1/23/23 O&A NYC HOLLYWOOD MONDAY: Sparkle

With a plot inspired by the history of the Supremes, Sparkle is a period film set in Harlem, New York during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Continue reading

1/21/23 O&A NYC IN MEMORIAM: Lupe Serrano and Jacques d’Amboise- Black Swan Pas De Deux (1960)

Lupe Serrano, a former prima ballerina with American Ballet Theater died on Monday in Syosset, N.Y. at age 92. A petite powerhouse, Ms. Serrano dazzled audiences with virtuosic technique, steely strength and an exuberant stage personality. She excelled in classical and modern choreography during her 18 years with American Ballet Theater , which she joined as a principal dancer in 1953. American audiences had rarely seen a female dancer achieve the soaring jumps, fleet footwork and swift turns that Ms. Serrano executed with aplomb.

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1/13/23 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY: Ancestral Voices- Dianne McIntyre, Romare Bearden and Cecil Taylor

One of Bearden’s early dance collaborations was the modern dance work Ancestral Voices choreographed by Dianne McIntyre and presented by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. At the suggestion of company founder and artistic director Alvin Ailey, Romare Bearden was commissioned to create the visuals for the work which premiered on the Ailey company, May 13, 1977.

Set to a score by jazz great, Cecil Taylor, Ancestral Voices has been described as an African ritual interpreted through the modern dance idiom. The cast included Ailey standouts Estelle Spurlock, Alistair Butler and Dyane Harvey. In addition to the front curtain, Bearden also created a backdrop, and designed the costumes and headpieces.

Bearden was a wonderful storyteller. And enjoyed retelling the story of creating the visuals for Ancestral Voices. Within  those retellings he mentioned how he and his wife Nanette have unsuccessfully tried to retrieve the set and costumes. “They tell us they have just disappeared”, he would simply say.

New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff attended the opening night performance. In a review published the next day on May 14th, 1977, Ms. Kisselgoff reported:

“Ancestral Voices is an abstraction of an African ritual, and the abstract note is obvious from the start in Romare Bearden’s beautiful front curtain of foliage and African forms. The theme of ritual onstage is the world’s four elements – earth, water, air and fire.”

The taping took place on a warm summer evening in Central Park dancer Dyane Harvey added, “I viewed the footage and was gently reminded of the experience of filming Ms. McIntyre’s work during that summer. The cast was comprised of Alistair Butler, Charles Grant, Bernadine Jennings, Dorian Williams and Dianne (McIntyre). As mentioned in the interview we embodied elemental forces against the beautiful backdrop designed and crafted by Romare Bearden. The actual filming process, in the scheme of dance filming, was painless. (Third World Cinema…?) I recall thinking how exhilarating it was to be outside at night performing Dianne’s spirited choreography with so much lavish color and nature surrounding and inspiring us!”
Dy

In a recent correspondence with Dianne McIntyre about the collaboration she wrote:

Hello Walter,

Here is a bit of background for you: Yes, Anna Kisselgoff wrote about the piece, which I was very sorry to read. It is a very bad review for a piece that I must say, was not my best work, and unfortunately (for me) because it had the beautiful costumes and sets by Romare Bearden.

Alvin Ailey invited me to do a work and suggested that Romare Bearden could do the costumes. I was very honored by that. In the work the dancers represented the four elements of nature – air, earth, fire and water. Romare created costumes so intriguing, unique, monumental that they looked like his collages come to life. The poster for that year marketing the Ailey brand was Romare Bearden’s rendering of his costume for Fire. A white and red poster – must be a collector’s item today.

Fortunately, a couple of years later, in a film about Romare was a segment I put together of excerpts from the dance. We shot it in Central Park in front of a fountain during one daytime and evening. The gigantic scrim created from a drawing Romare made for the dance was mounted on the lawn and I had the dancers performing in front and behind the scrim. It was a beautiful adventure.

I am grateful to Alvin Ailey that he introduced me to such a master artist. Romare gave me advice, guidance about my journey as an artist and I have always held him in my vision of the highest one can be as an artist. What he created and the way he worked always made me want to be like him – from watching him I say to myself: Stick to your vision, go for it all the way, don’t waiver, produce and practice every day even in the quiet.

Thank you, Romare Bearden.

Ancestral Voices

1/4/23 O&A NYC WILDIN OUT WEDNESDAY: Richard Pryor: Live & Smokin’ (1971)

Richard Pryor set the stage for the brash, no-holds-barred comedy practiced by later comic successes like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. His soulful performance–and his legacy–are captured in LIVE AND SMOKIN’, released in 1985 but filmed 15 years earlier at New York City’s Improvisation. Included among the funny, wide-ranging (and often vulgar) skits is the now famous “Wino Preacher and Willie the Junkie” sequence. Continue reading

12/26/22 O&A NYC HOLLYWOOD MONDAY: Be A Clown From The Pirate- Gene Kelly and The Nicholas Brothers

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In The Pirate (1948) both Gene Kelly and Judy Garland fought to get The Nicholas Brothers (Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas) included in the movie. They succeeded, but the Be a Clown sequence was cut by exhibitors in Memphis and other U.S. cities in the South because it included The Nicholas Brothers, who were black.  Continue reading

12/10/22 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY: Rudolf Nureyev’s Nutcracker (1968)

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This historic performance from 1968 captures choreographer/performer Rudolf Nureyev at the peak of his career. Filmed at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the ballet features artists of the Royal Ballet including Wayne Sleep, Jillian Gibbs and Merle Park as Clara. Continue reading

10/27/22 O&A NYC THROWBACK THURSDAY: Michael Jackson – Thriller

Thriller, Michael Jackson’s 1984 music video directed by John Landis and written by Landis and Jackson.   Continue reading

10/17/22 O&A NYC HOLLYWOOD MONDAY- HALLOWEEN EDITION:  Woman No Cry! (Dance Scene) And Maximillian’s Death Scene- Vampire In Brooklyn (1995)

Maximillian (Eddie Murphy) is the only survivor from a race of vampires on a Caribbean Island, and as a vampire, he must find a mate to keep the line from ending. He knows that a child had been born to a woman who had a vampire father, and he searches for her (Angela Bassett) in Brooklyn. Continue reading

11/16/22 O&A NYC GOSPEL SUNDAY: The Old Landmark Featuring James Brown From The Blues Brothers 

James Brown, The Godfather Of Soul, leads his flock through a spirited version of The Old Landmark( look for an angelic Chaka Khan is the choir).  Continue reading