: ailey II returns to new york : march 30 – april 10 :

Ailey II's Jacoby Pruitt and Courtney Celeste Spears in Jamar Roberts' Gêmeos. Photo by Eduardo Patino

Ailey II’s Jacoby Pruitt and Courtney Celeste Spears in Jamar Roberts’ Gêmeos. Photo by Eduardo Patino

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending Ailey II’s spring preview at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. The program showcased excerpts from In & Out, Something Tangible, I am the Road, and a full length performance of Gêmeos.

Artistic Director, Troy Powell, set the tone for the evening with his heartfelt words about the roots of Ailey II and the journey of its dancers through community outreach.  The entire twelve person company provided a spirited mix of modern dance that engaged through fresh choreography, street style inspired costumes, and at times, pulsating sound.

In & Out, choreographed by Jean Emile, and Something Tangible, choreographed by Ray Mercer, harnessed the spirit of Ulysses Dove’s, Episodes, and made it their own with fierce and sensual spurts of pure athletic movement. Gêmeos, choreographed by Jamar Roberts and performed by Courney Celeste Spears and Jacoby Pruitt lent itself to playful competition chock full of highly controlled muscular strength and grace. My favorite of the four featured dances was I am the Road, choreographed by Kyle “JustSole” Clark. This excerpt danced to hip-hop beats and delivered in colorful fare complemented by classic PUMAs was an ode to the Company’s camaraderie and showcased a penchant for fun.

Notable performances were made by Deidre Rogan, whose ballet training stood out amongst the pack in In & Out and continued to inspire awe throughout the evening. Others that shown brightly were Courtney Celeste Spears and Jacoby Pruitt, who both impressed in Gêmeos; but for Spears the full reach of her talent came out in I am the Road. Lloyd A. Boyd III also stood out as one to watch during this number.

It is hard to believe that this group consists of professionals in training. I enjoyed this show in spades over their highly regarded counterparts at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Company. I was won over by the high octane energy flow, formations, and transitions that sewed together perfectly with a thread of rhythmic accompaniment.

Catch them while you can:

Tickets are currently on sale online at alvinailey.org/aileyiinyc or by phone through Ovation Tix at 866.811.4111. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Joan Weill Center for Dance at 405 W. 55th Street. Tickets for groups of 10 or more are available through group sales at groupsales@alvinailey.org or by calling 212.405.9082. For full schedule of events, click here.

: soundtrack your weekend :

It’s been a long week and one of the things that’s helped me get through it is rediscovering some melodic songs from my music archive. Good music never gets old. Sure, it can lay dormant on the shelf for awhile, but I always go back to it. Here’s a sampling of what I had on rotation and what should prove to be a wonderful addition to your weekend.

 

This entry was posted in music.

: jenny lewis and the watson twins : celebrating 10 years : rabbit fur coat tour :

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Ten years have gone by since Jenny Lewis released her solo debut, Rabbit Fur Coat. A departure from her well-known indie rock roots, the album opened up her creativity to encompass gospel, folk, bluegrass and classic singer/songwriter fare. I was fortunate to see the tour that year at Irving Plaza in New York City, where Lewis, M. Ward, and the Watson Twins created a lasting memory of guitar strums, serenades, chiffon, and candles.

IMG_0028 (1)Fast forward to now, where fans are able to see the ensemble in a souped up version of the original. I had a chance to catch them on their stint in New York at the Beacon Theatre this past Thursday. This three part show certainly covered the price of admission. Starting with M.Ward as opener, it flowed through Intermission 1, continuing with a portal to 2006, where fans from then and now experienced an ode to the Rabbit Fur Coat tour that stood pretty true to the original. After hearing the complete album, the audience was left guessing if the show was over or not. Solving the conundrum was a roadie who passed by the stage with a sign for “Intermission.” Here we voyaged back to present day, where Lewis and her friends covered 70s inspired songs from her more recent works.

Talent abounded in the intimate venue with Lewis’ ever sweet and strong vocals, The Watson Twins’ solid back-up (and dance moves), and a cast of band members who know their way around drums, guitar, and piano.IMG_0018

I left completely satisfied by the experience, as Lewis sang every song of hers that I love, including “Handle with Care,” “It Wasn’t Me,” “She’s Not Me” and even one of my Rilo Kiley faves, “Silver Lining.”

Catch them if you can, the tour concludes tonight in Nashville, TN at the Ryman Auditorium. Tickets available for purchase here.

: subway stories : cover story : new beginnings :

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There is magic to music, this is something I’ve always believed, and last week I saw this magic in action in the underbelly of New York – the subway.

There are many unspoken rules of etiquette to this system of grimy platforms and fast moving trains. Some of which include not making a ruckus, avoiding eye contact, and keeping yourself busy until the train arrives at the station. Last Tuesday, however, I descended the stairs to the 23rd street station to the soft boom of surprisingly melodic singing.

When fully down the stairs and through the turnstile, I encountered an  a capella group of six men, including a bass player, croning out the sweet sounds of Motown on an otherwise dull day. The platform buzzed with people. Not able to ignore the beauty in front of them, apathy soon turned to smiles, claps, and Instragram videos of  “Lean on Me,”  “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” and “Stand By Me.”

Before the doors closed on the next train, I watched as even people seated on the train couldn’t ignore the sounds of the station and pointed out to their friends what they were hearing. I feel lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to be a part of this experience. Heck, I even bought the CD. The band is Cover Story and the album, New Beginnings. Hear a sampling below and enjoy the magic.

Learn more about Cover Story here

This entry was posted in music.

: book it : reckless by chrissie hynde :

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Chrissie Hynde has a distinctive voice that I can remember hearing on the radio as a kid. Her recently released memoirs, Reckless, take us on the journey from her roots in Ohio through her discovery of the 1960s London music scene to the ultimate creation and ascension of The Pretenders (original members) in the rock world.

Hynde is no angel, like many other rock-obsessed teens of her time, she consciously delves into the world of drug and alcohol abuse, free love, and of course making music. Throughout the book, she acknowledges the extremes of her and her friends’ behavior without apologies, but not without reflection.

As she balances feeling like a phony with the overwhelming desire to be part of the music scene, Hynde gives us something surprising, the knowledge that rockstars are just like everybody else. She credits The Pretenders’ success to the musical genius of their original guitarist; but anyone who’s heard her sing can attest that her voice is unique, easily identifiable, and rightfully made her a star.

There’s something about Hynde’s generation that doesn’t quite exist in today’s modern world – a free flow of ideas and the natural coming together of talent that seems (at least upon reading, I’m sure she’d disagree) to come together somewhat effortlessly. Even though it bounced around a bit, I enjoyed this unromanticized account of music history. Hynde writes a story worth reading with confidence and perspective.

: filmed : janis: little girl blue :

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Janis Joplin is one of the most well known names in music. I knew about her persona long before I knew her sound. In the documentary, Janis: Little Girl Blue, we get an intimate view into the rise and fall of this rock legend. Equal parts talented blues musician and heroine addict, Janis Joplin emerges in the film as a delicate flower, who spent her brief life searching for love only to receive it back in fractured pieces. From her early days of being on the receiving end of adolescent bullying to her young adult years of trying to fit her voice into the San Francisco music scene, Janis was a kind, but misunderstood soul.

The film interviews many of Janis’ former friends and bandmates, along with her brother and sister. Not surprisingly, we’re fed the classic pieces of roll ‘n’ roll tragedy  — an immense talent with an immense drug addiction, who lingers dangerously long in her well of solitude. Admired by thousands and yet hungering for love, the common thread in these stories is the glass wall that these musicians feel lies between them and their adoring fans; and then of course the walls go up on all sides and they’re left alone in a box, looking out at a world of chaos.

The ending is one we know, but the end credits take a stab at reflection — artists from then and now share their thoughts on this beloved songstress. The clip that resonated with me the most was an interview with John Lennon, where he ponders why – why have we created a world in which people feel the need to take drugs to deal with it? Smart man. The story is nothing new, but what I came away with are some important reminders – that if you love someone, make sure they know it; to be kind to those that need it most; and most importantly, to be a person that encourages others to be themselves without judgement.

Janis: Little Girl Blue is playing in New York City at IFC and Film Society of Lincoln Center. 

: get into the season : our favorite christmas albums :

I am a huge fan of Christmas music. Yes, it can get stale, but there’s something soothing about its spirited nature. While no surprise that some of my most beloved Christmas songs are by artists such as Wham! and N*Sync, this list is dedicated to comprehensive albums that provide holiday cheer from start to finish. In no particular order, here are my most cherished Christmas albums (that have been on rotation for a few weeks now!):

A Very She & Him Christmas by She & Him

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Why I Love it: Classic Christmas tunes sung in an old-time fashion, but with an indie rock flare.

Let It Snow by Michel Bublé 

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Why I Love It: This was Michel Bublé’s first Christmas album. While his second, Christmas (also on this list), is the widely popular one, this gem of six holiday classics is pure magic and my favorite of the two.

Christmas by Michel Bublé

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Why I love It: The right mix of cheerful and somber, this bonanza of holiday hits personalized to his special brand of crooner is Michel Bublé’s extended ode to Christmas that leaves you psyched for the season.

Merry Christmas by Mariah Carey

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Why I Love It: Establishing her as the Queen of Christmas, Merry Christmas by Mariah Carey brought us such forever classics as “All I Want for Christmas is You”  and the popped up version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”  Not to mention, the film Love Actually is basically an ode to this hit record.

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi Trio

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Why I Love It: If Jazz is your thing (or even if it’s not), this album provides holiday ambiance in the form of instrumental bliss. This is the perfect soundtrack for when you’re quieting down in front of the Yule Log with a glass of mulled wine.

White Christmas by Bing Crosby

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Why I Love It:  For me Bing Crosby is the King of Christmas. This album, sung with classic Bing Crosby gravitas is an all-around classic. I especially love how I got my copy — a serendipitous summertime discovery at a Brooklyn vintage store, price $1.99.

: tis the season : alvin ailey holiday performances kick-off with a star-studded gala :

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey’s Night Creature. Photo by Gert Krautbauer

Last week, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s holiday season at New York City Center kicked off with an Opening Night Gala Benefit. The one-night-only benefit performance and party honored BNY Mellon for its major support of the Ailey Organization since 2007, and Agnes & Gerald Hassell accepted on the institution’s behalf.  Film star Chadwick Boseman and actress and Grammy-Award winning artist Brandy served as Honorary Chairs, and the event’s co-chairs were Simin Allison, Kathryn & Kenneth Chenault, Debra L. Lee, Doris & Gilbert Meister, Daria L. & Eric J. Wallach and Joan & Sandy Weill. $2.5 million was raised in support of the creation of new works, scholarships to The Ailey School, and Ailey’s extensive educational programs for young people.

The one-night-only program included a performance of David Parsons’ signature gravity-defying male solo Caught, and the world premiere of Ronald K. Brown’s Cuban-inspired Open Door set to music from Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra’s most recent album, Cuba: The Conversation Continues. Alvin Ailey’s beloved Revelations rocked the crowd in a rousing finale to live music with singers that included the incomparable Ella Mitchell.

The celebration continued at the Hilton New York’s Grand Ballroom where approximately 900 guests from the worlds of business, politics, entertainment and philanthropy, including Savion Glover, Andre Holland, Glorya Kaufman, Ricki Lander, New York’s First Lady Chirlaine McCray, Janet Mock, Joe Morton, Arturo O’Farrill, Phylicia Rashad, and Kelly Rowland, Darren Walker, Elaine Wynn, and Malik Yoba, joined in dinner and dancing with Robert Battle, Judith Jamison and the stars of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Throughout December, Ailey’s extraordinary dancers will unveil a variety of premieres, new productions, and special programs. After the New York City Center engagement concludes on January 3rd, Ailey will perform in 20 cities across North America beginning in February. For more information, visit www.alvinailey.org.

SEASON PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:

AWAKENING – WORLD PREMIERE
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 4TH
Awakening is a work featuring Robert Battle’s signature taut, ritualistic choreographic style and a score by American composer John Mackey. The much-anticipated world premiere is the first work Battle has choreographed since becoming Ailey’s Artistic Director. Buoyed by the complex rhythmic quality of Mackey’s music (“Turning” and “The Attention of Souls,” the third movement from the symphony Wine-Dark Sea), a dozen Ailey dancers lead the audience on a cathartic journey in this powerful dance of dissonance and harmony, chaos and resolution.

Performance Dates: Dec 4, 5 eve, 12 mat, 17, 19 eve, 22, 24, 26 eve, Jan 2 eve

UNTITLED AMERICA: FIRST MOVEMENT – WORLD PREMIERE
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9TH
In the first installment of a three-part suite to be completed in 2016, MacArthur “Genius” Kyle Abraham, renowned for his avant-garde aesthetic and powerhouse athleticism, explores the lasting impact of incarceration in the prison system on individuals and families across generations. Untitled America: First Movement is a trio set to a contemporary sound score comprised of Laura Mvula’s “Father, Father.” Fusing many facets of dance vocabulary, Abraham’s movement style is decidedly original and contains wealth of physical detail that resonates with the Ailey dancers’ trademark versatility.

Performance Dates: Dec 9, 12 mat, 17, 19 eve, 22, 26 eve, Jan 2 eve

PIAZZOLLA CALDERA – COMPANY PREMIERE
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11TH
Set to music by Astor Piazzolla and Jerzy Peterburshsky, Piazzolla Caldera is a finely wrought work sizzling with erotic energy by modern dance masterPaul Taylor that captures the essence of tango culture. 12 men and women engage in a series of fiery encounters, in turns playful and predatory, in vivid duets and trios through the work’s four sections in this passionate homage to tango’s Argentinian working class roots.

Performance Dates: Dec 11, 13 eve, 17, 19 eve, 26 eve, Jan 2 eve

EXODUS – 2015 SEASON PREMIERE
Hip-hop choreographer Rennie (Lorenzo) Harris’ critically-acclaimed 2015 season premiere explores the idea of “exodus” – from one’s ignorance and conformity – as a necessary step toward enlightenment. Set to gospel and house music along with spoken word, the work underscores the crucial role of action and movement in effecting change. Exemplifying his view of hip hop as a “celebration of life,” Exodus marks Harris’ latest invitation to return to spiritual basics and affirm who we are.

Performance Dates: Dec 3, 6 mat, 9, 12 eve, 22, 23, 26 mat, 27 eve, 3 mat

REVELATIONS WITH LIVE MUSIC
For one week only, Alvin Ailey’s beloved Revelations will be performed to live music with singers that include the incomparable Ella Mitchell.

Performance Dates: Dec  4, 5 mat and eve

: adele : 25 : you had me at hello :

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Fact, everyone loves Adele. Well, at least everyone I know. There is something about pure vocal talent that transcends music genres and allows for that rare agreement on an artist’s deservingness of stardom. Adele has this in spades. Yet, even for an artist with such hutzpah, the question always looms — have they already shown the world their best work? 

It’s been four years since Adele’s last album, 21, hit shelves / computers. In that time, she’s seen chart topping singles and received critical acclaim. We all know that this is both a blessing and a curse for any artist, creating amazing amounts of pressures for their next release.

A few weeks ago the first single from 25 flooded internet newsfeeds and I can easily say that Adele had me at, Hello. From the soulfulness of its delivery to the lyrics that will resonate with anyone, to the expertly executed music video (yes, even the flip phone), Adele killed it. Which left me wondering, can the entire album deliver like this earworm has?

When my pre-order of the album arrived, it wasn’t even five minutes through the door until the album was on the turntable and I was singing along to my already favorite track 1, Hello. Then came track 2 — could she do it? Could Adele deliver on the promise of Hello. Simple answer, a resounding, YES.

The curiousness of 25 is that it takes us on a musical journey that spans ballads, pop tracks, bluesy country and ties it altogether with the beautiful bow that is Adele’s signature authentic soulfulness.  The honesty with which she writes and sings always grabs our attention. What really got me on this album though was her innate wisdom as she reflects on heartbreak, as well as the way she captures the speed of life, “I feel like my life is flashing by and all I can do is watch and cry…Life was a party to be thrown, but that was a million years ago.”

For several years I have missed the pre-digital music world for the mere fact that we used to value the carefully curated album from start to finish. This is one of the main reasons I started to buy music on vinyl. I like to force myself to listen to an album through and through. In two days, I have already listened to this album in its entirety four times. I can easily say, this is a new staple to my collection.

Don’t miss tracks: (in order of appearance): Hello, Send My Love, When We Were Young, Water Under The Bridge, The River Lea, Million Years Ago.

: a view into nycb : ballet 422 :

Justin Peck in BALLET 422, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Justin Peck in BALLET 422, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

I have been much anticipating the arrival of the documentary film, Ballet 422, by Magnolia Pictures. The film brings together so much of what I love — the arts, ballet (New York City Ballet in particular), Lincoln Center — do I really need to go on?

The film loosely chronicles the creative process for New York City Ballet’s 422 piece, choreographed by the 25 year old Corp de Ballet member, Justin Peck. I say “loosely” since the film takes an artistic route with focus on cinematography and voyeurism over a pure documentary approach.

As we literally walk through the corridors of Justin Peck’s life, we get a glimpse into a world not usually accessible from the seats of David H. Koch theater.  There are vignettes into Justin Peck’s creative process, rehearsals with Principal dancers, consultations with costume design and lighting, pep talks with the orchestra, dress rehearsals, and of course, the piece de resistance — when it all comes together for opening night.

Ballet 422 captured my attention from beginning to end with its seeming simplicity and perfected beauty, which appropriately reflects the spirit of the New York City Ballet. Through the film, I developed a stronger appreciation for the work of the Balanchine grounded troupe and their innovation and modernization of the ballet art form. I came to understand the complexity of what looks in performances to be effortless — fabric selection, the dye process to get the colors “just right”, the thought behind each twirl and the related movement of the fabric, the attention to detail in each hand movement and jump — the effort that goes into it is incredibly impressive.

The film also focuses on humility, with Peck going from proud choreography to Corps de Ballet member in the same evening. While we never truly get to know any of the dancers or even Peck, for that matter, we really aren’t meant to. Ballet 422 is a quiet peak into a world that evokes curiosity and admiration and I was happy to have a view.

Ballet 422 is playing in New York City at Film Society of Lincoln Center (Feb. 6 – Feb. 19) and Landmark Sunshine (now – Feb. 19).