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    Modern Rendition of Cymbeline to Premier this April at NYC’s Historic Theatre 80 St. Marks

    Director/Producer Alexis Confer and Art for Progress Founder Frank Jackson are proud to announce their upcoming production of Cymbeline at Theatre 80 St. Marks this spring. This production will use the classic language of Shakespeare, but approach the Bard’s “fairytale” with a modern lens. The audience will be transported to a world floating between the blurred morality and frenetic energy of a Vegas-like kingdom and the stark, colorful beauty of the American Southwest.

    In order to bring a fresh, nuanced and uniquely comedic performance to the stage, the company is intentionally made up a variety of performance backgrounds from musicians to stand up comedians, from classically trained Shakespearean actors, to improvisers. Led by Confer’s direction, the tight-knit cast has done several Shakespearean shows together in 2015-2016 – Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream produced by OFFLINE Productions and Much Ado About Nothing produced by Art for Progress.

    Most importantly, the goal of the show is to create a great live performance experience while raising awareness and funds for arts education. All profits from the show will go to Art for Progress’s programs for children and young adults – helping to empower NYC’s young artists.

    Art for Progress’ Arts Education Community provides under-served youth with dynamic artistic programming that promotes reflection and self-expression. By connecting youth with working artists, their communities and each other, we hope to transform the way they see themselves and the world around them.

    Show Details

    Dates: April 27th – May 14th

    Location: Theatre 80 St. Marks, New York, NY

    Prices: $20 – $45

    Show Dates:  Thursday, April 27th – 8 pm, Friday, April 28th – 8 pm, Thursday, May 4th – 8 pm,Friday, May 5th – 8 pm, Saturday, May 6th – 7 pm, Sunday, May 7th – 7 pm, Thursday, May 11th –8pm,   Friday, May 12th – 8 pm, Saturday, May 13th – 7 pm,   Sunday, May 14th – 7 pm

    Purchase Tickets

  • File this fashion endeavor under : WTF.

    This week, as part of New York Fashion Week, Japanese label N. Hoolywood presented to the world a Fall 2017 collection inspired by homeless people.

    Yes. Homeless people.

    Whether or not N. Hoolywood was channeling Derelicte à la Zoolander, it’s safe to say this fashion label’s fetishized “ode to street people” was done in poor taste.

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    Photo: Imaxtree

    Ill-assorted chairs and benches wrapped around a circular runway. The models bundled up in overcoats and jackets and holding what looks like trash bags, lumbered down the pathway in somber time. To round out their looks, some models had their legs wrapped in plastic bag like material.

    As Daisuke Obana delineates in show notes: “As our designer traveled the cities of America, he witnessed the various ways in which people there lived on the streets and the knowledge they have acquired while doing so. His observations of these so-called homeless or street people revealed that them [sic] to be full of clever ideas for covering the necessities of life. Space blankets or moving blankets can be fashioned into coats for cold days, and plastic bags can double as waterproof boots when it rains. This season features designs that embrace their unique style of combining traditionally contrasting elements, such as unconventional layering or senses of color, along with experimental sizing.”

    Screen_Shot_2017_01_31_at_7.42.22_PM.0

    Photo: Erik Maza on Instagram

    In reality, there are over 600,000 homeless people in the United States. In New York City alone, homelessness has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression. And about one-fifth of the homeless population suffers from mental illness.

    In short, homelessness is NOT an experience that ever needs to glamorized. And as Fashionista points out: “Obana’s efforts, focused purely on aesthetics, erased the humanity and the dignity of homeless people.”

    n-hoolywood-m-rf17-0111

    Photo: Imaxtree

     

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    Photo: Imaxtree

  • Photo: Jesus Vallinas

    Photo: Jesus Vallinas

    Tomer Heymann’s documentary about choreographer Ohad Naharin, Mr. Gaga: A True Story of Love and Dance, begins with a rehearsal scene in which a dancer falls backward repeatedly, as Naharin encourages her to “let go.” This painstaking (and literally painful) process is familiar to most dancers and anyone who’s witnessed the art of making tough choreography look easy. In the case of the iconoclastic Naharin, artistic director of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company and founder of the Gaga (no relation to Lady) movement technique, the choreography is both incredibly demanding and extremely rewarding, as his dancers and audiences can attest. Mr. Gaga, which delves into Naharin’s creativity as well as his personal life, includes interviews, archival footage and many performance clips. The result is a visually thrilling and soul-satisfying portrait of a remarkable talent and individual.

    Born and raised on a kibbutz, Naharin was an instinctive dancer as a child, influenced by his music-loving mother Tzofia. Home movies show bucolic kibbutz life as an idyllic setting for a creative child. Later, Naharin served as an entertainer in the Israeli Army, during which time he first began to create dances. The choreographer, who narrates much of his own story, explains how the “absurd theater” of performing for soldiers influenced dances such Sadeh21. We also learn via an early interview that he began dancing because of a family tragedy, a dramatic story that will be revisited later in the film.

    Courtesy of Batsheva Dance Company

    Courtesy of Batsheva Dance Company

    Naharin, whose naturally loose and sinuous body was seemingly built to dance, took classes with the Batsheva company after the army. He came to the admiring attention of Martha Graham, then working with the company, which led to a move to New York City where he was accepted at both Julliard and the American Ballet Theater School, despite his advanced age. Later, he was invited to join Maurice Béjart’s Ballet of the 20th Century.  Béjart’s technique, like Graham’s, left him cold and he soon began putting together his own contemporary dances. Around the same time, he fell in love with Mari Kajiwara, a dancer with Alvin Ailey; they married and she joined Naharin’s multicultural troupe.

    As the film shows in myriad clips, his highly idiosyncratic choreography is organic, percussive, repetitive and cathartic. Instinctively drawn to feminine movement, Naharin believes that “Dance in its true form is the opposite of macho.” Though the film highlights Naharin’s prodigious talents, it doesn’t shy away from his failings. An often intimidating taskmaster, he yells at his dancers during a performance. “Don’t fuck with me. My life depends on you,” he reminds them before a show. (No pressure!) According to one dancer, crying and screaming occurred on a daily basis and company members often walked out, but they always came back because “the work was worth it.” Naharin also expresses great appreciation for his dancers, who are selected for their ability to bring something of themselves to his work.

    Photo: Tony Lewis

    Photo: Tony Lewis

    Over the years, the demands of dance took a toll on his body. At one point, told he wouldn’t be able to dance— or maybe even walk—again, due to nerve damage, he began developing Gaga, a healing movement language. Natalie Portman attests to the benefits of Gaga and we see all ages and body types move with abandon in a few class clips. (Today, it’s taught at most major dance studios.)

    When Naharin returned to Israel to direct Batsheva in 1990, he almost immediately transformed the company’s staid, older audience into a young, hip crowd with energetic dances such as Kyr and Anaphase. He became a sort of cultural hero in 1998 when Batsheva refused to perform at the nation’s 50th anniversary celebration after being pressured to wear more modest costumes. The film becomes poignant when Naharin suffers a great personal loss, though he channels his grief (like everything else) into movement and continues working.

    An uplifting film about a man clearly born to move and create, Mr. Gaga is a revealing portrait of a true visionary, as singular and uncompromising as they come.

    Mr. Gaga: A True Story of Love and Dance is playing at the Elinor Bunim Monroe Film Center (Lincoln Center) and Film Forum.

    Marina Zogbi

     

  • With an unprecedented climate of change and concern dawning in the United States, Art for Progress arts education programs are more essential than ever. AFP is embracing the ever-growing need for alternative and supplemental art, music, theater, and fashion programs for young people representing the voice of true expression in our city. Once again this has been an exciting semester for existing Art for Progress arts education programs in New York City’s public schools, and there are some new programs in the works for the second half of the school year.

    Our flagship music program at Humanities Preparatory Academy, which includes school day sessions as well as after school, is flourishing and has produced and cultivated a bunch of wonderful talent this semester. Everyone at the school is looking forward to the talent show on February 16th, which will include solo vocal and instrumental performances, and a variety of ensemble pieces and even a dance number.  AFP’s after school program at the James Baldwin School is also going strong and was well represented in the recent school-wide talent show on Friday, January 20. Students from both schools have been working hard after school every day, choosing songs and rehearsing. Especially impressive is the spirit of mutual encouragement among the students as the shows approach.

    As for AFP’s Young Adult Music Enrichment Program, tracking is nearly completed on Bronx rock band Statik Vision’s full-length album, and we are preparing to start mixing, while recording sessions for their brother band Big Sweater’s album are in full swing. This week’s sessions focused on the drum tracks for Big Sweater’s song “Platform Stare”, which is sure to be an anthem for our times. Both albums should be ready for release dates this summer, so keep an ear out!

    Unfortunately, as a result of a heartbreaking turn of events regarding budget cuts due to a lack of enrollment at Hudson High School; AFP has had to suspend our program there. This is particularly troubling because the students that had been participating in that program are some of the most driven and engaged I have had the pleasure of working with, so if anyone out there in Bloglandia has a couple thousand dollars they want to write off, please contact me at baritor@live.com. Your contribution would go to cultivate some of the city’s most promising, diverse and dedicated young talent.

    On the upside, we are starting a brand new after school program at Brooklyn’s International High School, and the James Baldwin School is looking to add a new theater arts program. We are also in discussions with the Essex Street Academy to start to implement programs there.

    All in all, as the climate of American education continues to move farther away from the arts, which are essential for cultivating abstract thought and creative, innovative ideas, we at Art for Progress feel the work we are doing is becoming ever more essential and we look forward to pushing against the prevailing trends to support the next generation of New York City’s artists and musicians.

     

    Until next time…