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Recent Highlights: Jan – Mar 2021

Katherine Blodgett  ·  Posted March 30, 2021

World Premieres


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

Posted March 4, 2021

World Premieres


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

Madeline Bell  ·  Posted January 15, 2021

World Premieres


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

World Premieres


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

Posted June 15, 2020

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.

Read more...