Recent Highlights: Jan – Mar 2021
Katherine Blodgett · Posted March 30, 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...
One Year On
Christopher A. Gruits · Posted March 18, 2021
Pictured: Angélique Kidjo in one of our final performances before closing our doors, February 2020
It’s hard to believe that we are now one year on from the total shutdown of our economy and the world as we knew it. Saying that sounds dramatic, but it's true. Recently, we have begun to regain some of our regular economic activity, and with the coming of spring and the advent of the vaccine rollout there is hope on the horizon. Yet, for the performing arts industry globally, this year has meant a total reevaluation of our business model while at the same time presenting an urgent need to maintain our venues, staff
, not to mention supporting the artists that grace our stages. It is hardly hyperbolic to state that our industry has never faced a greater challenge. Even during the Spanish flu pandemic, theatres, including Broadway, stayed open. During the Great Depression, the government invested in the Federal Theatre Project (1935-39) and during WWII, theatre and movie-going was a revered national pastime, an important source of information and a welcome distraction from the realities of rationing and war.
One year into our own generation’s challenge, we can begin to reflect on this tumultuous time and consider the many struggles but also the opportunities that have been realized because of this unprecedented situation. In a year when our nation grappled with the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systematic racism, we were given an opportunity to ponder our role as arts providers and respond to national circumstances by delivering these programs in innovative and truly inclusive ways. Read more...
Digital dance abounds in February
Posted February 19, 2021
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
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).
5 Questions with Samara Joy & Pasquale Grasso
Posted January 28, 2021
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.
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.
Adapting and optimizing live performance for the virtual stage
Madeline Bell · Posted January 15, 2021
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
Posted September 1, 2020
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...
Tiny Desk Concerts by Annenberg Center Artists
Posted August 31, 2020
Esperanza Spalding's 2010 Tiny Desk concert
Since 2008, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts
has presented over 800 performances. The online concert series, perhaps the most popular of its kind in the world, features different artists from every musical genre in intimate, in-studio performances lasting about 15-20 minutes. There’s only one main rule for the artists to follow: All equipment, instruments and people must fit behind the desk. The famed desk space, reminiscent of a quirky, jam-packed office cubicle, has hosted many Annenberg Center artists over the years. Here are a few of our recent favorites! Read more...
Live Event: So Percussion Solos
Posted June 24, 2020
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...
Live Premiere: A Digital Reinvention of Martha Graham's Immediate Tragedy
Posted June 15, 2020
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.
Join us tomorrow on YouTube Live for pianist Jenny Lin
Posted May 27, 2020
With our launch of Annenberg Center @ Home, this spring has been a season of new beginnings. Tomorrow evening at 7 PM, we take another new step into the world of livestreamed events.
In March, we presented pianist and Steinway artist Jenny Lin at the Penn Museum. Little did we know at the time that it would be our final performance for the season, not to mention the conclusion of Lin’s own spring concert schedule. With this in mind, we invited Lin back for our first-ever livestreamed event, a watch party and live discussion with Christopher Gruits, our Executive & Artistic Director. Read more...