Summer Rebounds with Bryant Park Fall Festival

Summer Rebounds with Bryant Park Fall Festival

September 14, 2011 at 6:00 am

The rain check for all the great outdoor events we missed out on thanks to Hurricane Irene has arrived in the form of the Bryant Park Fall Festival in Midtown Manhattan.

The festival, with which MetroFocus parent company WNET is partnering as the media sponsor, offers a cultural Indian summer of sorts, featuring everything from a funk orchestra to opera arias, modern dance to children’s musicals. Following are a few of the highlights:

*Ballet Hispanico is a tightly knit company that has been nurturing dancers at its Upper West Side studios since 1970. The troupe will perform several repertory favorites for the festival.

Sunday, Sept. 18 at 6:00 p.m.

  • Tres Cantos” (1975; Talley Beatty). The ballet’s artistic director Eduardo Vilaro calls the music incredible, saying, “It has a Copeland-esque feeling. The piece is about the perseverance of a people during a conquest, and how their culture still lives on.”
  • Mad’moiselle” (2010; Annabelle Lopez Ochoa). Vilaro says this piece takes “a contemporary look at the many iterations of Latina women, from Mary Magdalene to Mary, mother of God.”
  • The program closes with an homage to heritage with “Club Havana” (2000). Choreographed by Cuban native Pedro Ruiz, the subject of an upcoming WNET documentary, the piece references the conga and rhumba that Cuban immigrants brought to New York in the 1920s, as well as the mambo and cha cha that Latin bandleaders popularized in the 1940s and ’50s. It has been praised by the New York Times critic Jennifer Dunning as “a silky, sexy joy.” To Vilaro, also born in Cuba, the dance “captures a celebration of culture and the athleticism mixed with subtlety of a certain type of Latino.”


“Club Havana,” choreographed by Pedro Ruiz in 2000, is an homage to Cuban music and dance. Click here to view a SundayArts profile of Ballet Hispanico from 2008.

*A Conversation with Peter Sellars, the acclaimed opera, theater and television director.

Presented by the Rubin Museum of Art, Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 12:30 p.m.

Skipping a power lunch to analyze a Buddhist parable might not be a top priority for Midtown business-types but when creative mastermind Peter Sellars is at the helm, anything can happen. Flickr/Steve Rhodes

In perhaps the biggest intellectual and spiritual stretch hosted by any festival this summer, a lunchtime discussion on Sept. 21 features stage director Peter Sellars — a veteran of the Metropolitan Opera house — discussing his dramatic interpretation of a classic Buddhist text, the Vimalakirti Sutra.

“It’s a story of a rivalry and jealousy,” said Tim McHenry, Rubin’s museum program director.

Sellars provides a much better teaser of the Vimalakirti Sutra than Wikipedia; one that might actually enable Midtown office workers to enjoy the humorous tale of layperson versus bodhisattva.

According to McHenry, Buddha wants to send his disciples to speak with an ill merchant who has a very good understanding of how the world works. “They all say, ‘no way, the last time I saw this guy, he argued with me how to get to enlightenment.’ They don’t want to be shown up,” McHenry said.

“Regardless of subject matter, Peters Sellars is such a persuasive teacher, I think he can explain anything. He‘ll pull something out of his brown bag lunch,” McHenry quipped.

*Jazzmobile was founded 47 years ago in Harlem by pianist and jazz advocate Dr. Billy Taylor. The organization’s mission is to perform and educate in underserved New York City neighborhoods. For the festival, Jazzmobile presents master drummer Winard Harper and his septet.

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 6:00 p.m.

Jazz drummer Winard Harper will perform with his septet. Photo by Jimmy Katz.

Until Taylor’s passing in 2010, Harper performed with the prestigious Billy Taylor Trio. Jazzmobile president Robin Bell-Stevens said it’s easy for Jazzmobile to line up world-class talent, like Harper, whether at their summer concerts at Grant’s Tomb or at a block party in Queens. “As a result of Taylor’s stature, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughn would come and perform for Jazzmobile. All these years later, we attract the same caliber of artist,” Bell-Stevens said.

*Just for Kids

Saturday, Sept. 17 and Sunday, Sept. 18

PuppetMobile and Vital Theatre Company will play to the next generation of artists with “Bessie’s Big Shot,” a production about a cow that aspires to perform in the circus, and “Pinkalicious, The Musical,” about a little girl who loves pink cupcakes.