Ikebana at the UN

The Japanese Mission to the United Nations  has hosted a series of events with the theme “Peace Is…”  using art and culture as a medium for connecting people with the UN and its objectives.  The Permanent Mission of Japan has collaborated with Japanese artists residing in New York, who believe in the power of art to bridge divisions and bring people together. 

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN, “Peace Is Beautiful” guided the activities of this fourth event, which included a demonstration of Ikebana, led by Master Noritaka Noda of the Ikenobo Society of Floral Art. More than flower arranging, Ikebana is an elevated art form in Japan, using plants to create new forms suggesting the forces of nature and the beauty of longing in our hearts. Working with two assistants, Master Noda began with the tall leaves, then the flowers (coxcomb and iris), then the smaller leaves and finally the ferns, selecting, trimming, placing and bending them…

Noritaka Noda explaining his Ikebana arrangement to Hajime Kishimori

into an arrangement representing mountains, cascades, a town, a river and the beautiful landscape.   Afterwards, the ambassadors from ASEAN and the other guests were invited to make our own flower arrangements, assisted professional Ikenobo teachers. 

Liz Daly and Hitomi with their Ikebana

I was lucky to have the guidance of the very patient and gracious Hitomi, who helped me create this piece.

Dancers from ASEAN countries performed at Peace Is…

Attendees were also treated to a lovely performance of traditional dances from Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia.

Congratulations to the Permanent Mission of Japan for this excellent initiative!

Alvin Ailey Dance Review

r-Evolution, Dream Choreography: Hope Boykin
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Credit Photo: Paul Kolnik
studio@paulkolnik.com nyc 212-362-7778

It’s been a while since I’ve been to see dance, but the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s performance of three very different pieces – Deep, r-Evolution Dream and The Winter in Lisbon – showed me why I should go more often.   It’s modern dance, and very athletic, with a classical grounding underpinning it all.

The evening opened with Deep, a world premiere ensemble routine by Italian choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti (newly appointed director of La Scalla Ballet), set to music by Ibeyi, French-Cuban twin sisters who sing in French, English and Yoruba.

This was followed by r-Evolution, Dream choreographed by Ailey dancer Hope Boykin, who was inspired by a visit to the Civil and Human Rights Museum in Atlanta where she heard an excerpt from “The Drum Major Instinct”  sermon of Dr. Martin Luther King.  She also commissioned an original score by Ali Jackson of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; throughout the performance you’ll hear historic and original text narrated by Leslie Odom Jr. (from Hamilton).

The last piece was my favorite, as it was set to music by Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Fishman.  The Winter in Lisbon was choreographed in 1992 by Billy Wilson, and restaged by Masazumi Chaya.  With its vibrant score, costumes and movement, you feel the teasing and romance of the dancers. We all left the theatre feeling uplifted.

To get a taste, check out the video’s on the Company’s website.   Then run to City Center –  you’ve only got until December 31st to catch these wonderful dancers.   Don’t delay! 

Spotlight on MEXICO!

Benito Pablo Juárez Garcia

Benito Pablo Juárez Garcia

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, this week, we shine the spotlight on Mexico.  Not to be confused with Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of the Mexican army over the invading French forces of Napoleon III, in a battle that took place on the outskirts of Puebla on May 5th 1862. The Mexican soldiers were under the command of Benito Juarez, Mexico’s first indigenous president.

To find out more about Mexican visual and performing artists in New York take a look at the website of the Mexican Cultural Institute New York   You might also want to visit their current show:  Indomitable: Contemporary Photography from Chiapas   This exhibition presents an overview of Chiapas’ contemporary photography through images captured by young artists in search of new paths and answers. You’ll find a wide array of styles in this show of about 40 photographs.

At The Americas Society through June 18th, you can see the site-specific installation Hemispheres:  A Labyrinth Sketchbook by Silvia Gruner  (Mexico City, 1959) who significantly contributed to the creation of a distinct vocabulary for Mexican contemporary art exploring the relationship between identity and the collective.   

This year the Lark Theatre   will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of their Mexico/US Playwright Exchange   

The Jose Limón Dance Company celebrates its 70th anniversary this year!  And the Limón School offers classes, workshops and training programs.

Dzul Dance fuses dance with aerial arts, contortion and acrobatics as a means to communicate indigenous pre- Hispanic, Mexican and Latin culture, and create bridges between contemporary art and historical heritage.

Through May 21st you can see Javier Dzul’s choreography in Cocoa Díos, a high-energy show of transported rituals, music, song and dance – choreography by Javier Dzul – that tells the ancient Mesoamerican legend of how chocolate came to earth. Performances are simultaneously in Spanish and English.  I haven’t yet seen it, but friends have highly recommended this show.

Lotería Perfoming Arts is a sponsored project at Artspire, a program of the New York Foundation for the Arts, dedicated to promote original collaborations between Mexican and American artists through performances and educational programs

Works by Mexican playwrights and artists are regularly featured at the Repertorio Espanol  , the Hispanic Society  (see the earthenware from Puebla in its collection) and El Museo del Barrio 

Since 2008, Mexican jazz singer Magos Herrera  has been living in NYC. Catch her performances when she’s in town!

Let me also give a shout out to the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, NE Chapter here in NYC, which has been very active bridging the business communities of the US and Mexico.

Lunar New Year Celebrations

Monkey Mask, Bhutan, 20th cent.

Monkey Mask, Bhutan, 20th cent.

Gung hay fat choy!  Yes, the Year of the Red Monkey (4713), begins on February 8th, the start of the Spring Festival.  Celebrated by many countries in East Asia, this holiday is also known as Chinese New Year, Seollal (Korea), Tsagaan Sar (Mongolia), Losar (Tibet) and Tet (VietNam).  Here in the Big Apple, there will be celebrations in all 3 Chinatowns, with parades in Queens on February 12th, and in Manhattan on February 13th.

According to the Pocket Chinese Almanac (article below) “the New Year is a time when families come together to celebrate nature’s renewal.  The elaborate rituals actually begin days before:  cleaning the house thoroughly, thanking the Kitchen God before the evening meal buying new clothes to wear for the new year.  The traditional festival period lasts for 15 days, with the first full moon marking the Lantern Festival, a carnival for young lovers”.

The many Asian cultural institutes in the city will all host activities around this holiday: the Asia Society, the Museum of Chinese in America,  the China Institute,  the Korea Society, and the Rubin Museum  as well as other organizations and institutions, starting Saturday and going through the 15th.  I’ve listed as many activities as I could in the CURRENT EVENTS page.  There’s a lot going on this year!

Capital, Cuxa Cloister, Catalan, ca 1130-40, marble

Capital, Cuxa Cloister, Catalan, ca 1130-40, marble

The monkey is the 9th of twelve zodiac animals on the Chinese calendar, and considered to be quick-witted, charming, lucky, adaptable, bright, versatile, lively, smart.  On the weakness side of the ledger, they are suspicious, cunning, selfish, arrogant, jealous.  The Monkey King is one of the most well-known characters in Chinese literature, and you’ll find him in operas, theatre productions and films.

The Monkey contains the elements of metal and water, which are connected to gold, and wisdom and danger, respectively.  Bottom line for this year:  things will be changing a lot, so be adaptable, and exercise caution when making changes.  Which is good advice no matter what your sign!

Your Chinese Zodiac sign occurs every 12 years.  Yours would be the Monkey if you were born in: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, etc., and you would share this sign with Julius Caesar, Leonardo da Vinci, Elizabeth Taylor and Mick Jagger, among other notables.

No matter what your sign, get out and CELEBRATE!!


IMG_0515In New York, we’ve not only got people from just about every country, we’ve also got a number of foreign cultural institutes.  Throughout the year I’ll be featuring a different one, and we’re starting off with Ireland.  Now I know some of you are scratching your heads, since March, with the Saint Patrick’s Day parade would seem a more logical place, but last week I was at the Irish Consulate for their monthly First Friday breakfast reception where Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade spoke.  2016 is a centenary year for Ireland and a number of events are planned across the US to commemorate the 2016 Proclamation of the Republic.  You can find a list of events on the website of the Irish Consulate General in NY  

New York also boasts a number of Irish performing arts/cultural centers.  The Irish Arts Center NYC   hosts wonderful theatre and musical performances.  Right now, they’re co-presenting Enda Kenney’s “The Last Hotel” which is playing at St. Anne’s Warehouse in Brooklyn through the 17th.  At the end of February, they’re bringing back “The Man in the Woman’s Shoes” and in April, the singer Camille O’Sullivan will be performing there.  The IAC NYC also runs classes in Irish music, dance and language, and has lots of programs for kids!

The Irish Repertory Theatre   is currently using other space while it’s own is being renovated.  Through March 6th, you can catch Burial at Thebes, Seamus Heaney’s reworking of Antigone (I’ll be going to see it on the 23rd, and will post a review), and on January 29th, a reading by playwright Jennifer O’Grady of Charlottes Letters.

Just across the East River (and only one stop from Grand Central) in Long Island City, Queens is the New York Irish Center,  an intimate space that’s great for concerts,  films and theatre, and has low ticket prices.  This Friday, they’ll be showing a documentary on the late Luke Kelly of the Dubliners.  Every month, they host a Ceili:  an evening of traditional Irish set dancing.  The Center also hosts classes in Irish music and language.

The American Irish Historical Society  hosts lectures, seminars, readings and performances throughout the year. On January 25th, it will host a lecture on Edward O’Meagher Condon;  on January 27th, a concert with Israeli pianist Tomer Gewirtzman, and on February 25th, the launch of a CD of Yeats poems set to music. Its library and archives contain a wide variety of rare books and artifacts from the 17th century to the present.

At Glucksman Ireland House NYU  you can enjoy concerts, films, and talks, as well as readings by writers, poets and playwrights throughout the year, many of which are free, the others of which are really low cost.

In the fall, Origin Theatre produces 1st Irish, a festival of Irish plays, readings and films that’s simply wonderful.  Every year I attend several of the performances, and they’ve all been great.  Mark your calendars NOW!

If you’re down by Battery Park, stop and visit the Irish Hunger Memorial  at Vesey Street and North End Avenue. It blends very well into its surroundings, and you may take a moment to realize you’ve found it.  Designed by artist Brian Tolle, this calm and pastural site representing  a rural Irish landscape, contains a rebuilt 19th century Irish stone cottage, set in a field with walls made of stones from all across Ireland.

I’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg here, so to speak.  There are many other organizations who will be having events throughout the year, and I’ll post information on them when I get it.  In the meantime, I think you’ve got enough here to get started…


Back to Culture

IMG_1006 - Version 2Labor Day has come and gone – now it’s back to school, back to work … or, as the French so elegantly call it, la rentrée.  In this spirit, let’s take a look at our university playhouses, where you can not only see a future Denzel Washington (he started with the Fordham Players) but where world-renowned artists often come to perform.  And they tend to have very reasonable ticket prices.

Up in the Bronx, Lehman Center for the Performing Arts kicks off it’s season this Saturday with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra;  also on the schedule this year are Ballet Folklórico de México, the National Circus and Acrobats of the Peoples Republic of China, as well as flamenco, ballet, classical music, theatre and more.

Hostos Center for the Arts kicks off it’s season in October with Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.  Later in the season you can see Choco Orta and Danza Fiesta, and more!

At Queens College, The Kupferberg Center for the Arts will be hosting concerts by Patti LaBelle, Brian Wilson and Vox A Cappella, among others, while the Aaron Copland School of Music will be hosting a chamber music concert series this fall  

Queens College also administers the Louis Armstrong House Museum, where you can get to visit Pops residence, and learn about his life and music.

Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College  is where you’ll find “Oliver Samuels in Divorce Papers”, “Michael Feinstien’s Sinatra Centennial Celebration,” “Black Violin” and other performances sure to delight.

Kingsborough Community College will be hosting “Tap City,” “Mammoth Follies” and Lorna Luft this fall.

In downtown Brooklyn, LIU’s Kumble Theatre’s  fall offerings include comedy by Robin Cloud and Maria Costa, as well as the 10th Annual “Big Eyed Blues Festival”

The Miller Theatre at Columbia University hosts a wide range of events, including Matt Haimovitz performing he complete cello suites of Bach, jazz with the Anat Cohn Quartet, and Carl Theodor Dreyer’s classic silent film La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc accompanied by a live score of medieval music

Fordham University hosts productions by its faculty and students in it’s Lincoln Center Campus.  This year’s theme is “a season at the mountaintop”;  the productions will feature alternative strategies that address the abuse of power, starting with “Force Continuum” by Kia Corthron.

Also at Lincoln Center you’ll find Juilliard students and faculty in musical, dance and dramatic productions such as August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars,” the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra, and New Dances 2015.  Some performances are FREE.

The Gerald W. Lynch Theatre at John Jay College of Criminal Justice will be featuring a FREE performance by Mark Gindick, a FREE performance by La Chiva Grantiva, and a production of “Gross Indecency – The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde”

The Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College will showcase theatre productions such as “This is My Brave” and “Eight Parts of Life” as well as musical performances by Greek singer/songwriter Lavrentis Machairitsas, and The Little Orchestra Society.

The Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at NYU‘s fall season will feature “Tango Lovers”, the Peking Opera, Waiting for Godot, Hamlet, The Mikado, Heidi Latsky Dance, Circus Now  and many, many more shows.

In Lower Manhattan, the Schimmel Center at Pace University  has a full schedule of dance, film and stage performances including the New York Theatre Ballet, NY Gypsy Brass Showdown and an evening with Johnny Mercer.

Over in Staten Island, Wagner College begins it’s season of student performances with  the Twelfth Annual Italian Idol Singing Contest bringing together the College’s finest singers to compete for cash prizes performing Italian art songs and arias.  In the Main Hall you’ll find productions of “Damn Yankees,” and “The Most Happy Fella.”

The Center for the Arts at the College of Staten Island starts its season in October with a concert by singer and actor Michael Amante;  in December, “A Christmas Carol” will be its featured production.  The Center also has events tailored for kids  such as “Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunny.”

Who says back to school is no fun!

Dance & Disability

Heidi Latsky Dance's "Gimp"; photo by Darial Sneed, courtesy of Dance/NYC

Heidi Latsky Dance’s “Gimp”; photo by Darial Sneed, courtesy of Dance/NYC

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Celebrating its passage, on July 8th Dance/NYC hosted a convening centered on their new report “Discovering Disability:  Data & NYC Dance.”    It was quite a learning experience for me.  Panelists included dancers, representatives of performance spaces, government officials, and educators.  Even though the discussions focused on dance, they provided a lens for how we can incorporate the disabled in the arts and other areas on a broader scale.

Over the last 25+ years, I’ve noticed a sea-change in how society views the disabled.  When I was growing up, it was socially acceptable to make jokes or disparaging remarks about people with physical or mental disabilities.  The disabled were often institutionalized, or kept apart, if not out of sight.  Today, families are fighting for their disabled members to live at home and to be as “mainstreamed” as possible.

Disability affects all ages and ethnicities; according to a report by the NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, in New York City there are some 810,000 disabled people, about one-tenth of the population, of which 125,00 are in the workforce.  As the population ages, so will the number of disabled. The question is how will society allow them to fully participate?

At the heart of the day’s discussions was the concept of “ ‘Nothing Without Us:’ no policy should be formed without the full, direct involvement and vesting of members of the affected group.”

The keynote speaker was Simi Lintona writer, consultant and expert on the arts and disabilities, who, in 1971 was injured in a car accident that paralyzed her legs. She powerfully made the case for claiming disability as an identity, not as a medical condition. This theme was echoed throughout the conference, as was the motif of the role of disability in generating artistry.  Several of the dancers referred to themselves as “disabled artists” (not as “artists with disabilities”) for whom their wheelchairs or crutches were not tools, but a part of their bodies that need to be incorporated into the choreography.  Ms. Linton observed that the disabled are a transgressive presence on stage in much the same way that Alvin Ailey, Judith Jameson, and women actors were.  She pointed out the necessity for arts organizations to engage with disabled artists who have the “vantage point of the atypical.”

  Ms. Linton noted that the arts have been a testing ground for society’s most sacred beliefs and aspirations, and that the arts have a vital role in shaping democracy. 

She also spoke of needing to reshape society so the disabled have a place,  instead of “helping” the disabled “fit in.”

The dancer Heidi Latsky noted that while there are several dance companies that are physically integrated (having both disabled and nondisabled dancers), it can be very difficult for disabled dancers to get the support they need, not because people are being nasty, but because they are unsure of how to interact with the disabled.  She told of having attended “mainstream” dance classes where the instructors would critique and correct the other dancers, but not her, and how that didn’t help her develop as a dancer.

Other panelists discussed some of the key findings of the report, summarized below:

  • there are not enough facilities, especially outside Manhattan, which provide access for disabled workers, students, artists, audience members, etc.  It seems that New Jersey is ahead of the Empire State on this front; The Cultural Access Network Project assists New Jersey cultural arts organizations in making their programs and facilities accessible  
  • attention needs to be paid to universal design standards to improve accessibility
  • schools need to do a better job of both offering arts education, especially dance, to disabled students, and hiring disabled teachers and administrators.
  • dance companies need to improve the recruitment and training of both disabled and nondisabled staff in administrative, technical and artistic roles.

This is a very brief summary of the day’s discussions.  If you’d like to know more, take a look at the “Discovering Disability” report issued by dance/NYC, which also contains useful resources.

Kudos to Dance/NYC for having issued the report and organized the conference.  I’m looking forward to learning more on this topic.

All Things French

Copyright Pixattitude | Dreamstime.com http://www.dreamstime.com/pixattitude_info

Copyright Pixattitude | Dreamstime.com

Not quite, since the French language and French culture are found throughout the globe.  According to the Organisation international de la francophonie, French is spoken by 274 million people on 5 continents.  For this edition, I’ll focus on France; future posts will cover the cultural activities of other countries which use French.

There are 67 French-related organizations in New York City, under the umbrella of the Committee of French-Speaking Societies.  I’m just going to talk about just a few of them.

If you’re looking for French film, theatre, lectures, books or even lessons, here are some great places to start: 

The French Institute, Alliance Francaise (FIAF) which has all of the foregoing, all year round.   In addition to their midtown facility, FIAF also has language classes in Brooklyn.  

The Maison Française at NYU  and the Maison Française at Columbia  offer a wide variety of cultural activities as well as language lessons. 

Take a look at the website of Cultural Services of the French Embassy in NYC  which has been a  force for spreading French culture in NYC.  Thanks to their efforts, especially to Fabrice Jaumont, there are now 6 dual-language French-English programs in the public schools at the elementary grades and 2 in middle schools.  More info here  

If you’d like to be part of an on-line community of French speakers and people interested in the French language, check out New York in French  founded by the above-mentioned Fabrice Jaumont. 

For more general information about French business and culture in NYC, take a look at French Morning  which publishes in both English and French, and covers French activities in LA, Miami, San Francisco and Texas.

There’s also French District, French District which is geared more towards the French who have recently moved here.

If you think there’s another organization or publication I should mention, drop me a line!

A la prochaine…

Eastern Europe and Scandinavia in Gotham

Since the Chelsea Music Festival   is focusing on the music of Hungary and Finland this year (both countries’ native tongues share a common linguistic ancestor)  I thought I’d write a bit about the cultural organizations in New York from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. 

The Balassi Institute of Hungarian Culture is hosting Budapest Pop-up during June featuring classic and contemporary music.

Czech out the films, concerts and other offerings at the Czech Center (you knew there was going to be a bad pun)   Through the rest of June, they’s showing the Czech that Film festival, and hosting a concert of new composers.   Their rooftop-ciné series on Tuesdays in July and August features live music and early 20th century Czech and American films on the theme of the “fallen woman”.

The Polish Cultural Institute   promotes a wide range of cultural programs in music, art, film, theatre and dance.  On their website  you can find out more about Polish artists performing in New York  such as the Polish National Ballet at the Joyce Theatre  through June 21st, or the  Obara International Quartet at Jazz at Lincoln Center  on June 30th, or the works by  Pawel Althamer and Agnieszka Kurant which are included in the Storylines exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum .

The Romanian Cultural Institute hosts concerts, lectures and exhibits throughout the year; when this blog went to press, their summer calendar wasn’t posted.

Scandinavia House offers a wide range of programs from the Nordic countries, including  exhibitions, lectures, jazz concerts, kids activities and Nordic noir films (need I say more).  You can find the full schedule here    Be sure to check out the gift shop for some truly unique items, or enjoy lunch or dinner at Smörgås Chef.

The Finnish Cultural Institute  offers a residency for Finnish artists, designers and architects.  This year, they’re celebrating their 25th year in New York, with the theme of Urban Nature.   In July, catch “The Powers That Be”     an exhibition on physical energy at  Station Independent Projects  on the Lower East Side.

FREE (and Low Cost) Summer Events!!!

Summertime is when I love to stay in New York City.  Yeah, it’s hot and sticky, but the free entertainment is unparalleled!  And it’s in the parks or by the water, so you can stay cool, or at least get some relief from the heat.  Here’s my list of events to check out if you’re staying in town this summer:

SummerStage – Central Park (and other venues)

Now in it’s 30th year at Summerstage outdoor events include music (Opera, American, world, folk, electronic…), dance, spoken word and events specially with families in mind.   The schedule runs from May 18th through September 24th

In addition to the performances at Rumsey Playfield (69th Street & 5th Avenue), Summerstage also hosts events at various venues in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

You can find a complete list here

Governor’s Island

Hop on a ferry and for a memorable visit to this former army/coast guard base.  This year the season runs from May 24th to September 27th.  Plan to spend a fair amount of time here, as there are always activities for visitors to engage in as well as dance, music, theatre, poetry and art – –  for all tastes and all family members.  This summer has open studios with the artists in residence and choreographers, a 15-minute Hamlet, and a Unicycle Festival!  Find out more here

Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center Out of Doors offers dance and music every evening and on the weekends too, From July 22nd to August 9th.  Find the full schedule here  

Midsummer Night’s Swing isn’t free, but it’s cheap, and it’s a great way to learn new dance steps, or maybe some older dances you’ve always wanted to know how to do (mambo, salsa, swing and more)!  Live music and group dance lessons make for a really fun evening.  Great date night! The series runs from June 23rd to July 11th  More info here

River to River (Lower Manhattan)

Comprising mostly dance with some musical performances, the River to River festival takes place in various venues in Lower Manhattan, June 18-28.  You can find more information here

Brooklyn Bridge Park

On the East River waterfront, you’ll find dance parties, opera, film, kids activities and great public art!  Not to mention a view of the NYC skyline like in the movies.  Brooklyn Bridge Park’s activities go through the end of October.  To see the full list, go here  

Celebrate Brooklyn (Prospect Park)

They’re going to kick off their 37th year in style, with Chaka Khan on June 3rd.  This festival, held at the Prospect Park bandshell, runs through August 12th, and includes music of all genres, dance, and film. Most of the events are free (they ask for a $3 donation); you can find a complete list here

MetroTech Brooklyn Lunchtime Series

Office workers of the world, bust out of your cubes and get over to the BAM lunchtime concert series on the MetroTech commons!  Live performances every Thursday from June 4th to August 6th,  ranging from R&B to funk, to gospel to soul to jazz and world music. Find the full schedule here