The Best Performing Arts Talks Coming to NYC This Fall

By Alison Durkee

New York is home to one of the greatest performing arts scenes in the world, from theatre and dance to music in every conceivable genre. Celebrate the performing artsand learn more about your favorite shows and performerswith these upcoming talks and events.

Dance lovers can get some insights into some of the art form’s best choreographers this fall at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, whose “the dance historian is in” series will spotlight modern pioneer Doris Humphrey and the “father of modern ballet,” Michel Fokine. On October 25, dance fans interested in Labanotation, a popular form of dance notation and documentation, can learn more about the method’s early beginnings in Weimar Germany and unlikely uses in midcentury corporate offices.

For some more modern-day insights on ballet, head to the Guggenheim Museum on November 19, where American Ballet Theater principal Marcelo Gomes and the Sarasota Ballet will be on hand to discuss the company’s recent performance of The Two Pigeons. Those interested in modern dance can hear from choreographers Cynthia Oliver and Nora Chipaumire at BAM on October 25, as they discuss how they choreograph black masculinity from their female perspective. Those hoping to just watch some dance, meanwhile, can check out the renowned Limon Dance Company at City College of New York on October 24; /peh-LO-tah/, a performance work by poet-performer Marc Bamuthi Joseph (above) that explores the links between dance and sport; or see some up-and-coming dancers from Barnard College and Columbia University perform at Performing Tradition and Innovation on October 20.

Fans of comedy and pop culture can hear from Whoopi Goldberg and Melissa Rivers as they discuss one of pop culture’s top icons, Joan Rivers, on October 25. Of course, musical theatre has also held a spot in pop culture throughout the ages, and those hoping to learn more about musical theatre history can learn about six memorable musicals that changed Broadway on October 22. To gain some insights into two specific shows that have made their mark on the Great White Way, head to a special event exploring the original production of West Side Story on October 26, or hear from director Julie Taymor to mark the 20th anniversary of Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway on October 29.

Taymor will also be on hand on November 6 to discuss the director’s current project, M. Butterfly on Broadway, with playwright David Henry Hwang and Oscar-nominated actor Clive Owen. New Yorkers can also gain an international perspective on theatre, as Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota of Paris’s Théâtre de la Ville discusses the process of creating State of Siege (above) on November 3, during the production’s run at BAM. To hear some top playwrights talk about something other than their own work, join playwrights Paula Vogel and Daniel Alexander Jones as they talk about a person, place, and thing they’re passionate about on November 19.

Of course, performance can go far beyond the stage. Those hoping to learn more about the concept of performativity, which theorizes the way in which we perform in everyday life, and how it’s developed and relates to queerness, can do so at a lecture at NYU’s Performance Studies department on October 25.

Music lovers also have plenty of chances to gain new insights this fall and winter. Jazz lovers can learn more about the members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra during a pre-performance talk on October 20 and 21, or get an entire history of the form at Jazz It Up on October 27. Fans of pop music, meanwhile, can learn about poetry and pop music as essential tools for living with author and critic Michael Robbins on November 17, or break down one of pop music’s most infamously catchy songs, and its titular phrase, at Who Let Who Let the Dogs Out Out? on November 5. To learn how music – and sound in general – can help us heal, no matter the genre, join Dr. Andrew Weil and composer/performer Meredith Monk for a discussion on how sound affects our bodies on October 23.

Also on October 23, fans of iconic cabaret entertainer Marilyn Maye can join the singer as she speaks about her career and performs with jazz pianist Billy Stritch. One of Maye’s biggest fans was reportedly Ella Fitzgerald, who will be the subject of her own event on October 24. The evening will look back on the singer’s television career in the 1950s and 60s and duets with some of her greatest peers. For some insights into music’s greatest composers, meanwhile, learn more about Leonard Bernstein and his 1950s program The Art of Conducting on October 26, or delve into the psyche of George Gershwin and discover the impact of his mental state on his iconic melodies at an event on October 22.

Those who’d rather just enjoy some music rather than breaking down the meaning behind it, though, have no shortage of opportunities this fall. Psychology will get a hip hop twist in the hip hop comedy The Rap Guide to Consciousness on October 30, while music lovers looking for something a bit more classical can enjoy renowned conductor Gerard Schwarz leading the Juilliard orchestra on October 26. The Town Hall will connect music to social justice movements and the history of New York with the Town Hall Ensemble on October 22, while those looking to enjoy a fusion of Western jazz with African music will likely enjoy vocalist and songwriter Somi as she performs on October 20 at an event exploring immigration and the African Diaspora. For an evening that goes far beyond music, meanwhile, join the South Street Seaport Museum for a Victorian Haunting Above the Wavertree on October 20 and 21, a spirited evening that will feature jazz and ragtime music from the late 19th century along with magic, mysticism, and more.

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