If JR Builds It...They Will Come
He wears sunglasses indoors. He parties with rock stars and hip-hop trendsetters. He's shown work in museums including the Tate Modern in London and Art Basel in Miami, as well as en plein air (he's French)—at the site of the separation wall between Israel and Palestine, a bridge in Paris and a mountainside in Brazil. He's also a recipient of the prestigious TED Prize, joining the ranks of such luminaries as Bill Clinton and Bono.
And for the last nine months, JR has been exploring our world, creating a large-scale installation for New York City Ballet's second annual Art Series.
The view of NYC's Koch Theater
Images by JR via Instagram
The work was unveiled at NYCB's opening night on Tuesday, but last night's first of three "New York City Ballet Art Series Presents JR" performances brought many new (many bearded) faces to New York City's David H. Koch Theater in droves. That is, after all, the point. According to a NYCB press release, "During the inaugural season of the series, which featured a collaboration with the Brooklyn-based artist collective FAILE, 70% of audience members attending the two Art Series performances were new to NYCB." I'd venture to say last night's event was even more successful. The theater was completely full—online tickets have also sold out for the next two Art Series nights—and buzzing with hip, fresh and creative energy.
Bringing in one of the wooden palettes. Photo by JR via Instagram.
Compared to a typical night at the ballet, I'm guessing the median age of attendees dropped by a solid 25–30 years, and I don't think it was only the result of $29 tickets and the free Brooklyn Brewery refreshments during the DJ-ed after-party. Bring in a highly followed (he has more than 323,000 Instagram fans) and young (he's only 30) artist, and people will come. All swell ideas for performing arts institutions nationwide.
Yes, that's a DJ working the third ring.
Left: The view from the top, photo by JR via Instagram; right: Tiler Peck up-close
Did I mention the installation was breathtaking? Viewed from above in the fourth ring, JR's 6,500 square-foot portrait becomes a 3–D masterpiece, with more than 80 dancers enveloped in waves of what looks like white fabric in the shape of an eye. Up close, you're standing on close-to-life-size photographs of the dancers, laying on white paper. There were also artworks transferred onto wooden palettes in the theater house and huge photographs transforming the outside of the Koch Theater. The work will be on display during NYCB's winter season through March 2, and you can view the installations free of charge on select dates. For more info, click here.
As for the performance, the highlights included Tiler Peck making her debut in Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain, Rebecca Krohn in Balanchine's Kammermusik No. 2, and Teresa Reichlen, Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz in Balanchine's Rubies. (Disclaimer: JR did leave after the opener, Kammermusik No. 2. Krohn was absolutely fabulous onstage, but the long and dissonant Hindemith score may not have been exactly easy for any ballet newcomer. Take a look at JR's Instagram feed, and it's clear he's gotten to know NYCB and its dancers well.)
Update: I've just been told that JR did, in fact stay through the evening, moving to backstage to get a more spectacular view. Here's hoping he got a few more pictures like the one he took below, from Nutcracker.
Behind-the-scenes of NYCB's snow scene; photo by JR via Instagram.
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: