New World School of the Arts 2018 Rising Stars Showcase
An Unforgettable Evening of Dance, Music, Theater and Visual Arts
Rising Stars, a professionally staged, energy packed, one-of-a-kind showcase, presented the extraordinary talent of high school and college students from New World School of the Arts (NWSA), Florida’s premier arts institution. Comprised of a cutting-edge visual arts exhibition and an evening of performing arts excerpts, Rising Stars has become the signature event of the school and a highly anticipated evening of the arts for the South Florida community.
Kicking off the showcase, the Rising Stars Exhibition – presented at the New World Gallery – featured a wide-range of artwork. The exhibition welcomed close to 450 guests who, while enjoying the 35 pieces of art, had the opportunity to interact with the exhibiting artists and engage in dialogue about their outstanding work. Grouped in four loose themes which ask thought-provoking questions, the curator of the show Claire Breukel, charged students with creating artistic expressions that investigate identity politics, the natural world, female sexuality, design in the urban environment, and contemporary condition. Among the works displayed was Stephanie Eti Hada’s Homemaker, a series of five kitchen pins which explore the artist’s Jewish culture by quantifying the physical and emotional toll domestic labor takes on the traditional matriarchal role. In Good Hair, Andrew Williams created an amusing series of six illustrations with one very distinct feature: hair! Williams used NWSA visual arts faculty members as inspiration and created drawings of his non-black teachers with hairstyles normally worn by black people to show a different perspective where people choose to wear their hair naturally compared to having it straight or cut low, he explained. With the theme of Star Power!, this year’s Rising Stars promotional campaign, which featured comic-like character illustrations, was also created by BFA college senior Andrew Williams.
The annual showcase continued just steps away at the historic downtown Olympia Theater, with a welcoming VIP reception in the second-floor mezzanine where New World School of the Arts supporters, community leaders, and school administrators and faculty members gathered tocelebrate another year of artistic achievement in anticipation of the performing arts display of Star Power! The curtains rose to the audience’s surprise and to what seemed to be the stage crew accompanied by a trio of young dancers still prepping the area for the evening’s performances. Suddenly, from stage-right, a bright-eyed girl in sixties style garb and a top hat captured everyone’s attention with her Star Power as she sang If They Could See Me Now, from Sweet Charity. The show had indeed begun, and guests were in for a stellar evening of New World School of the Arts dance, music and theater!
The Dance program came alive with exceptional choreography, among which was Echad Mi Yodea by world-renowned Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin.With twenty dancers in black and white suits, the hypnotizing dance set to the music of Israeli rock group Nikmat Hatractor entranced the audience through its repetitive sitting, standing, and chanting – culminating in what felt like an ecstatic celebration of freedom. Overture by NWSA 1990 alumnus Robert Battle, Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, presented a troupe of dancers in blue. Set to the beautiful and soaring music of J.S. Bach, this choreography showed characters that are overcome with despair, experiencing euphoric relief as they find themselves possessed by spiritual forces (Lisa Jo Sagolla, Backstage). A second iconic work by Robert Battle, Battlefield offered the audience a more visceral dance experience set to a powerful percussion musical score by Les Tambours de Bronx. The dance division also presented the subtle and nuanced dance, Variation of a Tango, for which NWSA student choreographer Sofia Gonzalez was awarded Finalist in the National Youngarts Competition.
A celestial mood descended on the house as the NWSA Concert Choir offered Only in Sleep by Ēriks Eenvalds, under the direction of Leslie Denning. All eyes were on the elegant young soprano Melanie Salvat as she began the nostalgic song accompanied by a fifty-six-member choir humming in perfect unison. Masterfully performed, the choir offered guests a transcendental and memorable experience. Led by maestro Alfred Gershfeld, the NWSA Orchestra closed the first half of the program with the popular and loved Overture to Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell Opera. Premiering in 1829, and the last of Rossini’s 39 operas,this musical treat had the audience smiling through the last note and prompted a standing ovation to complete Act One. The curtains for the second act opened to the high-energy jazz number Roll ‘Em by American Jazz pianist, arranger and composer, Mary Lou Williams. Directed by Jim Gasior, members of the NWSA Jazz Ensemble had the unique opportunity to display their remarkable musicality and jazz improvisation skills through solo showcases, which undeniably highlighted their Star Power! Led by director Brent Mounger, the NWSA Wind Ensemble presented a movement from David Maslankas Symphony No. 8. A singular opportunity, the music students of New World School of the Arts met and worked with the illustrious composer last year during a master class, making this performance one of the highlights of their music studies at NWSA. The world lost this remarkable composer before this year’s showcase, however his contribution to the music world and to the music students of New World School of the Arts will always be remembered and was certainly on display at this year’s Rising Stars.
Bob Fosse’s distinctive choreography style was delightfully exhibited in Rich Man’s Frug from the award-winning musical Sweet Charity. With its modern, theatrical jazz-based movement, and glam fashion reminiscent of the 1960s, the music theater students swiftly enthralled the audience. A more serious exchange took place as an acting trio exposed the raw violence that exists in our society through the opening scene of The Orphan, a comical yet poignant play by Tony award winning playwright David W. Rabe. This obscure play dealing with obsession, violence, and in this particular instance the cost of human sacrifice, brought on a much more somber feeling to the audience who was inevitably drawn to the protagonist’s plea for her daughter’s life. Luck be a Lady Tonight, from the ever-popular award-winning musical Guys and Dolls, revitalized the hall with a spark of energy as the ensemble of Music Theater students called upon lady luck for their lucky roll of the dice. The theater division also beguiled the house with two monologues offered in very unique styles. Performed by Faith Duncombe, an excerpt of Hurt Village grappled with the reality of many African American girls who find themselves questioning their self-worth, while Erin, written and performed by Erin Willbanks, brought down the house through her much lighter hilarious portrayal of a young actor eager to land the singular role of her life – a dead person!
More than a celebration of the work and dedication put forth by the students and faculty of NWSA, the evening was also an opportunity to recognize those who offer their unwavering support and inspire with their drive and relentlessness. NWSA dance alum and Alvin Ailey Dance Theater dancer, Jamar Roberts, was the recipient of the coveted NWSA Alumnus Award this year. Due to the noreaster which threatened much of the northern states the day prior to Rising Stars, Roberts was unable to fly to Miami to personally accept his award. In a gracious speech written for the occasion by Jamar and delivered onstage by dean of dance Mary Lisa Burns, he noted, “Thanks to incredible friends, family members, mentors, and the wonderful education I received at NWSA, I was able to plow through adversity (though not unscathed) and realize my dreams,” and concluded with an inspiration message for his younger peers, “Trust and believe in everything that you are. Trust your training, trust your love. And always, always follow your bliss.”
Presented by the corresponding dean each year and joined by New World School of the Arts Provost Dr. Jeffrey Hodgson, High School Principal Evonne Alvarez, and the remaining three deans of New World School of the Arts, this annual award is bestowed each year during Rising Stars to a New World School of the Arts alum who has successfully contributed to his or her art form. Jamar Roberts graduated from the high school dance program of New World School of the Arts in 2001. He trained at the Dance Empire of Miami, where he continues to teach, and as a fellowship student at The Ailey School. In 2015 Roberts made his Ailey II choreographic debut with his work Gemeos. Most recently, he won Outstanding Performer at the prestigious New York Dance and Performance Bessie Awards and was a guest star with London’s Royal Ballet. This year, Roberts was commissioned to create a new work, which he entitled Members Dont Get Weary for the Ailey Company, which was premiered in New York City in December 2017, to critical acclaim.