NYC-ARTS

S2020 E494 | FULL EPISODE

NYC-ARTS Full Episode: May 28, 2020

A selection of NYC-ARTS Greatest Hits: Paula Zahn in conversation with Jonathan Stafford and Wendy Whelan, the new artistic leadership of the New York City Ballet; followed by a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a look at Jackson Pollock’s “Autumn Rhythm” from 1950.

AIRED: May 28, 2020 | 0:27:46
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

>> Coming up on "NYC-Arts,"

we'd like to share with you

some of our favorite segments.

>> Is there any way to do, like,

a little more with your hands?

>> Yeah.

>> Since Wendy and I

both danced that role

quite a bit, we feel like

we can step in there

and give, you know, just those

little fine-tuning details to

just elevate

the performance that little bit.

>> I wanted to help them build

a landscape in their mind

of where to push farther,

where to soften up,

where to think

differently throughout the way

the music also has a landscape.

>> We're looking at

Jackson Pollock's

"Autumn Rhythm" from 1950.

The painting came

into this election in 1957,

and it's one of the treasures

of the Met's modern collection.

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is supported in

part by public funds from the

New York City Department of

Cultural Affairs, in partnership

with the City Council.

Additional funding provided by

members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible in

part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> Good evening, and welcome

to "NYC-Arts."

I'm Philippe de Montebello,

at the Tisch WNET Studios

at Lincoln Center.

It's been my pleasure,

along with my colleague

Paula Zahn,

to bring you the very best

of arts and culture

in the tristate area.

Whether it's music, dance,

film, theater, the visual arts,

classical or contemporary,

well-known or newly

discovered, "NYC-Arts"

has provided unique access

to the people and places

that represent the richness

of our arts community.

In this program,

we'd like to share with you

some of our favorite segments.

>> We hope they are

some of your favorites, as well.

♪♪

>> Good evening, and welcome

to "NYC-Arts."

I'm Paula Zahn at the

Tisch WNET Studios at

Lincoln Center.

Tonight on our program,

we'll meet the next generation

of artistic leadership

at two of the world's leading

institutions for dance.

New York City Ballet,

which makes its home right here

at Lincoln Center,

is one of the foremost

dance companies in the world.

It has a roster of more

than 90 dancers

and an unparalleled repertory

of modern masterpieces.

Founded in 1948

by the legendary choreographer

George Balanchine and arts

patron Lincoln Kirstein,

the company quickly

became renowned

for its distinctive style

and the original ballets

that forever changed

the face of classical dance.

But early on,

Balanchine made it clear that

establishing a ballet school

was a priority,

a place to learn.

Inspired by the training

he received at the

Imperial Ballet School in

Russia, so arose the

School of American Ballet,

widely regarded

as this country's leading

ballet training ground.

As the official academy

of the New York City Ballet,

the school prepares almost

all of the company's dancers

to join its ranks,

as well as dancers for companies

around the globe.

Last February,

after an extensive search,

Jonathan Stafford was named

Artistic Director

of New York City Ballet

and the

School of American Ballet,

and Wendy Whelan was named

Associate Artistic Director

of the Ballet Company.

Both are esteemed

former New York City Ballet

dancers and SAB alums

and are universally

considered to be among

the brightest luminaries

in the arts world today.

Next week, the company

will open its fall season

with a performance of

Balanchine's full length

"Jewels."

Highlights from the repertory

will also include Balanchine'

"Serenade," "Symphony in C,"

and Tchaikovsky "Piano Concerto

No. 2," Jerome Robbins'

"Dances at a Gathering," and

"Opus 19/The Dreamer,"

as well as resident

choreographer Justin Peck's

"Everywhere We Go."

♪♪

I recently had the honor

of speaking with Jonathan

and Wendy about their vision

for the future.

Wendy and Jonathan,

it's great to have you with us.

Congratulations

on your new appointments.

>> Thank you.

>> Thank you so much.

>> So, Jonathan, you came

into the company

in, what, about the third

iteration of your career

as one of the interim directors

of the ballet

probably during one of

the most tumultuous times

in the company's history.

And now, of course,

you've landed the title

of Artistic Director

of the New York City Ballet.

How would you describe the

climate of the company today?

>> One of the things that I had

always really cared about

in the company was direct

and open communication.

And that's something that when

Wendy and I first started

talking to each other

about taking these roles,

that was, like, first and

foremost on both of our lists.

And what was great about that is

we're really on the same page.

And that's not just direct and

open communication between us,

which is really,

really important, but direct

and open communication

between the dancers

and the artistic staff

and the artistic leadership.

And especially in York City

Ballet, I feel like we have such

incredible intellects

in our dancer ranks.

And what we've started to do

is have this dialogue

about what their needs are.

And then that way

we can hold them accountable

and get what we need from them,

but they can also hold us

accountable and become

the most fully formed artist

that they possibly could.

>> Yeah, it's wonderful

that you look at the teamwork

the way you do.

How would you describe

what your duties are?

>> Well, Jon and I have very,

very different histories

with New York City Ballet.

We come from different sides

of the art form

in a lot of ways.

So, he was given that sort of

opportunity to explore teaching

and ballet mastering,

and I wasn't doing any of that.

In fact, I was like,

"Ugh, that's not my thing."

And I was finding opportunities

to collaborate with

choreographers

and making new work and making

artistic collaborations happen.

>> I always loved dancing,

and I loved performing.

I loved the high I got from it.

But I discovered early

on that the buzz I got

and the adrenaline rush

and everything was happening

more so behind the scenes

than when it was happening out

on the stage.

And that was a really kind

of interesting moment for me

where I said, "Huh,

I really, really like teaching.

I love teaching."

>> So, you've had this long

and storied career

with the New York City Ballet

dancing for,

what, more than 30 years?

>> I was there for 30 years.

>> Which is phenomenal.

>> Very impressive.

>> It really is.

♪♪

♪♪

So, what did you do to convince

Wendy to come back?

Because you were enjoying --

>> Jon didn't need to do,

anything to

convinced me to come back.

>> But you were enjoying your

work, right?

You were were spending a lot

of time with new choreographers,

perhaps, whose work

hadn't been discovered.

And that was an exciting time,

was it not?

>> Yeah, and I was learning

how to teach.

I was actually starting

to stage things.

Now I can take all that

I learned, and continue

to learn, and go back

and bring it into what I know.

>> So, how do you maintain

the excellence that is in place

at the School of American Ballet

in terms of teaching

and in terms of nurturing

this young talent and making

these great kids excellent?

>> So, at SAB, you have

to have -- at any school,

you have to have a really,

really clear vision

of how you're going to teach,

you know, what's important,

and you're teaching the style.

We're fortunate

that George Balanchine

left us with a very clear vision

of how to teach students.

>> How would you distill

that down to a sentence or two?

>> Fast, dynamic, precise.

>> Musical.

>> Musical.

>> Expressive. Not so?

>> Economical movement,

clear clarity of position.

And it's not about acting.

It's not about becoming

something other than what you

are, but becoming the best

of you.

>> And how does that help

connect you to the overall

mission of the ballet?

Because you really

are approaching it as a teacher,

as a former principal dancer,

and now the guy

running the place.

>> Well, it's unique at

New York City Ballet, in that we

take 95% of our dancers in the

company are from the

School of American Ballet.

That's unique.

And certainly this country.

>> Now, does that mean

you're just getting the best

of the best of the best?

Is that why that number

is so high?

>> We try to cultivate an ideal

about how we dance this work

and how we approach our work.

It's -- There's just a whole

sort of ecosystem of thought

and focus and style

and technique and understanding.

♪♪

>> So, we had the privilege

of being embedded

in one of your rehearsals.

It was the Tchaikovsky

"Piano Concerto No. 2."

>> No. 2," yes.

>> Just describe the process

you were taking the dancers

through.

>> Still even take a little

more time.

At that point, the corps has

been rehearsing on their own,

the soloists have been

rehearsing on their own,

the principals have been

rehearsing on their own

in separate studios.

And that's -- We bring it all

together to do a run-through.

And then the principal dancers

in that role have danced this

ballet before, so they're

already at a really high level.

Wonder, is there any way to do,

like, a little more with your

hands?

And since Wendy and I both

danced that role quite a bit,

we feel like we can step in

there and give, you know,

just those little fine-tuning

details to just elevate the

performance that little bit.

And we also want

to put the dancers in a position

where they go onstage

and they're not thinking about

how they're executing.

They're just letting go,

and they're just going

out and dancing.

[ Piano plays ]

>> Working with the principals,

for myself, was so fun,

actually, for the first time

I worked on that piece with

Teresa Reichlen

and Russell Janzen.

They're perfect dancers.

They're long, and they're

very clean and clear.

♪♪

I wanted to try to bring up

the dynamics of the music with

them.

And I also liked how you were

hitting -- lightly hitting...

It helped them build a landscape

in their mind of

where to push farther,

where to soften up,

where to think

differently throughout, the way

the music also has a landscape.

So, for me, it was a total

thrill to get to work with them

for the first time.

>> So, the other ballet

that was being rehearsed

was the "Mozartiana."

What do we see unfold

on the screen there?

>> That is a much smaller,

more intimate piece, where the

principal dancers spend

most of the ballet

onstage by themselves.

"Mozartiana" is so intimate.

>> But it's also epic because

there are so many details.

And then maybe lay something --

just hang back a tiny bit

as you got forward or something.

♪♪

It's Balanchine at his highest

intellect of making ballets.

♪♪

It's a conversation between

the partners, as well --

between the man and the woman

in their pas de deux.

And it also has a quality of

being almost

improvisatory-looking.

It looks like

they're in a conversation,

and they're just coming up

with the steps in the moment,

even though they're defined.

So, to me, that's

a really interesting quality

of making dance, ballet

especially, because people

didn't make ballets like that

at the time.

It was very clean, clear,

direct, aligned, and Balanchine

turned it all on its side

and put these rhythms in.

So it's tumbling.

The steps sort of tumble out,

and it's extremely exciting

to do.

>> What are your goals

when it comes to the repertoire

of the ballet?

>> Lots. [ Chuckles ]

>> Yeah.

>> You know, obviously,

first and foremost,

the Balanchine and the Robbins

rap is at the core

of what New York City Ballet

is, and always will be.

♪♪

♪♪

So we have to maintain

the integrity of that rep.

We have to maintain

the excitement of that rep.

And we have to make sure

that it stays fresh

and alive and vibrant

in all the years going forward.

>> Is that difficult?

>> Well, we're passing it on

from generation to generation.

So there's new people learning

it, and there's new people

approaching it at different

times in their lives.

So it does have that ability

to remain fresh.

>> You've developed this

interesting idea

of trying to bring back

some of the the muses

that inspired Balanchine.

How is that working out?

>> We're bringing them back

selfishly for us to learn from,

to be our guides, to inform

questions that we have always

had, that we didn't fully have

the answers to.

It's really like opening

this treasure chest and

letting the gems glisten for us

and seeing.

>> What is so important, ballet

is in art from that's passed

down, really, vocally

and physically by demonstrating.

And we didn't get to work

directly under Balanchine.

You know, we're kind of the next

generation now that didn't have

that direct contact with him.

But there are all these people

out there who did and that

he created his masterpieces on.

And so we thought it just made

perfect sense to bring them on,

selfishly, for us to learn from,

but they're also teaching the

dancers who are then someday

going to be in our positions

and passing it on

to the next generation.

And so it's --

>> It's your version

of an oral history, in a way.

>> It really is.

And to see Eddie Villella,

who Balanchine revived

"Prodigal Son," this really --

one of the most iconic roles

in the male rep, for working

with Joaquin De Luz,

in the last season of Joaquin's

career, before he was going on.

And he's now a director.

To see the two of them onstage,

having an intimate moment

and just working on it, I mean,

we're standing in the wings,

with our mouths wide-open, just

watching this incredible moment

between two world-class,

world-famous artists.

>> And how are you approaching

new work?

And that's what you're tasked

with, right?

>> That's one of my tasks, yeah.

>> Being on the hunt for those

new great works.

>> Yeah, and that's something

that Wendy has really kind of

inspired in me, you know, to

really understand that, that the

new work is not just for to

build a new audience, a younger

audience, to excite the

audience, what we're doing,

but it's actually

to really develop the artists

and feed the artists.

>> So, in trying to balance

the need to continue

to feed your artists

and to expand your repertory,

how concerned do you have

to be about alienating

your core audience

if these pieces are ultimately

performed onstage?

>> You know, I think

our audience is actually really

open-minded.

Our audience is very intelligent

and very sophisticated.

They know what they're seeing,

and they know, at

New York City Ballet, that we're

always going to create new work,

and they're excited by that.

>> That's why they come,

because that's what we're about.

>> And that's what's so fun

about New York City Ballet,

is they love the Balanchine

and the Robbins,

but they also love the new work.

You know, we have stepped

outside the box in the last year

with some of our new works.

And it's been received,

for the most part, really,

really enthusiastically

by our audience.

So that just gives us even

more confidence to keep going.

And something Justin Park,

who's our resident choreographer

and also now artistic adviser,

and he's in his early 30s,

and he's so connected and tuned

in to the local art scene

here in New York, that he has

all these ideas of artists

that he can collaborate with,

that he can send to the company

for other choreographers

to collaborate with.

>> Currently, he's a creative

consultant

and the resident choreographer

for New York City Ballet.

So we are sort of a little

triangle of conversation.

We talk among ourselves

about where we want to go,

who think is interesting.

We get approval from each other

about commissions.

So it's always a conversation.

>> What do you hope will be on

the horizon for the company

and the school?

>> I hope that, you know,

we can open up from our history.

We've had a certain identity,

a lot of good ways.

But we can develop it

in more broader ways,

diversifying our school,

diversifying our company,

diversifying the artists.

We bring in our administration.

So, really thinking about

ourselves as cultural leaders

as well as artistic leaders,

that's what we talk a lot about.

So we want to sort of lead

in that way.

>> And sharing that passion,

because it really is a passion.

You have to be passionate

about it.

One of the most inspiring things

is seeing that passion

in someone else, too,

which just keeps that passion

alive deep down within you

when you see it on the students'

faces and you see it

when our dancers, as they're

working day after day,

hour after hour to get to

to hone their craft, because

they're passionate about it.

>> And there's nothing better

than being inspired,

and inspiring other people.

Nothing better than that.

And that's, I think,

what keeps us excited.

>> Yeah, right.

>> Well, I hope this company

becomes everything you want it

to become -- a continued success

to both of you.

>> Thank you so much.

>> Thank you so much.

>> It'll be a fun to root you on

from the sidelines.

♪♪

♪♪

>> Next, we visit

the Metropolitan Museum of Art

for a fresh look at the museum's

collection of postwar

and contemporary art.

"Epic Abstraction: Pollock

to Herrera" explores large-scale

abstract painting, sculpture,

and other works of art.

The exhibit seeks to broaden

the narrative of abstraction,

bringing together some 50 works

from the Met collection.

Represented here

are such iconic artists

as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko,

Isamu Noguchi, Carmen Herrera,

and Mark Bradford.

Randall Griffey, curator

of modern and contemporary art

at the Met,

looks at a single work

from the exhibition.

♪♪

>> We're looking at

Jackson Pollock's

"Autumn Rhythm" from 1950.

The painting came into

the collection in 1957,

and it's one of the treasures

of the Met's modern collection.

Pollock is most remembered

as a key figure in American art

of the 20th century

for these large-scale

so-called drip paintings,

which he started to do

in the late 1940s

and into the early 1950s.

These works have a great sense

of immediacy

for a range of reasons.

One is that they're large,

which,

relative to your own scale,

makes you feel a little bit

small by comparison.

One of the ways in which Pollock

played a key role in changing

the very concept of painting

is that he moved the canvas

from the easel to the floor.

And he also began working with

common household enamel paint.

He liked this paint

because it was very viscous.

And so it's a kind of paint

that you can throw,

and it creates these dynamic

drips and dribbles

and these whips of paint

that seem to be captured

in space on the picture plane.

In the case of "Autumn Rhythm,"

some of the paint is thin

and elegant and quite graceful,

whereas other passages are dense

and more aggressive and thicker.

And there are passages also of

impasto, where he's used parts

of the enamel paint

that have dried

and created a kind of skin --

a three-dimensionality

on the surface of the picture,

even as the paint registers

as flat.

When people first encounter

Pollock's work,

they perceive it as fully

intuitive, improvisational,

without any kind of plan

or guiding principle.

But, in fact, as you look

at multiple works by Pollock,

you can see that each canvas

is distinct and different

from another.

If you look closely at

"Autumn Rhythm," to the right of

center and toward the bottom,

as we see it on the wall,

there's a little flick

of red paint -- just

a little drop of red paint.

Once you see it,

you can't unsee it,

because it seems so anomalous.

One wonderful thing

about Pollock's technique

is his embrace of accident

and embrace

of the effects of chance.

The title "Autumn Rhythm" --

the word "rhythm" really

wonderfully ties to the sense

of rhythm and cadence

that's part and parcel

of his gestural painting style.

And what I love about this work

is that this great sense

of growth and evolution,

in a way, ties to the change

of seasons

and the ebbs and flows of nature

in the course of a year.

♪♪

♪♪

>> I hope you've

enjoyed our program.

I'm Philippe de Montebello

at the Tisch WNET Studios

at Lincoln Center.

Good night.

And see you next time.

To enjoy more of your

favorite segments on "NYC-Arts,"

visit our website

at NYC-Arts.org.

♪♪

>> Good evening, and welcome to

"NYC-Arts."

I'm Paula Zahn.

>> I'm Philippe de Montebello

at the Tisch WNET Studios

in Lincoln Center.

♪♪

>> Leonard, what a privilege

to be able to sit down

and talk with you.

>> I love being here

with you too, Paula.

>> Where are we?

>> We're at a moment

to take nothing for granted.

>> Well, it's a pleasure to be

with Marci Reaven, the curator

of this exhibition full of hope.

We are in the midst of some

of the greatest sculptures

by the iconic names.

>> When I listened to

Yip Harburg's lyrics in that,

I suddenly thought, that's what

I want to do with my life.

My pictures reside

in very intimate,

very private moments.

My primary way of playing

the piano is by improvising.

>> You are, in some respects,

on sacred ground.

>> A woman came to see me

perform and said, "How would you

like to play Billie Holiday?"

>> I think one of the essential

things that we learned

is that Matisse use pens

to compose his work.

>> You always are surprised,

when you're in opera

and you're doing a piece

that's a hundred years ago,

and you think, "Oh, my gosh,

this could be now."

>> The cardboard "Guitar" is

the very first of that moment

of realization.

>> Suddenly, you come and

present something, and you get

applause.

Great, you know?

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> Funding for NYC Arts

is made possible by...

This program is supported

in part by public funds

from the New York City

Department of Cultural Affairs

in partnership

with the City Council.

Additional funding provided

by members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible

in part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents.

First things first.

At first, Republic Bank

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

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