As life under lockdown continues, the arts community is finding new ways to evolve its performances onto online formats. From special Broadway productions to weekly Met opera streams, these virtual streams foster creative collaboration, while continuing to inspire and entertain audiences who are sheltering in place. The latest to partake in the movement is The Juilliard School in New York City: the performing arts school—which is often regarded as the best in North America—banded together its current students and celebrity alumni for a special Zoom performance, set to French composer Maurice Ravel’s classic, “Bolero.”
Called “Bolero Juilliard,” the almost 10 minute-long video, which was released on April 30, includes performances from over 100 students who volunteered from across the school’s divisions: dance, drama, and music. Special celebrity alumni also partook in the video as well: it features appearances from names such as Laura Linney, Emanuel Ax, Christine Baranski, Jon Batiste, Renée Fleming, Isabel Leonard, Patti LuPone, Yo-Yo Ma, Andrea Miller, and Bebe Neuwirth, among others.
Damian Woetzel, president of Juilliard, says the project began when he and the faculty were searching for ways to keep everyone at the school connected, as many students returned to their homes and moved to remote learning formats. “In every time, the arts are our mirror, and our memory,” Woetzel tells Vogue. “It’s so important for our students to find ways to continue performing in this time when we are all at home, and this project was a way to collaborate artistically, and then share that work as a video performance.”
For the video, all of the performers rehearsed live on Zoom, then recorded their individual parts. In the end more than 500 video clips and 150 audio tracks were then edited and synchronized for the clip. “The result is this short film, which is full of the emotions of this time, from sadness and frustration, to engagement and joy, and perhaps most of all, hope,” says Woetzel. The end result showcases a variety of artforms as well—Ma playing his signature cello, Batiste playing the piano, Linney and LuPone acting out their getting-ready routines.
Juilliard conductor David Robertson composed and expanded “Bolero” for the piece, “to include earlier examples of the bolero form, as well as recognizing the influence of jazz on Ravel,” says Woetzel. Further, Woetzel also worked with Larry Keigwin to choreograph the project with students. “I wanted him to make a new version working with students from across Juilliard’s music, dance and drama divisions, creating something together for this time when we are all apart,” says Woetzel, adding that “Bolero Juilliard” is just one of the many future projects the school is undertaking during this time of remote learning.