This Week in Culture: André Leon Talley, J Balvin’s New Album, DanceAfrica

This Week in Culture: André Leon Talley, J Balvin’s New Album, DanceAfrica


New TV shows, museum openings, film releases and concerts — it’s a lot to keep track of. Let us help you. For the week of May 20, seven events in New York and elsewhere not to be missed:

Film: André Leon Talley Dishes on Camera

May 25.

“I don’t live for fashion — I live for beauty and style,” André Leon Talley, the former Vogue editor, says in “The Gospel According to André,” a biting, funny chronicle of his half century in what he calls “the chiffon trenches.”

In “Gospel,” opening Friday, May 25, in New York and Los Angeles, Kate Novack traverses Mr. Talley’s life from his grandmother’s North Carolina home during the Jim Crow era to his imposing colonial in White Plains, N.Y., with stops at major runway shows, clubs and closets along the way.

His 6-feet-6-inch frame swathed in swooping capes and caftans, Mr. Talley cuts a formidable figure, a long-striding, bombastic encyclopedia of fashion history who intimidated even Anna Wintour when she began her tenure as the editor in chief of Vogue. He is also an enduring presence, working alongside Diana Vreeland and Andy Warhol when racism was rife in fashion (and a Parisian publicist dared refer to him as Queen Kong), while proving that one does not have to be born into nobility to be aristocratic. “It’s a moral code to dress well,” he says simply. KATHRYN SHATTUCK

Pop Music: J Balvin’s Dance-Ready Album

May 25; itunes.apple.com.

The Colombian reggaeton star J Balvin has spent the past year amassing some of the most enviable co-signs in pop: He’s featured on both Cardi B’s boogaloo-sampling “I Like It” and One Direction alum Liam Payne’s “Familiar.” Perhaps most memorably, Beyoncé remixed J Balvin’s 2017 hip-swiveler “Mi Gente” — reportedly because her daughter Blue Ivy loved the song.

Already beloved internationally, the 33-year-old singer, born José Álvaro Osorio Balvin, has reached the cusp of stateside name recognition seemingly without compromise. Mr. Balvin rarely records in English, and on his new album, “Vibras” (translation: vibes), there are no English-language featured artists. “I’m going to go the furthest I can in Spanish,” he told The New York Times in 2016. “And then we’ll see.”

Instead, “Vibras” features polished, dance-ready versions of everything from siren-sampling, up-tempo Afrobeats (“Machika”) to mellow Jamaican dub (“Ambiente”) to retro, romantic reggaeton (“Ahora”). Mr. Balvin deftly croons over all of it, favoring an understated vocal approach aligned with AutoTuned American hip-hop — another source of inspiration. The result is endlessly approachable: “Mi música no discrimina a nadie,” he sings on “Mi Gente,” which also appears on the album. Translated, the line means, “My music doesn’t discriminate against anyone.” NATALIE WEINER

Dance: Brooklyn Welcomes Back DanceAfrica

May 25-28, bam.org.

The 2018 DanceAfrica Festival, led by artistic director, Abdel R. Salaam, spotlights South Africa in “Remembrance, Reconciliation and Renewal,” a program paying tribute to the centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Highlights are Ingoma Kwazulu Natal Dance Company — a group of four companies formed just for DanceAfrica — and Siwela Sonke Dance Theater, a contemporary group from Durban.

Formed in 1995, Siwela Sonke means “crossing over to a new place” in Zulu and, in keeping, draws on a multitude of dance forms, from contemporary African and classical Indian dance to hip-hop and ballet. And what would DanceAfrica be without the BAM/Restoration Dance Youth Ensemble, a beloved group of vivacious young dancers? Under the direction of Ronald K. Brown, Arcell Cabuag and KarenThornton-Daniels, the troupe will explore issues of social justice in a performance that looks at the relationship between the anti-apartheid and civil rights movements. In keeping with the festival’s theme, think renewal. GIA KOURLAS

Art: Henri Cartier-Bresson Show in Manhattan

May 23-Sept. 2; icp.org.

In 1952, Henri Cartier-Bresson published a book whose English-language title was “The Decisive Moment,” a phrase the French photo journalist pulled from a 17th-century memoirist’s remark and quoted in his preface. Cartier-Bresson himself defined that moment as the fraction of an instant in which all of a scene’s constituent parts fall into a composition that expresses its essence.

But his painterly black-and-white images, which include everything from candid street shots to world-historical events like Gandhi’s funeral, are anything but reductive. A 1938 portrait of people picnicking on the banks of the Seine, all of them seen from behind, offers enough unexplained details for a master’s thesis. A 1947 view of a dark Manhattan canyon, with a shaft of light in the distance, plunges all the way down to the root of New York’s grandiose loneliness. This exhibition at the International Center of Photography collects first editions and correspondence as well as vintage prints to illuminate Cartier-Bresson’s influential manifesto. WILL HEINRICH

Classical: Celebrating John Corigliano in Brooklyn

May 23; nationalsawdust.org.

As the classical world obsesses over the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth this year, it may have overlooked the 80th birthday of one of the great inheritors of Bernstein’s mixture of modernist edge and lyrical splendor: the composer John Corigliano. Fortunately, the Brooklyn venue National Sawdust has picked up the slack, programming celebratory performances that began with the composer’s birthday in February.

On Wednesday, a second concert features a grab-bag of chamber works including the composer’s breakthrough 1963 Violin Sonata — a backward-gazing piece written for Corigliano’s father, a concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic who discouraged his son from composing and refused to look at the score — and his 1993 “Phantasmagoria,” an eerily postmodern duo for cello and piano based on material from his opera “The Ghosts of Versailles.” Performers include the cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, a Sawdust stalwart; the violinist Lara St. John; the pianist Martin Kennedy; and the illustrious pianist and new-music advocate Ursula Oppens. WILLIAM ROBIN

Theater: Lauren Yee’s Play, Inspired by Her Father

May 23-June 24; atlantictheater.org.

The basketball player in the photo is airborne, his Nike-clad feet defying gravity as he extends a long arm to block a shot. This is the image on the cover of Lauren Yee’s play “The Great Leap”: a picture of her father, who as a young man from San Francisco’s Chinatown played in exhibition games against teams from China. “This play is not my father’s story,” Ms. Yee writes in an author’s note. “But it is a story like it.”

With B.D. Wong (“Mr. Robot,” “M. Butterfly”) as a Beijing University coach, “The Great Leap” — starting previews on Wednesday, May 23, at Atlantic Theater Company’s Stage 2 — is a coming-of-age comedy that’s also a basketball play. Directed by Taibi Magar (“Underground Railroad Game”), it’s set mainly in 1989, when the American son of a Chinese immigrant brazenly talks his way onto a California college team. As Chinese students demonstrate for democracy in Tiananmen Square, the Americans arrive for a game in Beijing.

Politics pummel ordinary lives in “The Great Leap,” whose title alludes in part to Mao Zedong’s ruinous Great Leap Forward campaign. This play is suffused with history, but it’s a fantasy, too — about heritage, bold action and what might have been. LAURA COLLINS-HUGHES

TV: In ‘Split,’ Divorce Drama in London

May 23; sundancetv.com.

With a title like “The Split,” set in London’s legal world — and a triumvirate of female divorce lawyers at its center — you might logically assume that this latest series from Abi Morgan (“The Hour,” “River”) would be a tart dissertation on matrimonial dissolution. And you wouldn’t be wrong.

But “The Split,” debuting Wednesday, May 23, on SundanceTV, is as much about what it takes to nurture a successful relationship as it is to tear one asunder. Nicola Walker, late of Netflix’s “Collateral,” plays Hannah, the eldest of the three Defoe sisters. She has just left the family firm, helmed by her mother (Deborah Findlay) and her sister (Annabel Scholey), to spread her wings with a formidable rival. The rub: Her former beau, Christie (Barry Atsma), works there and now serves as a gnawing reminder of what they might have had — to the frustration of Hannah’s husband, Nathan (Stephen Mangan), despite their seemingly idyllic marriage.

Then Hannah’s father, Oscar (Anthony Head), shows up 30 years after abandoning his wife and daughters for the nanny. And the cracks really begin to reveal themselves. KATHRYN SHATTUCK



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