Well? Have you? If not, it’s probably because René Blum’s lifelong career in the arts has been safely hidden from the history books. Only his brother Léon Blum, the first Socialist and Jewish Prime Minister of France, received enormous attention. But Judith Chazin-Bennahum knows why René Blum deserves to be remembered: because he was an extraordinary man. Chazin-Bennahum’s book introduces the reader to the world of the Belle Epoque artists and writers, the Dreyfus Affair, the playwrights and painters who reigned supreme during the late 19th century and early 20th century period in Paris. Below she provides us with just a few of his most impressive accomplishments.
On 27 February 1932, the American modern dancer Pauline Koner presented a concert at New York City’s Town Hall. For the occasion, Koner, who was Jewish, premiered Chassidic Song and Dance, a solo in which she portrayed a young Hasidic Jew. Her characterization of an Eastern European Jew was not so different from the other exotics that constituted Koner’s repertory in the 1930s.
As we celebrate the golden anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a significant aspect of the struggle for racial equality often gets ignored: racial activism in performance. Actors, singers, and dancers mobilized over the decades, pushing back against racial restrictions that shifted over time, and On the Town of 1944 marked an auspicious but little-recognized moment in that history.
There are few choreographers with more influence in the world of ballet than George Balanchine. Over three decades after his death, his ballets are performed somewhere on the planet virtually every day. Two prominent dance institutions continue his legacy—the School of American Ballet and the New York City Ballet—and dancers who worked alongside him lead important companies and schools across America from Miami to Seattle.
Parents, provosts, and authors of recent articles/discussion boards are questioning the purpose or viability for dance programs in contemporary university structures. An article in Dance USA from 2015 presents a narrow view of the role of collegiate dance. Understanding the wider lens on dance education, it can be an excellent path to career success. College programs in dance transcend training an elite artist/athlete.
The official opening on 14 June 2018 by the Queen and Duchess of Sussex of Chester’s new cultural ‘hub’, Storyhouse, offers a timely moment to consider the theatre as a building type. Storyhouse is an interesting re-thinking of what an Arts building can be. It combines a theatre, cinema, library, and café, in an attempt to break down boundaries between artistic and institutional structures.
Best known as the composer of Candide and West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein had an immensely versatile career. Born on August 25, 1918, Bernstein’s career spanned decades, leaving a lasting impression through his work as a conductor, composer, and music educator.
At the root of all Western literature is ancient Greek poetry—Homer’s great epics, the passionate love poems of Sappho, the masterpieces of Greek tragedy and of comic theatre. Almost all of this poetry was or originally involved sung music, often with instrumental accompaniment.
Despite numerous honors throughout his illustrious career, including being the only director to earn the “triple crown” of show business awards—the Oscar, Emmy, and Tony—all in one year, Bob Fosse remains underrated in terms of his influence on the presentation of dance on film. From Sweet Charity, his first film as a director, through his multiple Oscar-winning Cabaret, to his autobiographical, Felliniesque All That Jazz, Fosse created a template for filming dance that has remained influential and remarkably vital years after these films first appeared.
Chicago is arguably one of the most famous Broadway musicals of the 20th century, if not the most famous. Based off Maurine Dallas Watkins’ satiric 1926 play, it has spawned a Tony Award-winning revival and Academy Award-winning movie version. Songs like “All That Jazz” and “Cell Block Tango” have become household tunes and were recorded as singles by jazz and pop singers alike. So many versions of the same song can lead to contention: was Chita Rivera’s original “All That Jazz” the most varied interpretation, or does one prefer the breathiness of Renée Zellweger’s raw (if underdeveloped) take on it? How “jazzy” should the song be? (It is a show tune, after all).
Of all Shakespeare’s great plays his most frequently published work in his lifetime his erotic poem, Venus and Adonis. Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Poems may often feel less familiar than his plays, but they have also seeped into our cultural history. Within them, they reveal much about the Bard himself and include a number of surprises. Here are a few lesser known facts about Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems.
The panpipes or “pan flute” derives its name from the Greek god Pan, who is often depicted holding the instrument. Panpipes, however, can be found in many parts of the world, including South America, Oceania, Central Europe, and Asia.
Aging in the world of entertainment is portrayed in a variety of ways. In some cases it’s graceful and elegant; in others it’s manic and doddering. Shakespeare has dealt with this subject numerous times with vast reinterpretations in productions through the centuries. In this excerpt from Aging Thoughtfully: Conversations about Retirement, Wrinkles, Romance, and Regret, authors Martha C. Nussbaum and Saul Levmore look at the classic example of King Lear, and how different portrayals of this elderly character can be a reflection of how people see aging and infirmity in modern times.
Cymbals are a highly versatile instrument of ancient origin. In the West, they have been used not only in orchestral music, but also in jazz and popular music. From being played very quietly to making a striking splash in the orchestra, composers and musicians have found the instrument to be widely adaptable.
Born into poverty in Richmond, Virginia, John Latouche (1914-1956) even as a youth established himself as both a rascal and a genius. After dropping out of Columbia his sophomore year (but not before scandalizing the university with his risqué lyrics to the school’s 1935 Varsity Show, Flair-Flair: The Idol of Paree), he won a coterie of devoted admirers among New York’s artistic elite for his witty and suggestive cabaret songs.
I find myself reflecting upon my own experiences in music as a student, a piano teacher, a performer, a psychologist and a psychoanalyst. How did I get from “then” to “now”? Who assisted me along my winding journey? Do you ever wonder these things about yourself?