With Curtains Down, All the World’s a Stage

The 2020 summer season isn’t like any other, but dancers and musicians are sharing the city’s cultural riches

| 13 Aug 2020 | 10:22

Whispers about whether New York will come back seem silly. Where would it go? The critical mass of talent, stages, audiences, funding, supporters, infrastructure, dedication and passion that exist here are unparalleled. And dancers, composers, musicians, actors, artists, writers, producers, directors, managers and designers are as inspired as they’ve ever been. Maybe more so. We’re starting to get glimpses of what they’ve been creating. Though the 2020 season isn’t like any other, audiences crave new work and performers need stages.

For its 39th iteration, the Battery Dance Festival has gone virtual, innovative, expansive and mostly new. From August 14 - 22, filmed performances are showing online nightly from 7 p.m. - 8 p.m., and each presentation will remain available on demand for ten days after its first showing. The festival’s 52 performances include an incredible 28 premieres from artists in 19 countries.

Women choreographers are a special focus, a nod to the centennial anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States. Look for women responding to nature, addressing the state of being alone or together, and even a riff on Scheherazade’s “One Thousand and One Nights” from RGWW (Rosanna Gamson/World Wide). Also receiving a special spotlight are Black voices in dance, dances for and about New York City, along with Middle Eastern, European, Asian, and African dance, and a special program of classical and contemporary Indian dances for India’s Independence Day. Many performers appear solo, some stay several feet apart, and outdoor settings from beaches to bridges make 2020’s performances unlike any others.

“Audition Camp”

For many young performers, preparing to take the stage is a journey they’ve been on for some time, despite pandemic detours. A partnership between the New York Department of Education and Lincoln Center’s education department has been smoothing the road for eighth graders from Title 1 New York middle schools. Lincoln Center’s “Boot Camp” program has morphed into the online “Audition Camp” for its 7th season, but the same dedicated, accomplished artists gave their time, insights and hard work to build kids’ skills and confidence as they start auditioning for their dream schools in September.

Manhattan students in the program hail from MS378 (School for Global Leaders), PS126 (Jacob August Riis), MS862 (Mott Hall II), MS224 (Manhattan East School for Arts and Academics), and MS377 (Renaissance School of the Arts) and the teachers are accomplished artists from Carnegie Hall, the NY Philharmonic, Lincoln Center, Lincoln Center Theater, The Juilliard School, City Ballet and Studio in a School. 95% of the kids in 2018’s camp made it into their first choice of schools, but it’s a winning program for everyone involved.

Ashley Renée Watkins, one of Lincoln Center’s vocal teachers, and member of opera duo ACTE II, says, “I hope to help my students feel powerful and confident in both their personal and artistic abilities. I hope our work empowers them in the things they already know and offers them more tools for their journey. For me, my students offer me enlightenment, perspective and push me to keep thinking about relevance. That’s more than anything I can ask of them.”

Live Pop-up Performances

The Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center typically draws between 10 and 20 thousand people every summer. This year, since it’s virtual and being broadcast via WQXR both on the radio and online, the size of the audience is incalculable. So are the creativity and resourcefulness of the musicians and the team behind it. It launched on August 10th with a Mozart and Arvo Pärt mashup, “Divine Connections,” a combination of pre-recorded pieces. There were also live pop-up performances in each of the five boroughs that were recorded and are now on demand online. Special programming includes nightly Mozart concerts, conversations with artists, and a documentary and discussion of the opera “Blue,” about race, law enforcement, and violence. It was to scheduled to have had its New York premiere at the festival.

For young listeners, Mostly Mozart’s Camp Wolfgang offers classes, concerts and crafts – like mask-making with Barbara Ellmann - and WQXR’s Active Listening Challenges invites listeners young and old to respond to Mozart’s music with pictures, stories, poems, or even a performance of their own and send it in for a chance to be featured on the station’s social media sites. All Mostly Mozart programs will remain available at Lincoln Center or WQXR online for 30 days.

Whether in a park, a backyard, a beach, a boardwalk or online, every musician who’s been busy practicing, every dancer who’s spent hours stretching and rehearsing, every musicologist and deejay, and listeners and viewers everywhere are eager to share the city’s cultural riches. There’s plenty out there, just a click away.

Battery Dance Festival


Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival


Mostly Mozart on WQXR


Lincoln Center’s Audition Camp