Words On Dance Presents Conversations with Andy Blankenbuehler and Edward Villella
Words On Dance returns to the New York stage with two evenings featuring conversations with luminaries of dance, theater and film. The programs, Oct. 21 and Nov. 11, are presented in association with Symphony Space, the performing arts center at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street.
Each 90-minute program begins at 7 p.m. in Symphony Space's Leonard Nimoy Thalia. For tickets and additional information, visit the Words On Dance (Wordsondance.org), New York City Ballet (nycballet.com/Support/TurnOut) or Symphony Space (symphonyspace.org) websites.
On Oct. 21, Andy Blankenbuehler, three-time Tony® Award winner for Choreography (In The Heights, Hamilton and Bandstand), talks with Pulitzer Prize- winning Washington Post dance critic Sarah L. Kaufman. The program will be highlighted by the premiere of a short film of Blankenbuehler's work and live dance.
A VIP reception will follow the program with $100 Premium seating purchased on the Words On Dance (wordsondance.org) website. Regular seating is available on the Symphony Space (symphonyspace.org) website.
On Nov. 11, New York City Ballet (NYCB) and School of American Ballet (SAB) Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford and NYCB Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan will be joined by legendary ballet star and director Edward Villella to discuss NYCB's creative development and the influences the new artistic leaders will bring to the company.
A benefit dinner (honorary hosts Mikhail Baryshnikov and Lisa Rinehart) will be held at Carmine's Upper West Side following the Nov. 11 program. All proceeds will go to the NYCB's Dancer Wellness Fund. The fund supports dancers' physical and mental well-being to ensure they receive exceptional care for injury prevention and recovery.
$450 per person benefit dinner tickets can be purchased on the Words On Dance (Wordsondance.org) website.
Words On Dance, founded by producer Deborah M. Kaufman in 1994, began with a simple vision to offer dance artists a live platform to share the personal stories and inspirations that shaped their life in dance. It quickly captivated a growing audience and dance artists welcomed the opportunity to engage live audiences about the creativity that formed their brilliant careers.
The roster of legendary artists who have graced the Words On Dance stage over the years includes Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Edward Villella, Violette Verdy, Maria Tallchief, Cynthia Gregory, Allegra Kent, Helgi Tomasson, Mark Morris, Rob Marshall, Christopher Wheeldon, Wendy Whelan, Twyla Tharp, Peter Martins, Merrill Ashley, Michael Smuin, Eliot Feld, Grover Dale, Robert La Fosse and Martine Van Hamel, among numerous others.
At the Oct. 21 program, Blankenbuehler will break down his craft to discuss his belief that dance can continue to play a major storytelling role in theatre and film. His choreographic tool box involves rhythm, syncopation, tension and detail.
Working with great musical talents like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alex Lacamoire, Blankenbuehler has garnered numerous awards in dance and theater, including the Kennedy Center Honors award for his work on the musical, Hamilton. He earned a special 2015 Drama Desk Award for his achievement in the theater.
Prior to his work as a choreographer and director, Blankenbuehler's distinguished performing career on Broadway included Fosse, Contact, Man of La Mancha, Saturday Night Fever, Steel Pier and Guys and Dolls.
Blankenbuehler's television credits include the Emmy-nominated series, Fosse/Verdon. He recently worked on the new film adaptation of Cats. He has staged productions for such legendary performers as Elton John and Bette Midler.
Engaging in conversation with Blankenbuehler will be Sarah L. Kaufman. In addition to being The Washington Post's dance critic, she writes about the arts, entertainment and the union of art and science for the newspaper. Sarah L. Kaufman is the author of "The Art of Grace: On Moving Well Through Life." She has been a professor of writing and of journalism at Princeton University. In 2010, Sarah L. Kaufman won the Pulitzer in criticism.
Dance aficionados will find Words On Dance's Nov. 11 program also stimulating.
Edward Villella, one of America's most celebrated male dancers, is recognized nationally and internationally for his contributions to the field of classical dance and arts in education. He did much to popularize the role of the male in dance through the supreme artistry and virility he exhibited during his performance career Villella was the first American male dancer to perform with the Royal Danish Ballet and the only American ever to be asked to dance an encore at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. He danced for President Kennedy's inaugural and for Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford. He was producer/director for the PBS series, Dance in America and won an Emmy for his CBS television production of Harlequinade.
Offstage, Villella has been as influential -- accepting the role of Founding Artistic Director of Miami City Ballet in 1986 and achieving worldwide acclaim for the Company in just a decade of dance. In recognition of his achievements, President Clinton presented the 1997 National Medal of Arts to Villella. He was named a Kennedy Center Honoree the same year. Villella was honored with the National Society of Arts & Letters Award for Lifetime Achievement, becoming only the fourth dance personality to receive the Gold Medal.
Joining Villella in conversation will be NYCB and SAB Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford and NYCB Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan, who were appointed to their positions in February 2019
During his career with NYCB, Stafford performed an extensive repertory of leading roles in works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, and numerous other choreographers, and was renowned for his outstanding partnering skills. As a ballet master for NYCB and teacher and educator for SAB, Stafford has played an integral role in the School and Company's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and also spearheaded a mentorship program which partners current NYCB dancers with new apprentices from SAB to help guide them through their first year with the Company. Stafford was also SAB's first-ever Professional Placement Manager, a role created to assist students with the transition into their professional careers.
During her 30-year career as a dancer with NYCB, Whelan performed roles in nearly all of the Company's heritage repertory of works by Balanchine and Robbins, and was also the dancer most choreographed on in NYCB history, creating leading roles in countless new works by such choreographers as Robbins, Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe, and numerous others. Whelan also had close working relationships with Christopher Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky, collaborating with the choreographers on several of their most critically-acclaimed works. Since leaving NYCB in 2014, Whelan has pursued a variety of multi-disciplinary projects with cultural organizations around the world.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos