Kennedy Center to Host Hip-Hop Festival in 2014

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — Hip-hop artists including rappers Nas and Somalia-born K’naan will take center stage in an unexpected place next year, highlighting their generation and art form alongside opera, ballet and theater at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

    The center, a memorial to President John F. Kennedy, announced Tuesday that its 2013-2014 season would include the weeklong festival “One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide.” It also plans to feature an international theater festival with works from at least 10 different nations and new American works commissioned in theater, opera and music.

    The 2014 hip-hop festival will open with Nas rapping with musicians from the National Symphony Orchestra on music from his classic debut album “Illmatic.” The festival will also feature Puerto Rican musicians Calle 13 and a graffiti exhibition.

    The mix of rap, DJing and graffiti with more traditional arts at one of the nation’s busiest performing arts centers will make the year unique, Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser said.

    “Hip-hop is clearly something new and different for us,” Kaiser said, noting the center had also created festivals around country music and gospel, which are also less familiar in its concert halls. “I think to do something very current is important. We’re trying to speak to many different audiences.”

    The season will include more than 2,000 performances in a wide array of theater, music and dance. It includes the center’s first international festival devoted to theater, featuring companies from Chile, China, Israel, Kuwait and the United Kingdom, among other places.

    Separately, the Kennedy Center will host the Bolshoi ballet, which is especially notable because of recent scandal in the famed Russian dance company. In January, an assailant threw acid in the face of the company’s artistic director, possibly in retaliation for his selection of certain dancers over others for coveted roles. Police in Moscow announced Tuesday that a suspect has been detained.

    In musical theater, the Kennedy Center is developing a new production of Henry Krieger and Bill Russell’s “Side Show,” with La Jolla Playhouse — the first major revival since the musical’s original 1997 run on Broadway. Oscar-winning director Bill Condon, who recently directed both parts of the “Twilight” series “Breaking Dawn” is directing the show.

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