Skirball series celebrates Chinese visions, voices

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The Skirball Center for the Performing Arts’ second annual cross-cultural event “Visions and Voices,” is highlighting China with a vibrant collection of performances and events throughout the month. The event, which started Feb. 20, showcases global cultures through dance, film, theater and music.

Renowned groups, such as the Hangzhou Opera Company and the National Theater of China, are featured in this year’s productions.

The series coincides with NYU Shanghai’s first year as a degree-granting portal campus. Michael Harrington, executive director of the Skirball Center, cited the opening of NYU Shanghai as a factor in choosing China as this year’s theme.

“We want to celebrate the global network of NYU here at the Washington Square campus,” Harrington said. “Through Skirball’s ‘Vision and Voices’ series, students can get a taste of international cultures, right here at NYU’s home campus.”

On the first day of the series, the dancers of TAO Dance Theater moved fluidly across the stage of Skirball. Their bodies formed a dynamic, unified group that spun, evolved and transformed before the audience’s eyes. The loose folds of their grey and black tunics swirled around them as they danced to the staccato, chant-like rhythm of the accompanying music.

The program’s organizers hope to present an intersection of past and present by displaying traditional Chinese culture through a modern lens. The next event in the series is a rendition of “Richard III” by the National Theater of China. Their version of Shakespeare’s dramatic, murder-filled classic will be performed using Chinese costumes, music and acrobatics. The performance is set to take place at Skirball from March 26 through March 30.

NYU’s Symphony Orchestra will perform Academy Award-winning composer Tan Dun’s “The Map” on May 12. The musical experience combines video, pre-recorded audio and live music. The piece represents Dun as a contemporary composer who draws inspiration from his traditional Chinese roots and the sounds of his hometown. Celebrated cellist Wendy Sutter, Grammy-nominated conductor Andrew Cyr and pipa master Zhou Yi will be joining the orchestra for the performance.

Following many of the events, the “Vision and Voices” series engages its audience by offering question-and-answer sessions with the performers, directors, playwrights and choreographers. This initiative invites the audience to directly interact with the artists in a way that most traditional performances do not. Harrington said these discussion sessions provide context for the performances and differentiates the series from other New York City arts programs relating to global cultures.

CAS freshman Andre Tan said he is excited about the series.

“I’m a big fan of the arts and the performing arts, but I’m not very in touch with my culture,” Tan said. “For that reason, I’d be interested in going so I can learn a little more about myself and my roots. This is a great way to make students more culturally aware.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 10 print edition. Jessica Tien is a contributing writer. Email her at features@nyunews.com.

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