New York City Ballet’s first black choreographer comes to the Kennedy Center
Sidra Bell joins Jamar Roberts and Justin Peck for “Visionary Voices,” followed by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Thursday through Sunday at the Kennedy Center.
WTOP’s Jason Fraley Previews “Visionary Voices” (Part 1)
New York City Ballet’s first black choreographer is visiting the Kennedy Center.
Sidra Bell joins Jamar Roberts and Justin Peck for “Visionary Voices” Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Thursday through Sunday.
“I am extremely proud to have studied at the Dance Theater in Harlem, which was directed by Arthur Mitchell, the first black principal dancer of the New York City Ballet. I was a student in the school growing up, so I feel like I have that legacy,” Bell told WTOP.
Bell said she hopes to inspire future generations of dancers and choreographers.
“It’s something I never imagined could happen; first just doing work on the New York City Ballet, but then having this honor of being the first black female choreographer. That it was me who broke that ceiling, I’m extremely proud of how that will translate to the next generation of choreographers, it feels like it’s possible,” Bell said.
The “Visionary Voices” program kicks off with Bell’s “Suspended Animation”.
“It’s really dreamy work,” Bell said. “It was created in collaboration with Brooklyn designer Christopher John Rogers, who is an incredible fashion designer. The whole collaboration was about showcasing these cutting-edge shapes and designs on the body, working with the music of Dosia McKay and Oliver Davis to create this magnetic world.
It continues with “Emanon – In Two Movements” by Jamar Roberts.
“Jamar is an amazing artist,” Bell said. “He just exploded with these amazing works that he created on big companies. I haven’t seen ‘Emanon’, but I’ve heard great things, that he has a kind of joy. I know that the music played a very big part in how he did the job…. It seems like a really joyful job and shows the dancers to their full effect.
You’ll also see Justin Peck’s “Partita,” who won a Tony for the Broadway revival of “Carousel” and recently choreographed the remake of Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”
“I’m so thrilled to be on a program with these two choreographers,” Bell said. “Justin Peck is someone I look up to. … His work is very dynamic, it’s musical, it’s very intelligent, it’s very complex, so I always like to see his work and the new ideas he puts forward both in the body but also in the way it integrates design and music.
After “Visionary Voices”, the ballet presents from Thursday to Sunday a second program of Balanchine’s version of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
“‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is another classic,” Bell said. “I love seeing story ballets. It’s always nice to see how traditions are rooted. … I feel like when I was doing my works, I was thinking about how to tell a story, even though it’s abstract, there’s a sense of storytelling in the work, so I’m always grateful to see Balanchine’s works come to life.
WTOP’s Jason Fraley Previews “Visionary Voices” (Part 2)
Listen to our full conversation here.
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