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

By Alison Durkee

New Yorkers looking to kick off 2018 with a dose of culture have plenty of chances at these shows and talks that explore all facets of the performing arts.

January is one of the best times for the performing arts in New York City, as artists from around the world descend on the city to participate in a slew of arts festivals. The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival (through January 15, above) spotlights notable performers and companies from across the globe, and P.S. 122’s COIL Festival (through February 4), the Exponential Festival (through January 31), and American Realness (through January 16) are also bringing bold artists and daring performances to the New York City stage. Opera lovers should check out the PROTOTYPE Festival (through January 20), which spotlights new opera and music theatre works, while music fans can enjoy Winter Jazzfest (through January 17, includes three panels below) and GlobalFEST (January 14). Dance audiences can head to the Joyce Theater, which will be supplementing their usual slate of dance programming with the American Dance Platform festival through January 13.

Music fans also have plenty of other chances to get into a rhythm—and go behind the music—this winter. The Aesthetic Realism Foundation will celebrate music’s importance on January 11 with What Music Says About Our Lives, a seminar celebration of music featuring artists and experts in a variety of musical genres. To enjoy different cultures, check out the Estonian Voices a capella ensemble (January 13); the loadbang and TAK Ensemble, who will perform work by Icelandic composers on January 21 and 22; and the Center for Jewish History’s Ladino Day (January 28), which will celebrate the Judeo-Spanish language of Ladino through story and song. The Museum of Jewish Heritage will also fuse cultures as it celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr., Day with Soul to Soul (January 15), a concert exploring two minority peoples through songs from the Jewish tradition and Civil Rights era. Dr. King will also be honored through music at BAM’s annual Brooklyn Tribute to the Civil Rights leader, which takes place on January 15.

New Yorkers wanting to attend something jazzier this winter can take advantage of Jazzfest’s series of talks, which include sessions on U.S. immigration law’s effect on the jazz scene (January 14), jazz and gender (January 15), and jazz and protest through the generations (January 16). Jazz at Lincoln Center will also celebrate the album release of jazz trombonist Elliot Mason on January 23. Those hoping to learn more about the titans of the genre can head to the 92nd Street Y for an evening on Nat King Cole (January 19), including rare footage of the musical great, or hear from the legendary musician Wynton Marsalis himself as he makes an appearance at The Cooper Union on January 17.

Cole and Marsalis won’t be the only performing arts icons to be celebrated this winter. New Yorkers can learn more about legendary composer Leonard Bernstein from his family members themselves at a conversation at the Library of Performing Arts on January 23, while songwriting team—and frequent Bernstein collaborators—Betty Comden and Adolph Green will be the focus of a screening of clips at the 92nd Street Y on February 2. Comden, Green, and Bernstein’s On the Town collaborator Jerome Robbins is also being honored at the Library of Performing Arts this January, as fans of the legendary choreographer can delve into his life and career at a symposium on January 26. And while it’s great to honor the titans of the past, there are also a number of celebrities who New Yorkers can still see on the city’s stages today. Catch actress Sharon Stone as she appears in conversation to discuss HBO’s Mosaic on January 16, or see actress Maggie Gyllenhaal take the stage in Muldoon’s Picnic on February 12, a “words-and-music jamboree” hosted by the Irish Arts Center.

While the performing arts can be a way to enjoy the past or escape from reality, though, it can also be a vital tool in engaging with our political present. Learn how to resist the current administration theatrically at a Theatre and Resistance symposium on January 12, or join the Public Theatre and the Cooper Union on February 5 at Who Needs Truth: An Evening of Politics and Performance, which will feature debates, readings, and performances considering our “post-truth” society. Theatre will also engage in the subject of war and the issues faced by veterans at Theater of War on January 11, a dramatic theatrical reading of Sophocles’ Philoctetes. To see how the dance world is grappling with the issues surrounding identity politics, join five diverse choreographers as they discuss gender, sexuality, and race and showcase their work on January 26. If you’d rather make your own work making sense of our sociopolitical realities, however, put pen to paper at Screenwriting in the Age of Trump (January 21), a workshop for writers of all levels exploring how to capture the current moment on the screen.

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