Viewing: New York Choral Society, ‘God Is Seen’
Like dance and the other performing arts, choral singing has had a difficult year. Singing is a breath, the breath carries germs, and these days large groups of people singing together have nightmares. But the urge to raise voices in song together, like the urge to switch to music, is powerful. Now the New York Choral Society is combining the two – dance and song – in a new short film that will be released on February 23.
The film, a setting for the anthem “God Is Seen,” will be available indefinitely on the company’s website and on the YouTube page. It is tuned to the sound of 40 unaccompanied voices, individually recorded and then mixed using software called Soundtrap. Like many old folk hymns, the first version of “God Is Seen” was based on an existing popular song, which provided its simple and hypnotic melody. The Choral Society sings a 1967 version of American composer Alice Parker who has become a staple of the American choral repertoire.
The dance that the Choral Society has commissioned to accompany this piece is a duet, by Claudia Schreier. It was also premiered remotely, with Schreier on FaceTime in one state while the dancers – Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Larissa Gerszke and Alvin Ailey’s Chalvar Monteiro – rehearsed in New York City. In the film, Gerszke and Monteiro dance in a church turned into a performance hall in Brooklyn, the Irondale, a free and unobstructed room with light coming from above. “I wanted to keep it simple,” Schreier said in an interview, “as a way to honor the human voice and the human form. I love the idea that these are the two things that don’t need additional elements. It’s the most natural way we exist. “
Viewing: Ronald K. Brown
Transcendence of the mind has long been a central impetus behind the work of Ronald K. Brown, whose Brooklyn-based company Ronald K. Brown / Evidence turns 35 this year. Thanks to the rise of “bubble residences” – in which dancers quarantine themselves and pass several Covid tests in order to be able to rehearse together – the company has been able to continue working. (To participate in one of these residences, the dancers traveled 15 hours by charter bus to Saint-Louis.)
The result: a program of snippets of dances created by Brown over three decades, which will air live on February 18 at 8 p.m. EST. The performance – produced by four presenters – will be projected to the world from the stage of the Joyce Theater in Manhattan. (Tickets can be found at joyce.org, and the feed will be available until March 4.)
The pieces date back to the 1995 “March”, to words taken from the speeches and writings of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With the exception of the 2019 ensemble work “Mercy”, to a commissioned score by singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello, the dances are solos and duets. The program is a great introduction to Brown’s style, with his infectious blend of African, Caribbean and African-American social dance.
Viewing: New York City Ballet, ‘Prodigal Son’
The New York City Ballet returns online with a series of weekly spotlights on important works by its founding choreographer, George Balanchine. Week 1 is devoted to the biblically inspired “Prodigal Son”, Balanchine’s second oldest work, premiered in 1929 for the Ballets Russes.
The title role has been danced by everyone from Jerome Robbins to Baryshnikov, but the man who owned it in the 1960s was Edward Villella, who will talk about his ballet dance experience on the City Ballet podcast, available at from February 22. in the evening, at 8 p.m., the company will broadcast an open rehearsal and conversation with Maria Kowroski, a dancer closely associated with the role of the Siren, the beautiful but dangerous enemy of the Prodigal. Kowroski is expected to retire in the fall, so this is a good opportunity to hear his thoughts. On February 25, the complete ballet will be presented in a performance recorded a few years ago, danced by Daniel Ulbricht and Teresa Reichlen. These free shows (which will be available until March 4) can be found at nycballet.com.
Moving: ballet lessons for beginners
If you’ve ever been tempted to dip your toe into ballet as an adult but were worried about feeling silly, now is a good time to give it a try. What most people don’t realize is that most beginner lessons in ballet studios require some basic knowledge. The same goes for most courses offered online by professional dancers with extra time.
What you really need is an introductory course, given by an experienced teacher, who can patiently teach the names of the steps and basic coordination. Thanks to Zoom, this can now be done at home, without fear of embarrassment. A chair or counter to rest your hand on, a pair of sweatpants, and a little space – say the space between the couch and the TV – are all you need.
The Mark Morris Dance Center and Broadway Dance Center offer week-long virtual introductory ballet workshops. Ballet Academy East, a small neighborhood school on the Upper East Side, lets you sign up for unique classes, which is good.
“We keep them at a really basic level so people can feel comfortable, and then when they’re ready move on to one of our ‘basic beginners’ courses,” said Julia Dubno, Founder and principal of the school, in a telephone to call. There are four different introductory ballet classes to choose from each week (with different teachers); Tuesday and Sunday lessons include live piano accompaniment, also via Zoom. You can choose the teacher that suits you best, or you can replace them. And at $ 12 a class, there’s no excuse not to try.