Arts and Culture News

News from the arts world.

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Amitava Sarkar

When Dallas Black Dance Theatre's Academy first created its Espresso Nutcracker in 2018, bringing together parts of the Tchaikovsky ballet with Duke Ellington's jazz-infused Nutcracker Suite, it quickly had to expand the production as venues sold out amid popular demand for tickets. This year it will continue its tradition with a virtual production, mixing video from past performances with newly recorded selections.

In the mid-1970s, more than 40 years before he won the Pulitzer Prize for music, pianist and composer Anthony Davis was driving with his wife to Boston for a concert when a police officer pulled them over .

A Tempo this week continues its look at how performing arts organizations are adapting their seasons, including holiday traditions, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Host Rachel Katz this Saturday (11/21 at 7 pm) speaks with Julie Diana Hench, executive director of the American Repertory Ballet, about how the ballet company has shifted lessons online and evaluated this year's season, and also with Marc Uys, executive director of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, whose virtual Holiday Pops concert performance includes a partnership with ARB for Nutcracker selections.

As anyone who has seen the 1981 film classic My Dinner with André knows, avant-garde theater director and actor André Gregory is a wonderful raconteur.

His multi-faceted life, full of dramatic ups and downs (and celebrities!), is rich material for memoir. Like the dramatic arts, memoir is a great vehicle for conveying character as well as stories. Yet when urged to write about his life, Gregory said he preferred his "blissful" present to dwelling in the past, and balked at the implied proximity to death. Thus his book's maverick title.

A slender, dark-haired young man walks along the windblown Scottish coast, picking up stones and discovering the ruins of a cottage. The young man is mentalist Scott Silven, and you are about to go on a journey with him.

Silven has toured the world delighting audiences with seemingly impossible illusions. But with the pandemic confining him to his home in Scotland, he hatched a new interactive online show, commissioned by nine arts centers around the world.

Joan Marcus

As Covid-19 began its surge last March, American Ballet Theater quickly brought its education programs online, including dance instruction and ABTKids Daily - five days of content a week that brings ballet and related concepts to young audiences. That was followed during the ensuing months with other virtual programs from its dancers that kept the company engaged with its existing, and new-found, audiences.

As the traditional Nutcracker season begins, A Tempo is exploring how ballet companies are bringing their holiday and other programming to audiences amid restrictions and cancellations resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Roxey Ballet has created an online "Nutcracker Channel" to bring selections from the classic ballet and other dance offerings to audiences. A Tempo host Rachel Katz speaks with Founder and Artistic Director Mark Roxey about the channel, and also how Roxey Ballet has navigated the pandemic overall.


A touching video showing a former ballet dancer afflicted with memory loss gracefully dancing as she hears the music from Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake has

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Photo by Matthew Murphy

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Photo from TheaterWorks Hartford

Arts and cultural organizations in Princeton have struggled this past year in the midst of the pandemic, cancelling concerts, exhibits and other in-person activities, but many are working hard to ensure that they continue to promote and support the arts and bring programs to the public. This Saturday (10/31 at 7 pm) on A Tempo, host Rachel Katz visits with the new Executive Director of the Arts Council of Princeton, Adam Welch, who joined the council in August.

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The New Wave musician and former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne cannot have known a pandemic was en route when he decided to convert his 2019 Broadway show, American Utopia, into an impressionistic, sweetly illustrated adult picture book — created in collaboration with the much-loved artist Maira Kalman.

Even this spring, when New York City was at the center of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S, the city's public parks never closed. Instead, they became a place where people went for a socially distanced refuge, often escaping into music with their headphones. Ellen Reid has taken that experience one step further: The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer has written new music for a GPS-enabled app called Soundwalk, specifically designed to accompany walks around Central Park.

Imagine The Office, but in St. Petersburg, Russia. And instead of Dunder Mifflin, it's the Russian government's Internet Research Agency. A new online play called Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy, co-produced by TheaterWorks Hartford, TheaterSquared in Fayetteville, Ark., in association with The Civilians, does just that.

Joan Marcus

Meredith Whitefield

As the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra adapts to social distancing restrictions, it has unveiled a revised season that maintains its mission to feature its musicians around the state performing a diverse repetoire, including some new and contemporary works reflecting current-day discussions of race and social justice.

A hard-bop stalwart. An avant-garde original. A ceiling-shattering bandleader. A bebop-obsessive broadcaster. These are some brief descriptors for the incoming class of NEA Jazz Masters, announced this morning by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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When Irving Berlin's Oscar-nominated movie musical Top Hat entered the National Film Registry, the Library of Congress wrote "This effervescent musical proved the perfect tonic for Depression-era audiences." 85 years later, a mesmerizing, modern rendition of one of its dance numbers could be seen as a "pandemic-era" tonic for today's audiences.

Joan Marcus

Photos courtesy of Susan Kander

Behind the news headlines and social discussions of inequality and discrimination - ranging from incidents of police brutality to all-too-common everyday examples of bias - lie some very fraught decisions and emotions faced by Black parents as they raise their children and prepare them to go out into the world as young adults. Some of these reflections came up during conversations between composer Susan Kander and soprano Roberta Gumbel, and the result is the chamber opera dwb (driving while black).

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