Some choice TED Talks about music, theatre, dance, and the human condition

Camille A. Brown does an incredible "show and tell" for us.

Camille A. Brown does an incredible “show and tell” for us.

2016 was a very good year for TED talks. And performances. Here are some of our favorites, including a couple that take a look back.

Camille A. Brown, choreographer and educator leads her dance company through excavations of ancestral stories, both timeless and traditional, that connect history with contemporary culture. She performed at Jacob’s Pillow in June 2016, introducing BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play with company member and Astaire Award recipient Catherine “Cat” Foster. In this talk and demonstration, she asks: “Why do we dance?” What started as a way for enslaved Africans to keep cultural traditions alive and retain a sense of inner freedom continue to this day as an affirmation of identity and independence.

Ballroom dance that breaks gender roles roiled the world of tango, waltz, and foxtrot as 2016 began. Normally these classic ballroom dances quietly perpetuate an outdated idea: that the man always leads and the woman always follows. That’s an idea worth changing, say Trevor Copp and Jeff Fox, as they demonstrate their “Liquid Lead” dance technique along with fellow dancer Alida Esmail. Watch as Copp and Fox captivate and command the stage while boldly deconstructing and transforming the art of ballroom dance.

Science and the arts are intricately interwoven. For example, the roles of Odette and Odile (usually danced by the same ballerina) in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is one of the most challenging moves in dance, since it incorporates the legendary 32 fouettés.

Literally meaning “whipped” or “whisked,” the move is comprised of 32 consecutive turns on one pointed foot. If it sounds impossible, it’s because it almost is. So much so, that this video has been made to explain the physics of it. It turns out, it’s all about momentum, velocity, inertia, and gravity.

Magda Sayeg: How yarn bombing grew into a worldwide movement. She started small, with stop sign poles and fire hydrants in Sayeg’s hometown, but soon people found a connection to the craft and spread it across the world.

Adam Driver’s journey from Marine to actor was not planned. He tells the story of how and why he became a Marine, the complex transition from soldier to civilian — and how today his nonprofit brings theater to the military. Because, as he says: “Self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder.” Followed by a spirited performance (at about 9 minutes into the talk) of Marco Ramirez’s “I am not Batman” by Jesse J. Perez and Matt Johnson. (Adult language)

Julie Taymor: Life on the creative edge. Filmed right as controversy over her Broadway production of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was at its peak, she candidly describes the tensions inherent within her creative process, as she strives both to capture the essence of a story—and produce images and experiences unlike anything else.

TED Fellow Negin Farsad weaves comedy and social commentary to cleverly undercut stereotypes of her culture. In this uproarious talk/stand-up hybrid, Farsad speaks on her documentary, The Muslims Are Coming!

Singer Rhiannon Giddens joins international music collective Silk Road Ensemble to perform “St. James Infirmary Blues,” spiking the American folk song that Louis Armstrong popularized in the 1920s with Romani influence and mischievous energy.

A genre unto herself, Kaki King fuses the ancient tradition of working with one’s hands with digital technology, projection-mapping imagery onto her guitar in her groundbreaking multimedia work “The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body.” Using her guitar’s neck like a keyboard, she plays an intricate melody as she takes the audience on a musical journey of light and sound. She calls it “guitar as paintbrush.”

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