A LIBRARY THAT MAKES YOU WANT TO DANCE!
New Contributor Alert! Meet David...dear friend, Art Director and colleague from my Macy's days! He is now adjunct professor at CUNY City Tech and is quite-possibly one of the most creative and brilliant people I know. Lucky students! And luckier for us, because he is now sharing his knowledge as our new Classic Culture and Museum contributor! Looking for the hottest spots to catch the most drool-worthy exhibits around the city and country? Well, let us be your go-to source!
For our first installment, we are taking you to the Library of Performing Arts in NYC, where there are two exhibits you don't want to miss, running through the end of March!
(About a 4-minute read)
On the west side of Broadway, past the reflecting pool in Lincoln Center’s Hearst Plaza, is the Performing Arts location of the New York Public Library. Entering from the plaza, one is faced with a large exhibition space that has, in recent years, been the home of a series of wonderful shows, well-stocked with music and video. The current main exhibition, which runs until Saturday, March 30th, is Voice of My City: Jerome Robbins and New York.
Who is Jerome Robbins, you ask?
He is an American choreographer, dancer, director, and producer who is esteemed for his work in ballet, on Broadway, and in films and television. Talk about a triple threat!
Much of the exhibit details Robbins’ choreography from the American Ballet Theater’s famed Fancy Free (which was expanded to become the musical On the Town,) West Side Story, and Glass Pieces, an ‘80s modernist dance piece with music by Phillip Glass. The show is filled with Robbins’ own paintings, scrapbooks and diaries.
Also at the Library for the Performing Arts is a fascinating exhibition entitled Sounding Circuit: Audible Histories, that follows the early history of electronic music. Running until Saturday, March 23rd, it contains correspondence, historical recordings, album covers, and technical information from sources like Bell Labs.
There are also contributions from pioneering musicians John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Edgar Varese and Charles Dodge. And of course, there was an audio-visual component in the form of an open cage for the enjoyment of the various blips and bleeps of electronic music. Not to be missed!
Speaking of things not to be missed at these exhibits...
HERE ARE SIX:
(1) Robbins’ expressive SELF PORTRAITS from his youth. Throughout his life, the choreographer continued to draw and paint, and his early efforts are a delight.
(2) GEORGE CHAKIRIS’ BELT BUCKLE from West Side Story. Watch the dance prologue in the gallery, which sets up the rivalry between the Sharks and Jets gangs. Legendary Hollywood costume designer Irene Sharaff was at her best in creating the costumes for the film. Sharaff was looking at Renaissance and Elizabethan menswear in imagining the clothes of the Sharks and Jets. Leggings and doublets became skinny jeans and short gang jackets. The lead dancer from each gang wears his belt buckle defiantly on one hip, rather than centered. Sharaff may have been making a subtle reference to the scabbard or hilt of the swords that Tybalt and Mercutio (later Bernardo and Riff) would have worn in Romeo and Juliet, the inspiration for the musical. As Bernardo, George Chakiris is all in black, save for a scarlet button-up shirt, flashes his belt buckle, accessorized by a leather wrist cuff and low-top black Converse sneakers.
(3) West Side Story SKETCHES. Check out the gouache paintings from West Side Story’s famous production design. The neighborhood that became Lincoln Center was often used as the shooting location for West Side Story. Look at the beautiful little sketches from the planning of the shoot.
(4) Robbin's DIARIES. Robbins filled accordion-shaped diaries with musings, photos, clippings and sketches. The exhibition floats them in glass cases over mirrors, so you can see both sides.
(5) ELECTRONIC MUSIC ALBUM COVERS. Sounding Circuits features a corner display of record covers from the first commercial recordings of electronic music. One can find inspiration in the bright colors and blip-bleep graphics. Of course, there was also the Bach-with-computer cover of Wendy (née Walter) Carlos’ groundbreaking Switched on Bach.
(6) HIRSCHFELD’S DRAWING TABLE. Tucked underneath the staircase as you first enter the library is theater caricaturist Al Hirschfeld’s work table and chair.
Al Hirschfeld was an American caricaturist best known for his black and white portraits of Broadway celebrities and stars!
The latter, which he chose because it could go up, down, swivel and recline, came from the barber shop in the Chrysler Building and was given to him on his 90th birthday. There is usually a Hirschfeld drawing from the library’s collection displayed on the table.
*All images are used for educational purposes. Some we've taken and some we have borrowed. If you know source, please let us know!