rolling meadow of Awbury Arboretum.” Let’s get to know Lu in five questions!
What first got you into music?
I grew up in a musical family. I saw how much my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents enjoyed singing Chinese opera, folk songs and playing accordion together with their friends. I always associated music-making with the people I love and our community.
The Month of Moderns 2021
The Crossing is grateful to be presented by Annenberg Center, our frequent partner.
Entering our second summer of a global pandemic, it could be easy to feel things are quickly returning to “normal,” due to the amazing efficiency of scientists, a surprisingly responsible government (we’d come to expect the opposite), and vigilance on the part of our singers. Yet, the wounds are deep, and the virus lingers nearby, worse than ever in parts of the world that are not able to invest the extraordinary resources available to us in the United States.
I say this because our festival this summer - while being a full Month of Moderns, with three different programs in three weeks – is anything but “normal.” Entirely outside, designed for distance and safety during the pandemic, and capturing this moment in time – a moment when we are confused in balancing hope and caution, fear and defiance, all couched in humility. So, the works we sing this summer address these emotions head on, and that makes me more excited than ever for a Month of Moderns because not only will we be together, but we’ll be mining every bit of what we’ve been through. Read more...
5 Questions with Matthew Neenan
A former principal dancer and Choreographer in Residence at Pennsylvania Ballet as well as the co-founder of Philadelphia’s beloved BalletX, Matthew Neenan has been called “fresh, touching, musical, original” with choreography that makes “dancers look vulnerable, openhearted and, above all, marvelously free.” (The New York Times
) We can’t wait for Neenan to come to the Annenberg Center to explore intimacy in isolation in a site-specific world premiere on May 27
. But first, let’s get to know more about him through just five questions. Enjoy!
What first got you into dance?
I was the stereotypical story for a young boy. My two older sisters danced at Boston Ballet School, therefore I was dragged to their ballet class almost every afternoon. I did not mind though, I was obsessed. I loved it so much and couldn’t wait to start classes once I was old enough. Read more...
Recent Highlights: Jan – Mar 2021
Photo courtesy of HopeBoykinDance
Powerful. Stunning. Inspiring. These are just a few of the words our audiences have shared with us since the spring digital season began in early February. It’s always great to hear such praise for the artists who have given a superlative performance. But in the past year, as we transitioned to livestreamed performances, it is particularly meaningful. And when we read that “the production team stars along with the dancers,” we get excited at the thought that perhaps that invisible barrier, across the virtual divide, just might be dissolving, bringing our virtual audiences so much closer. As one of only a couple of venues in the Philadelphia area to stream live performances in real time, this is a wonderful affirmation of the artists and their art and our staff learning to work in completely new ways. Here are a few highlights from the first weeks of our spring season.
Preserving the live experience has been our overriding goal for our 20/21 season. For debut artists, the dramatic tension of the live experience lends an extra level of energy, even in a virtual setting. For the audience, hearing new artists such as rising jazz stars Samara Joy and Pasquale Grasso gives a peek into the future of the art form. These fresh voices and musicians were a great kickoff to the spring season. You can read more about Samara Joy and her connection to Philadelphia in The Philadelphia Tribune and hear from both artists on our blog in our 5 Questions series. Read more...
Looking Back at Vessels
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...
Adapting and optimizing live performance for the virtual stage
Pam Tanowitz Dance performing Annenberg Solos: Sites 1-4 in the empty Zellerbach Theatre
Last September, when we first announced our fall digital season, I was overjoyed that after months without live performances, the Annenberg Center would be joining the world of livestream events. Within our line-up, I was especially interested in what Pam Tanowitz Dance, a company known for its “fascinating uses of stage space” (The New York Times
), would do with our completely empty Zellerbach Theatre. Tanowitz did not disappoint with her fascinating world premiere of Annenberg Solos: Sites 1-4
. The piece featured four solos performed in unconventional areas of the theatre such as backstage and the wings or alongside empty audience seats. Even the audio for the piece was interesting as it included moments of silence, discordant “soundscapes” rather than actual music and the sounds of Tanowitz herself calling out stage cues, intentionally patched into the livestream as part of the work. One might argue that it was a piece built only for livestream and only for an empty theatre, which made me consider the art of a livestream performance and explore creative ways that venues and artists have adapted spaces for other uses. Many, like Tanowitz, have even optimized their work specifically for digital viewing. Read more...
Our fall 2020 digital season takes the performance to you
Martha Graham Dance Company, Photo by Hibbard Nash Photography
We are excited to announce our fall 2020 digital season! Curated and created just for our patrons, our exclusive live performances will bring some of the best dance and music artists from our stage to your home. Also, new for this season, we are pleased that films will be returning to our line-up, broadening our programming and supporting independent film on campus and in West Philadelphia.
Each one-night-only music and dance performance will be broadcast live from our theatre and be followed by a Q&A with the artists. Viewers will have the opportunity to chat live with each other and the performers, forging connections at a time when we all feel so apart. Read on to discover what’s coming to our virtual stage! Read more...
Live Premiere: A Digital Reinvention of Martha Graham's Immediate Tragedy
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.