The Best Performing Arts Talks and Events Coming to NYC This Summer

By Alison Durkee

From world-class theatre and dance to musical melodies from around the globe, New York City is home to one of the best performing arts scenes in the worldand there’s plenty to discover even after the curtain goes down. Spend your summer taking in the sights, sounds, and secrets of the performing arts with these upcoming talks and events.

Compagnie XY by Christophe Raynaud de Lage

The Lincoln Center Festival is running through July 30 with performances that include the Bolshoi Ballet and French circus troupe Compagnie XY. Lincoln Center’s programming then makes its way outdoors for Lincoln Center Out of Doors (July 26–August 13), where the diverse programming features Bonnie Raitt, Dionne Warwick, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and even competitive double dutch.

Those who’d rather get a more behind-the-scenes look at the performing arts are also in luck. Coming up this summer and early fall are talks centered on Brooklyn’s underground circus scene (July 19), experimental activist artist John Giorno (July 14), and the creation of Blank Out (September 23), a new chamber opera and 3D film coming to the Park Avenue Armory. On August 12 you can search for your own creative spark at What Can Happen in a Minute?, a talk centered on transformative creative exercises that can be done in just 60 seconds.

Theatre fans looking to learn more about the Bard this summer can head to the Epiphany Library on East 23rd Street, where Shakespeare scholar Bob Smith will be leading an in-depth exploration of the famed playwright’s work each Friday. Though Shakespeare may be one of the better-known pillars of theatre history, the theatre is also indebted to a New York spot called Niblo’s Pleasure Garden, which hosted a variety of performances in the 1800s including The Black Crook, the show considered to be the first American musical. While the Pleasure Garden was demolished in 1895, the Green-Wood Cemetery will transform itself into this 19th century landmark for one-night-only on July 22.

Over at the New York Library for the Performing Arts, tap dancing will take the spotlight this summer, as the library hosts special “Tap Mondays” events each week through July 31. Shuffle over to Lincoln Center to take in special screenings of The Tap Dance Kid (July 17), tap documentary Great Feats of Feet (July 31), and curated choices from American Tap Dance Foundation Artistic Director Tony Waag (July 24).

Tap dancing and jazz music are closely intertwined, and New Yorkers can get into the latter at the Brooklyn Brainery’s introduction to jazz on July 17. The event will introduce attendees to the abstractions and history of jazz before delving into the city’s thriving jazz scene, giving participants the knowledge to get out there and discover the art form for themselves. To discover a musical form that originated on the other side of the pond, meanwhile, join Billy Bragg on July 22 for a discussion on skiffle music and its wide-reaching impactsuch as how The Beatles first started out as a Liverpool skiffle band. After delving into the group’s musical origins, fans of The Beatles can learn more about the band’s manager Brian Epsteinknown as the “fifth Beatle”at an event on August 15.

Trainor Dance – Darial Sneed

Music lovers can check out the packed lineup at Central Park’s Summerstage series, which includes upcoming performances by Yo La Tengo, Regina Spektor, They Might Be Giants, and more. Dance fans can also enjoy Summerstage performances by such groups as Company SBB, Malpaso Dance Company, and the Rock Steady Crew, or head downtown to see free dance performances set against the Hudson River at the Battery Dance Festival from August 13-18. The Public Theater has also returned to Central Park this year for their annual Shakespeare in the Park season, which continues with A Midsummer Night’s Dream through August 13, while those preferring musical theatre to Shakespeare can take in performances by Broadway stars at Broadway in Bryant Park.

Of course, in addition to major artistic landmarks throughout history, like the arrival of the Beatles or Shakespeare’s stint at the Globe, the performing arts have often been intrinsically tied to our political history as well. Get an artistic perspective on politics at Immigrant Arts in America, which features panels, talks and workshops exploring the impact of immigrants on our national identity (July 17-18) and a lecture on the Hollywood Blacklist (August 5), when the “Red Scare” of 1950s America left an indelible impact on the show business of the day. New Yorkers can also explore the artistic legacy of World War I at the New-York Historical Society, which will host a performance of songs by composers affected by the war on July 14, as well as explore the artistic and musical impact of the Army’s 369th Regimentbetter known as the “Harlem Hell Fightersat an event on August 4.

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