A selection of NYC-ARTS Greatest Hits: a look at the new Moynihan Train Hall and works commissioned for the site by New York State in partnership with Public Art Fund; a profile of tap dancer Ayodele Casel; and a profile of Iain Forrest, an electric cellist known as Eyeglasses, who has performed in the MTA’s Music Under New York program. NYC-ARTS returns with new episodes on July 1, 2021.

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[high energy piano music] - [Paula] Coming up on NYC-Arts, a look back at some of our favorite segments, featuring the best in arts and cultural events in our area.

- Elmgreen & Dragset have created a work that they've called 'The Hive.'

A sculpture that hangs down from the ceiling comprised of dozens of high-rise buildings of all shapes and sizes.

[fingers snapping] [shoes tapping rhythmically] - Tap dancing for me is magic.

It's music in motion.

[rhythmic cello music] - I'll play a bass part, a percussion part, a harmony part on the cello, and then I can loop that segment over and over again.

I'm playing nine or 10 different cello parts at the same time.

- [Announcer] Funding for NYC-Arts is made possible by Thea Petschek Iervolino Foundation, the Lewis 'Sonny' Turner Fund for Dance, Jody and John Arnhold, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Charles and Valerie Diker, The Nancy Sidewater Foundation, Elroy and Terry Krumholz Foundation, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, and Ellen and James S. Marcus.

This program is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the city council.

Additional funding provided by Members of Thirteen.

NYC-Arts is made possible in part by First Republic Bank.

[uplifting piano music] - [Woman] First Republic Bank presents, 'First Things First.'

At First Republic Bank, first refers to our first priority, the clients who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is an individual with unique needs.

First decree: be a bank whose currency is service in the form of personal banking.

This was First Republic's mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing on our minds.

- [Announcer] And by Swann Auction Galleries.

- [Woman] Swann Auction Galleries.

We have a different way of looking at auctions.

Offering vintage books and fine arts since 1941.

Working to combine knowledge with accessibility.

Whether you're a lifelong collector, a first-time buyer, or looking to sell, information at swanngalleries.com.

[dramatic orchestral music] - Good evening and welcome to NYC-Arts.

I'm Paula Zahn.

It's been my pleasure, along with my colleague Philippe de Montebello, to bring you the very best of arts and culture in the tri-state area.

[orchestral music] Whether it's music, dance, film, theater or the visual arts, classic or contemporary, well-known, or newly discovered, NYC-Arts has provided unique access to the people and places that represent the richness of our arts community.

In this program, we'd like to share with you some of our favorite segments.

We hope they are some of your favorites as well.

[energetic piano music] On our program tonight, we'll visit the new Moynihan Train Hall, the visionary transformation of the nation's busiest transportation hub.

Located across from Penn Station, the hall is named after Senator Patrick Moynihan, who first promoted the idea to restore to the area the former glory of the original Pennsylvania Station, demolished in the early 1960's to make way for Madison Square Garden.

The 1914 James Farley Post Office is the architectural sister to the old Penn Station, also designed by McKim, Mead, and White.

It has been converted into a state of the art, 21st century transit center for Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak passengers, and a grand public space and source of civic pride for all New Yorkers.

Three installations were commissioned for the site by New York state in partnership with Public Art Fund.

In the Ticketed Waiting Room, adjacent to the Main Concourse, Stan Douglas's photographic panels imaginatively recreate and pay tribute to the original Penn station.

At the mid-block entrances at 31st and 33rd Streets, dynamic and colorful ceiling installations by artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset, as well as artist Kehinde Wiley, welcome everyone to the station.

These public artworks make Moynihan Train Hall a destination in its own right, whether or not you are catching a train.

Nicholas Buame, director and chief curator of Public Art Fund, tells us about the artists and artwork selected for the project.

[upbeat electronic music] - It was important to all of us that the artworks commissioned for this wonderful, new civic landmark would really express something about where, who, and what we are.

New York City is a vibrant, open, democratic place, and we wanted to reflect that.

We wanted to reflect the fact that this building brings together so many layers of the past, the present, and the future.

And each artist could, through their own creative imagination, capture something unique about that.

Stan Douglas has created a work that he's called 'Penn Station's Half Century,' because the original Penn Station really only existed for a half century.

It was an iconic New York City landmark, a magnificent Beaux-Arts building designed by McKim, Mead, and White, that was tragically demolished.

Stan has digitally created the interior of the original Penn Station and then photographed performers, dressed in period costume, reenacting Stan's own reimagination of events that happened.

And when you look at the moments that Stan shows, they're not necessarily world changing events, it's more quirky moments that meant something, that express the way Penn Station functioned in the life of New York City.

It was a place where things happen, like an impromptu Vaudeville show, when performers were stranded here overnight in a snow storm, or the tender moments of goodbye when service men were going off to war.

Stan's work features a number of amazing people, but who've been largely forgotten.

Extraordinary performers like Bert Williams, pioneering labor organizers like Angelo Herndon, or even a notorious criminal like Celia Cooney, the bobbed hair bandit.

Stan has reminded us about and preserved for all of us to understand more about what shaped who we are today.

Kehinde Wiley's work, 'Go,' in a sense, brings a a tremendous energy and vitality to a classical genre.

The Renaissance style ceiling fresco, which Kehinde has reinvented as a contemporary stained glass ceiling.

So, in another way, it brings together these ideas of the past, the present, and the future.

Because, while it gestures to art history, his characters are contemporary New Yorkers.

Break dancers, people who are actually performing extraordinary acrobatic, athletic, creative gestures, and an art form that was invented in New York City.

And that we see these black bodies tumbling through space and floating through the air.

Elmgreen & Dragset have created a work that they've called called 'The Hive.'

A sculpture that hangs down from the ceiling, comprised of dozens of high-rise buildings of all shapes and sizes.

And when you look at it, you start to think, wait a minute, I recognize that building.

That looks like the Empire State Building or didn't I see that in London or Hong Kong?

They've been inspired by buildings from all over the world as well as their own architectural inventions.

I think the artists chose to call it 'The Hive,' because they really loved the idea of the way the contemporary mega city is somehow like a beehive, a growing, evolving, complex structure.

And I think for them, a train station, and the idea of travel, and even the idea of New York City, is about connections and the energy that's created when people come together.

What is it that transforms a public space into a truly civic space?

What is it that captures the spirit of New York City?

There's no way to simply illustrate that, but a great artist can, through their imaginative vision, through their creativity, create something that does capture something about what it is to be alive today, but something that can also tell us something about the past and something about the future, and that can exist for generations to come.

[energetic piano music] - Good evening and welcome to NYC-Arts.

I'm Paula Zahn at the Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center.

On tonight's program, we'll meet Ayodele Casel, one of today's most dynamic tap dancers.

Born in the Bronx and raised in Puerto Rico, she fell in love with tap after watching films from the 1930's starring Ginger Rogers.

Casel began taking tap lessons while studying acting at NYU.

And it wasn't long before she found herself in the spotlight.

Her mentor, Gregory Hines, described her as one of the top young tap dancers in the world.

In the 1990's, she became the only female member of Savion Glover's Not Your Ordinary Tappers, a supergroup of tap dancers.

In 2017, she received the Hoofer Award from the American Tap Dance Foundation.

Today she continues to perform all over the world and is a tireless advocate for tap.

NYC-Arts spoke with her at the Original Tap House in the Bronx.

[fingers snapping] [shoes tapping rhythmically] - Tap dancing for me is magic.

Technical definition: a percussive American art form.

It's music in motion.

I would say that I am mostly concerned with being as musical and as expressive as I can be when I tap dance.

Who you are and like how you came, how you are here, is what informs and influences the sound that you make and the musical patterns that you make.

So I feel like you're like a conglomerate of all of the things you've experienced.

I started tap dancing when I was 19 years old and for me, as a black Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx who idolized Ginger Rodgers, to know that this was an African-American art form and that it had such a rich history and such a great legacy, It just, it really, completely changed my life.

[upbeat Latin music] I love Latin music.

I grew up listening to it.

I grew up in Puerto Rico for about six years.

[shoes tapping rhythmically] Latin music is something that I enjoy listening to.

I dance it socially, but I tap dance to it all the time.

I am a champion for tap dancing and I will speak about it everywhere I go and try to put my energy in all kinds of directions.

I'm performing with Arturo O'Farrill, wonderful Latin jazz composer conductor.

We're collaborating on a few pieces there.

[rapid rhythmic tapping] If you're a musician, you're pretty stationary, right?

If you're a pianist, you sit at the piano.

We have the awesome ability to really be as musical and as melodic, but we get to move throughout space.

And that's actually one of the most fun things about being a tap dancer is being able to cover space and create music while you're doing it.

People will say, and have said, that tap is a male-dominated art form.

I believe now that that is shifting a bit.

I can tell you that most of my influences were men.

At a certain point in my career I started thinking, well, where are the women?

What it prompted in me was this need to search for them because there's so many of them.

I found out there was Lois Bright, Louise Madison, and Jeni LeGon, the Whitman sisters, Cora LaRedd, Juanita Pits.

And then the list just grew.

Jeanine Tesori, wonderful composer and friend of mine, had asked me to create a piece for the show called the Jamboree.

'While I Have the Floor' started out as a short piece, but is now a full length show that includes tap dancing and acting.

It is about my journey to reclaiming expression and my identity, my communication, language, and the art form.

We weren't allowed to do this.

Hollywood thought that being a chorus girl was more our speed and they thought that we lacked the strength to perform flashy steps.

As I started just drafting, I found myself speaking a lot about not just my experience being one of the few women in that circle of mostly men, but also again, I thought what a great opportunity to talk about these women.

And the brilliant Lois Bright, who danced with the Miller Brothers, but wasn't billed with her last name, just the Miller Brothers and Lois.

I wanted to write something that would serve as sort of my manifesto, because I was concerned that I would be just like the women that nobody knew about.

[audience cheering] This space is the Original Tap House.

One of the reasons I created this space is because tap dancers have been sort of edged out out of a lot of rehearsal spaces in Manhattan.

We also film Operation Tap out of here.

That's it.

Five, six, seven, eight.

[rhythmic tapping] Operation Tap is comprised of three folks.

Myself, my friend Anthony Morigerato, and my friend Mike Minery.

We're all tap dancers.

We teach, often internationally, nationally, and we found that in our travels, people really wanted to tap dance but they felt that they didn't have the resources around.

They didn't have the teachers at their dance studios or in many cases their tap programs were being cut out.

And so we thought, well, if we create something where all you need is the internet and you can get on and you can learn combinations and you can learn technique exercises.

We have a lot of engagement with young folks and I think that we've been really, really successful.

[rapid rhythmic tapping] One of my missions in life is to reawaken the appreciation that people have already in them for tap dancing.

I feel like everybody loves it, even if they don't know about it. [laughing] I feel like they love it and I want to make sure that people are open to it.

That there's a space for it in every arena possible.

If I die and tap dancing is regarded as important as ballet is, you know, and as music is, then I think it would have been really worth it.

[rhythmic tapping] [energetic piano music] In the 1980s, the MTA was on the brink of collapse.

In order to revive the system, they founded the Arts for Transit program.

As part of that initiative, Music Under New York was launched in 1985.

♪ Get pumped There are currently more than 350 musicians and groups on MUNY's roster who are given priority access to the best performance locations throughout the transit system.

Well, performances are now suspended due to the pandemic.

We'd like to introduce you to one of the program's musicians.

Iain Forrest, known as Eyeglasses, is a medical student at Mount Sinai.

A classically trained cellist, he has performed both for patients at the hospital and commuters in the subway.

His sound is instantly recognizable, thanks to his use of an electric cello, and his own unique remixes of contemporary pop music.

[electric cello version of Coldplay's 'Clocks'] - I started cello in fourth grade when our music teacher came around with a cart of instruments.

So I picked up the cello.

I played the first note, which was a really low, resonant note, and I just love the sound of it, that bass note.

But after high school, me and a friend, we actually went out to the streets of Washington DC, and we started playing contemporary songs.

And I remember the reaction of people walking past on the streets.

It struck me like, hey, this could be really something special here.

After college I moved up here to New York City area for medical school at Mount Sinai.

And one of the things that drew me to New York City was obviously the culture that we have with the arts.

And as soon as I came here I saw street musician after street musician, and I immediately thought, this could be my next home.

That's when I looked up MUNY, Music Under New York, and I found that they had a whole audition process.

I sent them an application, did the audition.

Thankfully, everything worked out and now I can call myself a street musician in New York City.

The reason why I chose Eyeglasses is because of two reasons.

It's because I want to be an ophthalmologist.

I want to help people see better, specifically kids who've lost their vision at a young age.

The second reason, which is a bit more lighthearted, is that Beethoven, he wrote a piece called Eyeglasses Duet.

When musicians sat down and read the sheet music in front of them, there were so many notes on it.

It was such a tricky, difficult piece to play that the only way musicians could read the music is if they wore really, really strong glasses.

So absolutely love the story behind that.

I took inspiration from that.

So I play the electric cello and it's made by Yamaha.

And it's the exact same four strings as an acoustic cello.

The only difference is they stuck a little pickup inside the electric cello, so it can be amplified so it's louder.

[electric cello music] What I love to do is also use a looper.

So essentially what I do is I'll play a bass part, percussion part, a harmony part on the cello, and then I can loop that segment over and over again.

So it essentially comes down to I'm playing nine or 10 different cello parts at the same time, so it just opens up a lot of doors as to what I can do musically.

[dramatic electric cello music] I've had people come down, they come off their subway and they come up to me like, where's the orchestra?

And I'm like, nope, it's just me, one electric cellist.

[cello version of Coldplay's 'Viva La Vida'] So unfortunately, there's not much sheet music out there for like nine cellos to play like pop songs or rock songs.

So yeah, oftentimes I'll just hear a song on the radio or on Spotify and then once I've listened to it a couple of times, I kind of extrapolate it out and try to create, you know, a cello rendition of it.

[cello version of 'Viva La Vida' continues] Amongst all that kind of like chaotic energy, people, you know, bustling and the crowds moving, I think the best part of that is just seeing how the music impacts these people who, you know, they either have their headphones on or just watching their phone, trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

And then just seeing them being able to stop, just enjoy the moment for what it is.

In medicine and music you really have to connect with the human being sitting in front of you.

Helping uplift them with music, I find that actually makes me a better medical student and hopefully a better doctor down the road too.

[cello version of A Great Big World's 'Say Something'] [music ends] [audience applauding] Thank you guys. Thank you so much.

[energetic piano music] - Thank you so much for joining us this evening.

I'm Paula Zahn.

Have a great night, and I hope you'll join us next time.

[energetic piano music] - [Announcer] Funding for NYC-Arts is made possible by Thea Petschek Iervolino Foundation, The Lewis 'Sonny' Turner Fund for Dance, Jody and John Arnhold, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Charles and Valerie Diker, The Nancy Sidewater Foundation, Elroy and Terry Krumholz Foundation, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, and Ellen and James S. Marcus.

This program is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the city council.

Additional funding provided by Members of Thirteen.

NYC-Arts is made possible in part by First Republic Bank.

- [Woman] First Republic Bank presents 'First Things First.'

At First Republic Bank, first refers to our first priority, the clients who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is an individual with unique needs.

First decree: be a bank whose currency is service in the form of personal banking.

This is First Republic's mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing on our minds.

- [Announcer] And by Swann Auction Galleries.

- [Woman] Swann Auction Galleries.

We have a different way of looking at auctions.

Offering vintage books and fine arts since 1941.

Working to combine knowledge with accessibility.

Whether you're a lifelong collector, a first-time buyer, or looking to sell, information at swanngalleries.com.