Misty Copeland to kick off new D.C. arts series

Misty Copeland to kick off new D.C. arts series

Septime Webre is launching his first season as artistic director of the brand-new Halcyon Stage arts series in Washington with fanfare. On Jan. 23, he’ll sit down with Misty Copeland, celebrity ballerina and icon of glamour and grit, for a public conversation about her career, her fame and her art.

They’ll talk at 7 p.m. at Halcyon House, the former 18th-century residence at 3400 Prospect St. NW that is home to other programs run by the S&R Foundation, of which Halcyon Stage is the newest. Its aim is to “celebrate creativity in all its guises in D.C.,” says Webre, who took on the curatorial role after stepping down from directing the Washington Ballet last summer.

Copeland, the first African American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre history, leads a busy double life as a top ballerina who also juggles commercial projects and the task of being an inspiration to strivers everywhere. Webre says the question he’s burning to ask her is: “Being a ballet dancer is so damn hard — how do you remain faithful to that, and also continue all these efforts in the world?”

[On the perils and possibilities as Misty Copeland mixes celebrity and art]

Copeland’s appearance is emblematic of Webre’s offerings, which are weighted toward talks with such creatives as filmmaker John Waters and “rabble-rouser” and essayist Camille Paglia. Webre says he has endeavored to bring a fresh feel to the series, which begins in earnest in March and runs through June. “It’s about either young, new artists or presenting established artists in a youthful way, a playful and engaging way,” he says.

Those familiar with Webre’s colorful, high-energy preferences at the Washington Ballet will recognize his touch in such Halcyon musical events as the Stravinsky Rave. This “Rite of Spring” dance party features the 77-piece Experiential Orchestra and a DJ.

“It’s gonna be really fun,” says Webre, who envisions the audience making up its own dances to the rebellious 1913 music that has attracted — and flummoxed — many of the best choreographers. “The whole first half is so poly-rhythmical it’s hard to dance to, but it ends in such a crazy, wild, rhythmical swirl.”

[Septime Webre is named artistic director of S&R Foundation’s new arts series]

Other events include a cabaret series with celebrated performance artist Joey Arias and NPR host Ari Shapiro, performing songs from the global hot spots he’s traveled through as a reporter.

“I was like a kid in a candy shop, with all these things that I love that are new to me,” Webre says. “It was just so much fun to investigate how to bring in creativity in different ways.”

Philadelphia’s contemporary ballet troupe BalletX offers the lone dance event. Webre says he wants to add more dance next year. To cap the coming season, he’ll choreograph and direct the Philip Glass opera “The Fall of the House of Usher,” based on the Edgar Allan Poe tale, with performers from Wolf Trap Opera and CityDance.

All Halcyon Stage artists will lead “community sessions” in addition to the series events. On the afternoon of Copeland’s talk, Webre hopes to bring the ballerina to Ballou High School in Anacostia, where he’ll lead a conversation with her for the students. Among the themes he aims to address is the one that drives his Halcyon Stage series: “the nature of creativity, and its effect on the world.”