The Black Iris Project took center stage at Con Edison and The Town Hall’s 20th anniversary Black History Month celebration on Monday and Tuesday, February 6-7 at the historic theatre located at 123 West 43rd Street in Manhattan. The programs marked two decades of providing free Broadway performances for public school children.
This year’s featured artist, award-winning choreographer and The Black Iris founder Jeremy McQueen, premiered “Black Excellence,” a unique ballet showcasing five artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Five classically-trained dancers recreated brief histories of poet Langston Hughes, sculptor Augusta Savage, singer Nina Simone, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and Dance Theatre of Harlem founder Arthur Mitchell.
“McQueen and his troupe combine the perfect blend of educational and artistic mastery to highlight the history and intricacies of classical ballet for the students,” says Lawrence Zucker, Artistic and Executive Director of Town Hall. “It’s the dynamic energy that we love to present through our well-established arts collaboration with Con Edison.”
“We’ve enjoyed providing these uniquely engaging and exciting programs for years,” said Frances A. Resheske, senior vice president, Corporate Affairs, Con Edison. “The shows not only offer exposure to a variety of diverse art forms for children, but also serve as vivid reminders of the rich history that African Americans have contributed to American culture.”
Over the past 20 years, Con Edison and the Town Hall guests have included The Young Hoofers, The Persuasions, percussionist Jeff Haynes, Toshi Reagon, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and the Urban Bush Women, Ishangi Family African Dancers, Women of the Calabash, and many more.
Con Edison supports hundreds of nonprofit organizations in New York City and Westchester County to strengthen neighborhoods, sustain communities and improve lives. These philanthropic efforts support the arts, environment, and important educational initiatives in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Many of Con Edison’s 14,000 employees share a personal commitment to the region’s vitality through their own volunteer efforts and also choose to support education by utilizing the company’s matching gifts program.
Built in 1921 by a group of suffragettes The Town Hall began as a lecture hall and public forum for debates. Landmarked in 1979, it has become widely known for its outstanding acoustics and eclectic music programs. Over the decades the stage has been graced by Eleanor Roosevelt, Billie Holiday, Igor Stravinsky, Marian Anderson, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Billy Joel and Blondie. Today the hall flourishes as a popular, affordable venue, boasting the hottest acts in rock, pop, folk, cabaret, world music, comedy and dance, including Ravi Shankar, Elvis Costello, Eddie Izzard, Natalie Merchant, Graham Nash, Liza Minelli, Gillian Welch, Cyndi Lauper, Rufus Wainright, Norah Jones, Margaret Cho and Andre Watts. For over a decade, The Town Hall has hosted live broadcasts of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion.