Spring Performing Arts Roundup
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While New York City is home to performing arts year-round, May and June bring a plethora of festivals, concerts, theater and other programming to venues around the City. Whether you like jazz or contemporary dance, film or symphonic music, art or egg rolls, the cultural calendar offers something to enjoy. The inaugural NY Phil Biennial features new pieces by contemporary composers and musicians; DANSE brings an astounding group of French choreographers and performers to venues throughout the City; the Lower East Side Film Festival spotlights new movies by up-and-coming filmmakers; and the fourth annual Spring For Music festival offers a symphonic smorgasbord from top orchestras. Read on for the highlights.
DANSE: A French-American Festival of Performance and Ideas at various locations
This citywide festival showcases contemporary choreographers and dancers in addition to examining the role of dance through public talks and other programming. The festival marks the US premieres of works by French choreographers including the collaborative duo Cecilia Bengolea and François Chaignaud, the late Alain Buffard and Lyon Opera Ballet. In total, there are 16 performances (most taking place multiple times) at various venues throughout the City, and they feature a stellar lineup of artists as well as intriguing setups: one (free) performance will take place on streets of Long Island City over several days, the dancers changing their routines according to whatever obstacles they encounter. If you're curious about contemporary dance—or an aficionado of it—this is the fest to check out.
Lucille Lortel Awards at NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
The Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Achievement Off Broadway, which debuted in 1985, honor top plays, musicals and performers. A project of the Off-Broadway League, the 29th annual show features scheduled and surprise performances by Off-Broadway talent in addition to high-profile presenters. This year, four new acting categories are being added so that actors in plays and musicals will be honored separately. Actor-comedians Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, who star in the two-person Sharr White play Annapurna, host the proceedings.
Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival at various locations
The Apollo Theater, Harlem Stage and Jazzmobile present the fourth annual Harlem Jazz Shrines festival, a weeklong, Harlem-wide celebration of jazz. New and established artists (such as Arturo O'Farrill and Vijay Iyer) will play at the Apollo, Harlem Stage Gatehouse and the recently revived Minton's Playhouse, among other venues. Also of note, jazz vespers will be held at Abyssinian Baptist Church during the fest, and Columbia University has scheduled cultural programming for the occasion as well.
Spring for Music at Carnegie Hall
The Spring for Music festival has a nifty premise: top-tier orchestras playing inventive pieces at Carnegie Hall for a mere $25 (and if you sign up for all six shows, you get a $100 deal). The fourth and final iteration of the fest features the New York Philharmonic playing the NYC premiere of Christopher Rouse's Requiem, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performing compositions relating to Canada's indigenous peoples and the Seattle Symphony presenting a program with John Luther Adams' Become Ocean (another NYC debut) as well as Claude Debussy's La Mer. Rounding out the docket are performances by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. For more programming information, visit springformusic.com.
Driving Miss Daisy at Snug Harbor Cultural Center
This May, Harbor Lights presents the well-known drama Driving Miss Daisy, the story of a wealthy 72-year-old Jewish widow, played by Joy Franz, and her African-American chauffeur, Hoke, played by Larry Marshall. Their 25-year relationship, which begins in 1948 and lasts through the civil rights revolution of the 1960s, reveals the dynamics of prejudice and a camaraderie born of longtime companionship, shared experience and earned respect.
Ten thousand dancers from 150 groups showcase 75 styles of dance in a joyously multicultural musical parade down Broadway. Tap-dance legend and Tony winner Savion Glover, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, artistic director of African diaspora dance troupe Urban Bush Women, and remix master Hex Hector have been tapped to serve as grand marshals. The beautifully crafted floats, live bands and DJs, not to mention the battalions of dancers, will start from 21st Street at about 1pm, heading south through Union Square Park, and then east on 8th Street and St. Marks Place to Tompkins Square Park. There, the party continues with DanceFest, an afternoon of free dance performances, dance lessons and social dancing across four stages.
World's Fair Anniversary Festival at Flushing Meadows Corona Park
This family-friendly festival includes games, inflatable rides, crafts and activities for kids, in addition to tours of the park's sculptures and structures. A concert will cap off the day's events.
Memorial Day Concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
The Philharmonic's annual free Memorial Day concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is a favorite in the lead-up to summer. The program this year features Carl Nielsen's Helios Overture and Tchaikovsky's Symphony no. 5. Tickets are given starting at 6pm on a first-come, first-served basis, and they go fast; best to line up early if you want a spot.
May 28–June 7
NY Phil Biennial at various locations
Based on the tradition of the visual art biennial, the new NY Phil Biennial program will spotlight new works by classical music's most exciting new composers and performers once every two years. This year's selection includes works created by more than 50 composers (notably a world premiere of Christopher Rouse's Symphony no. 4) from a dozen different countries. Performances will take place at a variety of venues around the city, including Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art and Merkin Concert Hall.
Art by the Ferry at the St. George Ferry Terminal, Staten Island
Each June, Art by the Ferry transforms the St. George terminal of the Staten Island Ferry into a gallery that honors Staten Island's diverse arts community. The festival, which has expanded in recent years past the station's confines, will also be making gallery space in the warehouse at 139 Bay St., a short walk away. Events include readings, art exhibitions, outdoor musical performances and family-oriented craft workshops.
Chelsea Music Festival at various venues
The Chelsea Music Festival takes on a German flavor in honor of the milestone birthdays of Richard Strauss (it would be his 150th) and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (300th); the fest adds a Brazilian touch with its commemoration of the seminal composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, 55 years after his death. More than 100 artists, including violist Hwayoon Lee, the Sirius Quartet and guitarist Fabio Gouvea, will take part; premieres include works by composers Augusta Read Thomas, Philip Lasser and Gregor Huebner. Visual and culinary arts are also in the programming purview; chefs Lance Nitahara and Sonar Saikia are the 2014 culinary artists-in-residence. Tickets are available starting May 1. Visit chelseamusicfestival.org for updates.
Egg Rolls & Egg Creams Festival at Museum at Eldridge Street
What better way to celebrate the joint heritage of the Lower East Side and Chinatown than with food? This daylong free festival highlights the traditions of the neighborhood via Chinese opera and acrobats, klezmer performances, tours of the historic synagogue and, of course, the delicacies in the festival's moniker: kosher egg rolls and egg creams.
Northside Festival at various locations
The Northside Festival is a cultural extravaganza that brings together music, talks, films and multidisciplinary art. Everyone from Internet entrepreneurs to bands like Titus Andronicus, Craft Spells and Chvrches descends on venues throughout the neighborhood, making it even hipper than it already is—if that's even possible.
Lower East Side Film Festival at various locations
Launched in February 2011, the Lower East Side Film Festival promotes the work of up-and-coming filmmakers and artists. The festival, which also highlights the Lower East Side as an arts destination, incorporates free events along with the screenings. This year's judges include Marky Ramone and Denis O'Hare, and the 2014 lineup—to be announced in early May—will premiere a compelling selection of feature lengths, shorts and music videos.