DANCE: Choreographer Dave Scott Tackles Reimagining Andrew Lloyd Webber Classic “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Dave Scott (photo credit: Lee Perry); “Joseph” image: Mustang Marketing

article by Kristyn Burtt via dancenetwork.tv

Choreographer Dave Scott is well known for his work on So You Think You Can Dance and in films like High Strung, Step Up 2: The Streets, Stomp The Yard and You Got Served. He’s now tackling a new venture that is sure to bring a fresh spin on a musical theatre classic. Under the direction of Will North, Scott will be reimagining the choreography from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

The family-friendly show will run Oct. 13-22, 2017 at the Cabrillo Music Theatre in Thousand Oaks, California, and focuses on the trials and triumphs of Joseph, Israel’s favorite son and his “coat of many colors” from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. Although Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was first performed in 1968, it didn’t have its Broadway debut until January 1982.

North explained to Dance Network about his initial idea to collaborate with the hip-hop choreographer.

“I wanted to do a contemporary version of the show while bringing in different genres of hip-hop — including krumping. Dave is the perfect person to execute that vision,” he explains.

For Scott, taking on the project was a natural fit as he looks to diversify beyond his work in TV and film. The idea of live theatre not only adds an unexpected element, it’s giving him a new way to communicate through his artistry.

“I’ve always approached television and film with the mentality of the stage. To achieve the ‘wows’ and ‘splendor’ with no edits or cuts,” Scott shares. “I personally and creatively imagine my work in cartoon, like a superhero. I always aspire to go beyond the non-boundaries of dance, and this is a perfect platform.”

In addition to the upcoming production, Scott will also be back this summer choreographing on Season 14 of SYTYCD and he recently completed the film, Manifest Destiny Down: Spacetime, which will be out in 2018 with Broadway star Alexandra Winter.

Source: Exclusive: Why ’SYTYCD’ Choreographer Dave Scott Is Tackling A Reimagined Andrew Lloyd Webber Classic | Dance Network

Kevin Young Named Poetry Editor at The New Yorker Magazine

Kevin Young (Credit Melanie Dunea/CP)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to nytimes.com, Kevin Young, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has been named the new poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine.

According to wikipedia.org, Young graduated from Harvard College in 1992, held a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University (1992–94), and received his Master of Fine Arts from Brown University. While in Boston and Providence, he was part of the African-American poetry group the Dark Room Collective. He is heavily influenced by the poets Langston Hughes, John Berryman, and Emily Dickinson and by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Young is an esteemed poet and scholar whose work has been published in The New Yorker dating back to 1999.  His most recent work, “Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995-2015,” made the 2016 National Book Award long list.

Young, 46, will officially take over the post in November, after he takes part in a passing of the torch of sorts: a reading and interview with current The New Yorker poetry editor Paul Muldoon at the New Yorker Festival in the fall.

FEATURE: Morris Robinson, the Unexpected Opera Star: ‘A Lot of the Purists, They Don’t Believe My Story’

Opera singer Morris Robinson (photo via latimes.com)

article by Christopher Smith via latimes.com

Opera is often called the most irrational art form. Seen through that lens, bass singer Morris Robinson’s unlikely career path makes wonderful sense.At a young age, from a family and culture that reveres singing, Robinson aspired to be a drummer instead. He ignored college music scholarships and conservatory programs for a free-ride to play football at a military college. Afterward, bypassing all thought of studying music at grad school, he worked for a Fortune 500 company in regional sales of data storage.

At 30, in finally attempting to sing professionally, he tried out for the chorus of “Aida” at the Boston Lyric Opera, the biggest company in New England. A week later, the music director handed him music for a solo role, accompanied by a plea: “Please don’t screw it up.”

“A lot of the purists, they don’t believe my story,” Robinson said. “They don’t believe it until they witness it themselves.”

Now 47 and equipped with 18 years of major roles with A-list companies nationally and internationally, Robinson has forged a life path in opera that seems inevitable in retrospect. After all, he was “the rare person,” L.A. Opera music director James Conlon said, “born with the great voice where strength predates technique. It’s a round, large voice.”

“A lot of people force their voices, they either yell or scream, which decays the quality of the sound. Morris himself is big, and that voice is right there without him having to make it that way, so he can sing with beautiful rounded sounds.”

Morris Robinson and Brenton Ryan in L.A. Opera’s “The Abduction From the Seraglio.” (Craig T. Mathew / Mathew Imaging)

With this level of vocal entitlement, Robinson might seem to be a natural. But throughout his life he seemed to ignore, even actively ward off, singing — though it was always around him.

Raised in a musical clan in Atlanta, Robinson had a dad, mom and three young sisters who all sang. Around 6, he participated in a church choir and then the Atlanta Boy Choir, alternately immersed in religious and secular music.  But singing was at best a backdrop, maybe even an obstacle. “I felt like I could do something special, but I could never figure out what it was,” he said.

“At first, I always was in the choirs, but to me, at heart, I was a drummer. Because if you’re going to be in a church in the South, there has to be rhythm. It was always about beats, beats, beats.”

He entered a performing arts high school. His senior year he made all-city band and all-state chorus.

But all he really cared about?

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ART: Kerry James Marshall’s Masterful “Mastry” Exhibit Opens Sunday at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Works from Kerry James Marshall’s “Mastry” exhibition (collage by Maeve Richardson)

by Callie Teitelbaum

The “Mastry” Gallery, created by African-American artist Kerry James Marshall, walks you through Marshall’s journey of making it as a fine artist – a field dominated by whites for centuries.  Marshall was born in Alabama in 1955, and as a child was a part of the last wave of The Great Migration to the west, a region still full of promise and opportunity. Marshall’s family settled in South Central Los Angeles and while growing up in Watts, Marshall pursued art and was an active participant in the movement that encouraged an increase of black artists in the art community.  All of Marshall’s work contributed to his mission to prove that art by blacks was just as challenging and beautiful as the white art which was typically celebrated.

The exhibit shows Marshall’s earlier works such as “The Invisible Man,” which is a collection of small scale portraits of people using the darkest shades of black, emphasizing Marshall’s idea that black people in society blend into the background.  The exhibition displays how Marshall’s work developed, and include many of his large scale paintings.

Marshall changed the style of his work because he realized that a big statement called for a grander canvas.  A large three-piece work called “Heirlooms and Accessories,” appears to be a necklace with a woman’s face in it at first glance.  However, once one’s eyes adjust to the painting, fine lines start to become more distinct, and it is clear that there is a lynching occurring in the background.  The faces in the painting are witnesses at the lynching, and the expressions of indifference are utterly shocking. While “Heirlooms and Accessories” seem to be referring to the necklaces, accessories serves as a double meaning because it also refers to those who were accessories to murder.  This is a prime example of the depth and meaning behind each of Marshall’s work.

“Harriet Tubman” by Kerry James Marshall

All of the paintings reflect Marshall’s commentary on black identity in the U.S. and in traditional western art.  In his piece “Harriet Tubman,” Marshall paints an image of Harriet Tubman on her wedding day, with hands with white gloves essentially hanging this piece of art in a museum.  Marshall’s feeling that museums are responsible for the lack of black art is portrayed in this piece.  Museums typically hold the standard of what is beautiful and worthy, and Marshall makes the direct statement of what should be celebrated in this work.

The exhibition is especially engaging because of the varying emotions each work provokes.  While pieces such as “Slow Dance,” which illustrates two people peacefully dancing, provokes calmness and peace, other pieces express injustice and anger.  Marshall’s versatility and innate talent for art is clear as his work consists of completely different mediums and subjects.  The exhibition allows you to fully observe all of Marshall’s different forms of art and varying ideas, and is not limited to a specific time period or brand of art.

Marshall’s range of mediums and subjects include large to small scale, canvas paintings to comics, common people to historical figures, and glittery mediums to the blackest of paint.  This ability to effectively utilize different forms of art makes Marshall a unique artist, and a unique person who has learned to effectively communicate in a way people of all race, gender, and social class can understand.  Marshall’s works are visually stunning to say the least, and his success in spreading the meaning of his art and pursuing his career despite the circumstances of racial discrimination, is truly inspiring.

The Mastry exhibit opens on March 12 at the Museum Of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and runs through July 3.

Harlem Stage in New York Director Simone Eccleston Named Kennedy Center’s 1st Director of Hip-Hop Culture 

Simone Eccleston (photo via nbcwashington.com)

article by Jordan Murray via nbcwashington.com

The Kennedy Center announced their first director of hip-hop culture and contemporary music Wednesday. Simone Eccleston, currently the director of programming at Harlem Stage in New York, will assume the role March 13. Eccleston’s new role will include leading a center-wide commitment to hip-hop culture and contemporary music, which includes R&B, soul, folk and roots, indie, world music and Latin music, according to a release.

Eccleston will also work as a partner with other areas of the Kennedy Center to highlight the collaborative nature of hip-hop music. The program will also aim to increase opportunities for community involvement and participation. Hip-hop is based on five core elements — deejaying, emceeing, break-dancing, graffiti writing and knowledge of self — the Kennedy Center said, all of which build and transform communities through art and action.

“With the Kennedy Center serving as the preeminent home for our nation’s arts and culture, the creation of a programmatic platform for hip-hop culture is deeply significant,” Eccleston said in a statement. She also said hip-hop culture has influenced and contributed to every aspect of American society and helps drive innovation and creative expressions across many different disciplines. “It is also an important catalyst for community building, activism and empowerment.”

Kennedy Center Senior Vice President Robert van Leer said the nature of hip-hop culture can create collaborations with the dance, theater, music and education programs. “We are thrilled to have an arts administrator of Simone’s caliber join us — someone who can lead that exploration of what hip-hop at the Kennedy Center can become in the coming years,” van Leer said in a statement. “And we believe it is the Center’s responsibility to develop and elevate thought-leaders like Simone to champion the bright future of our nation’s cultural institutions.”

Last March, the center appointed MC, rapper and record producer Q-Tip as its first artistic director for hip-hop culture.

To read full article, go to: Kennedy Center Names First Director of Hip-Hop Culture | NBC4 Washington

Black Female Artists Tackle The Dangerous Stereotypes That Have Never Defined Them

Mildred Howard, “I’ve Been a Witness to this Game IX,” color monoprint/digital on found paper with collage, 2016.

article by Priscilla Frank via huffingtonpost.com

The pop culture landscape is littered with lazy images of black women ― the nurturer, the hussy, the angry bitch. Hovering around the all-encompassing myth of the “strong black woman,” those paper-thin characterizations fail to represent real women in all their complexity and vulnerability.

Despite the monolithic representations that appear so often in TV series, advertisements, films and the imaginations of those who digest them, artists have long worked to provide images that speak to the depth and sweet fallibility of all human beings ― black women included.

An exhibition at the Alexandria Museum of Art, titled “Beyond Mammy, Jezebel, & Sapphire: Reclaiming Images of Black Women,” deconstructs the limiting categorizations mainstream culture allows black women. The artists on view reveal the shoddy nature of the stereotypes in favor of challenging, poetic and thorough visualizations of black culture ― the myth, the archetype, the self-portrait and beyond.

Characterizations commonly ascribed to black women in America are both historical and insidious. The Mammy ― a big-bosomed, jolly mother figure ― was written fictitiously into history to make slavery appear more humane. Her illusory existence suggested that there could, in fact, be such a thing as a happy slave. Today, the Mammy is often framed as a sexless, selfless nurturer.

Then there’s the Jezebel ― an overly sexualized, promiscuous black woman ― with a similarly atrocious origin story: her image was used to justify the sexual violence systematically inflicted upon black women in the antebellum South. Its influence persists to this day, making it more difficult for rape allegations by black women to be taken seriously.

And finally, the show addresses the image of Sapphire, named for the one-dimensional character on the radio and TV show “Amos ‘n’ Andy” ― an angry black woman. This cultural generalization, too, is a corollary of slavery and oppression. It calls back to a time when history overlooked the atrocities committed against black families and suggests instead that black women are inherently hostile, a foil to the delicate femininity of white women.
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26 Year-Old GM Engineer Mukhtar Onifade Starts Fashion Line Celebrating African Culture (VIDEO)

Detroit-based engineer and fashion designer Muktar Onifade (photo via atlantablackstar.com)

article by Ricky Riley via atlantablackstar.com

Detroit-based engineer Muktar Onifade is using his skills working as an engineer to create a fashion line that celebrates West African culture.

The 26-year-old native Nigerian and General Motors calibration specialist said he was inspired to launch his line, VIZUVLGVDS (Visual Gods), after going to a fashion show featuring beautiful African styles. “To be Black now, you have to be fearless really,” Onifade says in a Thursday, Feb. 9 NBC Black profile. “There has to be this certain level of self-belief in what you can accomplish.”

Onifade saw an opportunity to make a line that could be worn anywhere and any time outside of special occasions and events. To put his plan into action, he took his first paycheck from working at GM and brought a sewing machine.

Since 2015, his VIZUVLGVDS line has featured two collections that showcase his meticulous engineering talents and his African cultural heritage.

To read more, go to: Engineer Uses First Paycheck to Start Fashion Line Celebrating African Culture – Atlanta Black Star