Solos to Beat Back the Blues
In October, New York City Center reimagined its popular Fall for Dance festival in digital form: Dancers made use of the stage of the empty theater, their performances broadcast to audiences at home. In honor of Black History Month, three of those presentations are streaming again — “Lady Swings the Blues” by the brilliant tap artist Dormeshia; Kyle Abraham’s “to be seen,” danced to Ravel’s “Boléro” by Calvin Royal III of American Ballet Theater; and “Morani/Mungu (Black Warrior/Black God)” by Jamar Roberts, a longtime member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and that company’s resident choreographer.
Each of these works is a stunning solo, but in Dormeshia’s case, that category doesn’t quite fit; though she’s the lone dancer onstage (glamorous in gold shoes), her feet converse effortlessly with the live jazz trio by her side. Royal and Roberts, too, offer profoundly musical performances. A balm for any winter blues you might be feeling, the three works can be viewed free through March 5 on City Center’s website or YouTube channel.
Between Despair and Hope
In January, when covering Opera Philadelphia’s new virtual channel, OperaPhila.tv, I noted that because of the company’s strong roster of composers, there was reason to be hopeful about its winter-spring season of short digital commissions.
“Save the Boys,” the composer Tyshawn Sorey’s 20-minute setting of an 1877 poem by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, was the first of those scheduled dramatic premieres and debuted earlier this month. Performed by the countertenor John Holiday and the pianist Grant Loehnig, Sorey’s work responds sensitively to the original poem’s range of emotional registers. Harper’s text contains both deep despair over the slave trade, as well as almost-hopeful calls to action.
In this setting, Sorey’s piano part switches (sometimes starkly) between those varied realms, while the writing for voice manages to gracefully float between them. Occasionally, during Holiday’s impressive performance, pain and hope intertwine in the same phrase — a show of skill that also produces a vertiginous, operatic power.
You can rent “Save the Boys” for $10 or purchase a season pass to OperaPhila.tv for $99.
SETH COLTER WALLS
All Manhattan’s a Stage
The title of the Paper Bag Players’ latest production expresses something we all long to be: “Out and About and Together Again.” But until that state becomes completely attainable, the company’s members propose this virtual project — which depicts them out and about and together again — as a heartening diversion.
Created by the actor Kevin Richard Woodall and John Stone, the troupe’s music director and composer, this 40-minute video (available on demand indefinitely) features the players and their signature paper-and-cardboard props outdoors around Manhattan. Families who pay $20 to stream the revue on Vimeo can expect favorite skits like the interactive dance “The Paper Bag Rag” and “Bob the Slob,” which conveniently takes place in a park.
The presentation offers indoor magic, too. The scenic artist Jonathan Peck demonstrates his talents in a participatory exercise and in the live-drawn animated premiere “Anywhere Chair.” That object promises that if you take a seat, “we can go anywhere” — also true of this company’s inventive shows.
If Subway Benches Could Talk …
The Seventh Avenue Express, a.k.a. the No. 2 train, covers 52 stops between Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and 241st Street in the Bronx. Each of those stations has a story to tell, and the playwright Ren Dara Santiago is making sure they are being heard.
So she conceived and created “MTA Radio Plays,” produced by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and available on its website. In this series of audio pieces, which are from three to 15 minutes long, she acts as a figurative conductor on a train that carries the work of 17 artists she has commissioned.
Tackling myriad genres and styles, the plays are as richly diverse as the neighborhoods the subway connects. Upcoming works by Xavier Galva, Victor Cervantes Jr. and Robert Lee Leng center on themes of neighborly kindness and urban altruism.
Six episodes have been released so far, with the next batch due in the coming week and more installments arriving monthly at least through June. The best part? The series pass is only $15, and unlike a MetroCard, it won’t expire.
Pop & Rock
A Platform That Rocks
With demand for streaming at an all-time high, niche platforms for every type of viewer are in abundant supply. For the rock lover, the Coda Collection — a new Amazon Prime Video add-on — offers a trove of concert films and rock documentaries. The collection’s prominent stakeholders include Yoko Ono and Janie Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix’s adopted sister; unsurprisingly, its contents skew toward the classic. They include close to a dozen Hendrix titles, as well as several featuring the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam and Bob Dylan.
There are more contemporary offerings, too. “A Dog Called Money,” a new documentary about PJ Harvey, follows the British musician on the research trips that informed the making of her ninth album, “The Hope Six Demolition Project.” And Miranda Lambert’s “Revolution: Live by Candlelight,” which captures an intimate acoustic performance by the country star, had its streaming premiere on the platform.
The Coda Collection is available to Prime members for $5 a month; free trials are available.
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