Hillsborough Celebrates Hometown Musical Great Billy Strayhorn

Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington’s longtime collaborator, was among the most influential figures in American jazz. A versatile composer, arranger, and pianist, Strayhorn joined Ellington’s orchestra at age 22 in 1939 and worked with the bandleader the rest of his life.  

NC State LIVE co-commissioned David Roussève/REALITY’s latest work, Halfway to Dawn, a jubilant dance-theater piece that celebrates all facets of the jazz composer’s rich and complicated life that will be performed at Stewart Theatre on the campus of NC State on Saturday, March 2.

Weaving dance, video, and Strayhorn’s masterful music, the project celebrates Strayhorn while also creating conversations around race, sexuality, and the danger of placing the quest for fame ahead of personal freedom.

A week of activities are planned to celebrate the North Carolina premiere and the local legacy of Strayhorn, who spent much of his childhood with his grandmother in Hillsborough, N.C., who introduced Strayhorn to the piano as soon as he could reach the keys.

NC State LIVE invites you to IMMERSE yourself in the following artistic journeys:

Billy Strayhorn


A Celebration of Billy Strayhorn: Exploring a jazz legacy in Hillsborough, NC!

Time: 11:15 a.m.
Location: Strayhorn’s Historic Marker (on South Churton Street, near West Margaret Lane, Hillsborough, N.C.)
Cost: Free

Kick off a day of Billy Strayhorn-themed events with a welcome by Hillsborough’s Mayor Tom Stevens. Learn a little about Strayhorn’s childhood home and enjoy some jazz on the sidewalk by Hillsborough’s own Yahyah Corbett!

Lunch and Learn: Hillsborough’s Jazz Roots – A Discussion with David Roussève and Tommy DeFrantz

Time: 12 to 1 p.m. 
Location: Orange County Public Library, 137 W Margaret Lane, Hillsborough, N.C.
Cost: Free  (Bring your lunch.)

Take a lunch break with us! Billy Strayhorn spent much of his childhood in Hillsborough, was Duke Ellington’s main writing partner and is responsible for iconic jazz standards like “Take the A Train,” “Satin Doll,” “Lush Life” and more! Bring your lunch and enjoy a discussion with acclaimed chorographer David Roussève (who’s newest work Halfway to Dawn explores Billy Strayhorn’s complex life and music) and Duke professor Tommy DeFrantz as they delve into Billy Strayhorn’s history and his Hillsborough roots. Enjoy this discussion just blocks away from where Strayhorn learned to play the piano. Attendees will receive 50-percent off tickets to Halfway to Dawn!

Artist Salon with David Roussève and Music by Yahyah Corbett

Time: 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Location: Burwell School Historic Site, 319 N Churton Street, Hillsborough, N.C. 
Cost: $20 (Proceeds benefit the Burwell School and the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough)

Come experience an artistic evening of food, music, and Hillsborough history. Hear from acclaimed choreographer and Guggenheim Fellow David Roussève about his process creating Halfway to Dawn, a dance-theatre take on Hillsborough’s own jazz great, Billy Strayhorn. Be treated to the sounds of local jazz impresario Yahyah Corbett. Explore the fascinating Burwell School Historic Site. Wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served. Attendees will receive 50-percent off tickets to Halfway to Dawn!

A group of dancers on stage


JAZZ Bus from Hillsborough

Time: 6 p.m. 
Location: Bus departs from Orange County Public Library ,137 W Margaret Lane, Hillsborough, N.C. The bus leaves promptly at 6 p.m. 
Cost: Free but you must register for the bus at go.ncsu.edu/JazzBus

Pile into a bus from Billy Strayhorn’s childhood home of Hillsborough, N.C. to NC State LIVE’s performance of Halfway to Dawn. While on the bus, you’ll be treated to Howling Cow ice cream, get a drink ticket to use at the show, and enjoy live jazz! Bus will arrive at NC State in time for pre-show discussion with David Roussève. Limited availability. Act fast! After signing up for the bus, you will be directed to purchase tickets to the show at go.ncsu.edu/HalfwayToDawn

Pre-show discussion with David Roussève

Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Talley Student Union, Room 3285, 2610 Cates Avenue, Raleigh, N.C.

Choreographer David Roussève is a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University, a Guggenheim Fellow, current professor and former chair of UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. He has written, directed, and choreographed 14 full evening works for David Roussève/REALITY including three commissions for the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Arrive early to meet David and learn more about how Billy Strayhorn has influenced his work as a gay, African American choreographer who grew up at the apex of the civil rights movement.

Halfway to Dawn
Time: 8 p.m.
Location: Talley Student Union, Stewart Theatre, 2610 Cates Avenue, Raleigh, N.C.
Tickets: go.ncsu.edu/HalfwayToDawn or call (919) 515-1100

David Roussève/REALITY’s Halfway to Dawn is a jubilant dance-theatre work that celebrates all facets of Strayhorn’s life through full-throttle dance, haunting video, and a ‘blow the roof of’ score pulled directly from the Strayhorn canon. Roussève’s homage highlights the political urgency of Strayhorn’s narrative and evokes the man so instrumental to the creation of one of America’s quintessential art forms. 

Billy Strayhorn historical marker sign


In addition to the public events above, NC State LIVE is engaging with students in Hillsborough through the following events:

Movement Workshop at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough
Led by members of the dance-theatre company David Roussève/REALITY, this workshop will explore the development process used in the creation of Roussève’s Halfway to Dawn, based on the music of Billy Strayhorn. The class will focus on the work’s unique fusion of modern, postmodern, jazz and social dance vocabularies and include the teaching of dynamic phrase material. Mirroring Roussève’s development process, workshop participants will then manipulate that material to make their own gesture movement inspired by the emotional underpinnings of the music.

Performance of Jeghetto’s An Evening with Billy Strayhorn at C.W. Stanford Middle School in Hillsborough, N.C.
Acclaimed local puppeteer Jeghetto (Tarish Pipkins) has created a one-of-a-kind performance based on the music of Billy Strayhorn, as a companion piece to Halfway to Dawn. The work features a bespectacled Billy Strayhorn puppet and video projections. Following the performance, Jeghetto will lead a puppetry workshop with students. This project is made possible through the NC State LIVE Mini-Grant Fund for Faculty.

This residency would not have been possible without the help of NC State LIVE’s Hillsborough partners: The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, Burwell School Historic Site, Hillsborough Arts Council, Orange County Public Library, and Music Maker Relief Foundation. The presentation of David Roussève/REALITY was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This project was supported by the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources and is funded in part by the City of Raleigh based on recommendations of the Raleigh Arts Commission.

For a complete list of related activities visit https://live.arts.ncsu.edu/events/nc-state-live-2018-19-season/david-rou...

To find out more about David Roussève/REALITY or to purchase tickets visit https://live.arts.ncsu.edu/events/nc-state-live-2018-19-season/david-rou...

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