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2015 National Black Arts Festival Runs July To September In Atlanta

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Art of African descent will be celebrated through music, dance, film,  and a variety of interactive activities this July during the 27th annual National Black Arts Festival.

Atlanta will serve as the backdrop for the festival this year and has since the festival began.

Founded in 1987, the NBAF uses fashion, dance, film, literature, music, theatre and visual arts to put the spotlight on the art and culture of people of African descent.

Before the Festival began for the 9th year in a row, department store Neiman Marcus’ (Peach Tree location) hosted Fine Art and Fashion at the beginning of the year.

The annual event serves as a benefit for the NABF and recognizes artists in fields ranging from performing arts to fashion while raising money for the festival.

NBAF-SEASON

From July to September the festival will give those who attend the chance to dive head first into a variety of art.

The focus of the 2015 NABF will be African dance , its evolution from the 18th century to today and its global impact through the festival’s performances and interactive workshops.

When the Festival kicks off July 11 participants will be able to discover the influence Africa has had on art through the Galas, Film Screenings, Poetry Slams and many other events.

The NABF is the one of the oldest organizations in the United States that highlights art of African descent and its influence on modern artists.

Tickets to the events being offered during this year’s festival will range from $5 to $500+ and it will run from July 11 to September 19. Click here to checkout the festival line up.

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A Must See

Alvin Ailey Dancers Perform to Beyonce’s ‘Freedom’

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Harry Belafonte once said, “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s anchor. We are the compass for humanity’s conscience.”

This past year we’ve seen a multitude of artists from every field, be those gatekeepers of truth. In films like the upcoming, powerful “Birth Of A Nation,” or in music with Beyonce’s  unapologetically black Lemonade album, to game-changing Broadway shows like Hamilton, Shuffle Along and Eclipsed, it’s no secret black artistry went to a whole new level.

So what do we do then when our nation is at its most intense, chaotic state? Like many, art is the first thought. Whether it be poetry, music, dance, spoken work, theater, photography -our art allows us to express ourselves wholeheartedly without restrictions.

At least that’s what Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company member and choreographer Sean Aaron Carmon and fellow Alvin Ailey dancers did. Last week they took social media by storm, with their powerful one-minute choreographed dance to Beyonce’s “Freedom.”

A dance the NYTimes deems as a protest dance, Carmon and Co. pour their hearts and souls into every synchronized movement they make, even in the improvised solos where dancers were given free reign to express whatever they were feeling.

Carmon told dancers “I don’t have to tell you a single thing about what you should do. We all know what’s going on in our country. We all have our visceral responses to it. I’m going to put the music on. Give me everything you have.”

They gave everything and then some.Check out the video below.

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A Must See

Misty Copeland to Dance in Disney’s The Nuctracker Film

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American Ballet Theatre principle dancer Misty Copeland will join the cast of Disney’s live action film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. She’ll portray the leading ballerina role in the only dance sequence in the movie.

Lasse Hallström directs the project, based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, also the basis for the Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ballet we all know and love.


Last summer, Copeland leaped onto the map when ABT promoted her to principle dancer, becoming the first Black woman in the 76-year history to hold the title.

Last Fall she made her Broadway debut in the Tony-nominated revival On the Town for select performances. This week, she prepares to dance Romeo & Juliet at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia.

It appears Copeland has a lot to look forward to within the next year. She launched her first dancewear line, Égal Dance. New Line has found screenwriter Gregory Howard (“Remember the Titans”) to adapt her memoir, “Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” into a film. As reported by Deadline last year, she’s teamed up with writer Tracy Oliver to develop a Fox series set in the world of dance.

A documentary about her life, “A Ballerina’s Tale” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015.

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Broadway Fashion

Cynthia Erivo Croons, Misty Copeland Amazes

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Because it’s not like she has anything better to do than to continuously astound and astonish us.

Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo has been on a roll these past couple of weeks, gifting us with clip after clip showing off her ethereal voice. Yesterday, she posted this:

Sorry, but Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo singing “Summertime” (a capella, damn it!) from Porgy & Bess accompanying American Ballet Theatre principle dancer Misty Copeland?

May I propose a brand new musical that involves only Misty Copeland dancing onstage, meanwhile Cynthia Erivo accompanies her a capella? Two groundbreaking women, both who’ve made history in her respective New York theatrical scenes, musical theatre and ballet, in the same show? Count me in.

Naturally, Copeland will need a break from the ABT, and Cynthia Erivo will eventually have to leave The Color Purple. And with open schedules and thirsty fans, this could make some producer’s pocketbook quite happy.

The mini-collaboration comes courtesy of Cosmopolitan magazine, who interviewed Copeland for their August 2016 issue. In the featured article, she talks about her rising career, her dancewear line, and Prince.

Last summer, Copeland leaped onto the map when ABT promoted her to principle dancer, becoming the first Black woman in the 76-history to hold the title. In the fall, she’d make her Broadway debut in the Tony-nominated revival of On the Town for select performances. This week, she’ll dance Romeo & Juliet at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia.

Broadway producers out there, I hope you’re watching, reading, and formulating something. Because as Erivo says, “different forms of art collide to create one,” just as it always should. #BlackGirlMagic is real.

Visit American Ballet Theatre for tickets and subscription info.

The Color Purple currently plays at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

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Broadway Black TV

Savion Glover & Shuffle Along Cast Show Out On Maya & Marty!

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Tony Award-winning choreographer Savion Glover and the Broadway cast of Shuffle Along made an appearance on the premiere of NBC’s brand new variety show “Maya & Marty” starring “Saturday Night Live’s” Maya Rudolph and Tony winner Martin Short, in their first live televised performance.

With suitcases in hand and accompanied by no music, the ensemble cast of thirteen closed the premiere with the “Pennsylvania Graveyard Shuffle,” midway through joined by Glover, the musical’s choreographer.

The six-episode series, taped from Studio 6A in NBC’s headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in front of a studio audience, features a set of comedy sketches, celebrity guests, musical numbers, and a spectacular onstage band led by Charlie Rosen.

Among the other guests of the May 31st premiere were “SNL’s” Kenan Thompson, Tom Hanks, Larry David, with a performance by Miley Cyrus.

Based on the original 1921 musical revue, this new ten-time Tony-nominated production, billed as Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, is directed by George C. Wolfe.

This adaptation stars Tony winners Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Billy Porter, and focuses on the original composers’, Eubie Blake (played by Brandon Victor Dixon) and Noble Sissle (Joshua Henry), challenges in creating the production as well as their trials and tribulations in later years.

This year, Shuffle Along received the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical.

McDonald will take a maternity leave of absence at the end of July, and Rhiannon Giddens, in her first appearance on Broadway, will be her replacement in the role of Lottie Gee. Glover will also join the cast during Giddens’ run.

Glover recently appeared on NBC’s “Late Night: Seth Meyers.”

“Maya & Marty” is a spin-off of Rudolph’s original variety show pilot, “The Maya Rudolph Show” which aired in 2014, but wasn’t picked up for a series.

“Maya & Marty” airs Tuesdays at 10 PM ET on NBC.

For tickets to Shuffle Along.

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Award Nominations

Cast of Shuffle Along, Hamilton Earn Astaire Awards Nominations

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Nominations for the 2016 Fred and Adele Astaire Awards, which honor outstanding dance and choreography on stage and film, were announced today at the Friar’s Club. For the first time, the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards have explored recognizing excellence in dance, movement, and choreography off-Broadway. The gala takes place Monday, May 16, 2016 at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts (566 LaGuardia Place).

Tap sensation Shuffle Along leads the pack with 6, very well deserved might I add, nominations. Also it’s wonderful to see Broadway Black favorite, Invisible Thread get some love too! Check out the nominees below:

 

BEST FEMALE DANCER

Mara Davi, Dames at Sea

Deanna Doyle, Tuck Everlasting

Sandra Mae Frank, Spring Awakening

Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me

Eloise Kropp, Dames at Sea

Ana Villafañe, On Your Feet

Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along

BEST MALE DANCER

Phillip Attmore, Shuffle Along

Alex Brightman, School of Rock

Daveed Diggs, Hamilton

Carlos Gonzalez, On Your Feet

Curtis Holland, Shuffle Along

Kendrick Jones, Shuffle Along

Luis Salgado, On Your Feet

BEST CHOREOGRAPHER

Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton

Warren Carlyle, She Loves Me

Savion Glover, Shuffle Along

Lorin Latarro, Waitress

Spencer Liff, Spring Awakening

Casey Nicholaw, Tuck Everlasting

Sergio Trujillo, On Your Feet

Josh Rhodes, Bright Star

Hofesh Shechter, Fiddler on the Roof

Randy Skinner, Dames at Sea

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE IN A BROADWAY SHOW

Bright Star

Dames at Sea

Fiddler on the Roof

Hamilton

On Your Feet

School of Rock

She Loves Me

Shuffle Along

Spring Awakening

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY IN FILM

Luke Broadlick, Teresa Espinosa, Alison Faulk & Channing Tatum, Magic Mike XXL

Christopher Gattelli, Hail, Caesar!

Aakomon Jones, Pitch Perfect 2

Joey Pizzi, Lucky Stiff

Fatima Robinson & Charm Jordan, Dance Camp

Dave Scott, High Strung

OUTSTANDING FEMALE DANCER OFF-BROADWAY

Yesenia Ayala, Trip Of Love

Leslie Kritzer, The Robber Bridegroom

Rumi Oyama, Sayonara

Jaime Lynn Verazin, Standard Time

Ellen Zolezzi, Cagney

OUTSTANDING MALE DANCER OFF-BROADWAY

Jeremy Benton, Cagney

Dave Thomas Brown, The Legend Of Georgia McBride

Robert Creighton, Cagney

Cory Lingner, Once Upon A Mattress

Matt McGrath, The Legend Of Georgia McBride

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY OFF-BROADWAY

Joshua Bergasse, Cagney

Martha Clarke, Angel Reapers

Connor Gallagher, The Robber Bridegroom

Paul McGill ,The Legend Of Georgia McBride

James Ortiz, Claire Karpen & Will Gallacher, The Woodsman

Sergio Trujillo & Darrell Grand Moultrie, Invisible Thread

Judith Jamison, Artistic Director Emeritus of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will be presented with the Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award. Nigel Lythgoe, Executive Producer of “So You Think You Can Dance,” will receive the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Dance. Broadway Director, Choreographer and Tony Nominated Actor Maurice Hines, who appeared off- Broadway this season in his show Tappin’ Through Life, will be recognized with a special recognition award for Outstanding Body of Work in Dance. Dr. Joan Fallon, Founder and CEO of Curemark, will be presented with a special achievement award for her work in the field of autism related disorders.

Tickets for the 2016 Fred and Adele Astaire Awards begin at $75 and can be purchased at here or by calling (888) 611-8183.

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Dance!

Alvin Ailey Takes Artistry and Spirit Across the World

Broadway Black

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater by Andrew Eccles

There are many traditions that shape the south.

Football is king.

Fried delicacies.

At the Fox Theater in Atlanta, the annual return of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company is fast becoming a tradition. Robert Battle, the company’s current Artistic Director, reminded the audience that they had been coming to the ATL since 2001.

Tradition, however, does not means old or tired. In fact, the show was a bit of the shake up from the norm with two very new pieces performed.

Let’s talk about one of them. Awakening,  choreographed by Battle by himself, is one of the most stunning performances on stage. The music was purposefully grating and raw. It resembled a horror movie score. The audience laughed uncomfortably at first, but soon they were mesmerized, like me, by the purity of the movements, the sharp, turns, and the intense physicality of the piece. For almost 20 minutes the dancers were in constant motion. Dressed in all white, they felt like a single unit fighting something together. The piece was unnerving with lights that flickered and displayed horizontally and vertically behind the dancers. While the other pieces were drenched in Afro and African diaspora, this piece was blanketed in sheer emotion. It opened after the intermission and enlivened an already excited audience.

At this stage they were well primed and pumped for the companies signature piece, Revelations. I had seen the piece a few times including another time years ago in Atlanta.

I recognized it as a lovely piece back then. But, age and life have come to convince me that Revelations is indeed a religious experience.

Sitting with a collective of mostly black folks (though there was a healthy sprinkle of diversity in the audience) I found my spirit called up more than my artistic sensibilities.

When the song “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” played  I felt transported back to my old baptist church, curved over the alter asking for the Lord to meet me halfway.

No matter how sophisticated and educated I think I am watching the Ailey dancers move as the Holy Spirit itself caught hold, I can’t help but wave my hand and say “hallelujah.” This is not to say the piece can not be enjoyed from a secular standpoint. The grace and move of the choreography holds up even though the piece was conceived by Ailey in 1960.

But I would be lying if I just spoke of the dancing. It was a spiritual and cathartic release and the audience reacted with every hand turn, every kick and every new song.

Thursday had four pieces- Open Door, Cry, Awakening, and Revelations.  All were enjoyable, but the second act showcased the cohesive merging of two artistic styles.

I am equally as excited to see what Ailey will do next and happy to have celebrated what they have already done.

Atlanta was only the beginning. The Alvin Ailey Dance Company is currently touring and could be in a city near you. Find the tour schedule here!

International tour schedule starts in September! View that schedule here!

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