Why did so many jazz greats die young? Asked this question, the singer Billie Holiday responded, “We try to live 100 days in one day.” In her 44 years, Holiday — whose restrained, emotive vocal style left an enduring mark on American popular music — lived a full but famously tumultuous life, one plagued by addiction.
“Billie,” a new documentary coming to iTunes, Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video on Friday, considers Holiday as a victim of more than personal demons. Drawing on hours of audio interviews with Holiday’s inner circle, conducted by the journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl — who died in 1978, before she could complete a planned biography of Holiday — the film probes the singer’s experiences with racism, sexual assault, financial exploitation and persecution by law enforcement.
Along with this darkness, the director James Erskine captures Holiday’s vivacity and spunk. Her transcendent talent is on view, too, in newly colorized restorations of essential performance footage.
Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, is an eight-day holiday because of a miracle that is said to have happened in 164 B.C. When the Jewish Maccabees rededicated the temple in Jerusalem, an amount of oil that was sufficient for only one day amazingly burned for eight.
This year, the Jewish Museum’s Hanukkah Family Day, beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday, will also have a long and unexpected life: Its five-video playlist on the museum’s YouTube channel will remain online indefinitely.
This virtual event, free with an R.S.V.P., invites participants to rock out to a Hanukkah concert presented by the musicians Daphna Mor and Saskia Lane in partnership with Beineinu, a Jewish initiative. Viewers can also travel around the world digitally by drawing Hanukkah objects from the museum’s global collection and embarking on an animated adventure with the illustrator Jeff Hopkins. Art projects include making pinhole pictures, shadow puppet theater and menorah collages. All should keep children 3 and older entertained, which itself is no small miracle.
Got Soul? Well, Get in Line
As the days get colder and darker, Abrons Arts Center is swooping in with a much-needed December pick-me-up. In partnership with the Henry Street Settlement’s health and wellness committee, the Lower East Side arts center will close out its season with a virtual soul line-dance party — part class, part end-of-year celebration — on Saturday at 7 p.m. (The arts center moved most of its programming online this fall.)
Hosted by Dolores Brunner, the founder of the New York group Empire Line Dancers, the free party will introduce participants to new and classic line dances set to hip-hop and R&B music. While typically practiced in person, soul line dancing — which encompasses popular routines like the Electric Slide, the Wobble and the Cupid Shuffle — lends itself naturally to an era of social distancing, with no partners or physical contact required.
People of all ages and levels are welcome. Zoom registration is sold out, but the event will also be streamed live at vimeo.com/abronsartsctr.
Sprightly, and Picking Up Steam
Karen Jenkins-Johnson has spent nearly 25 years championing Black art — even when people wouldn’t so much as look twice at it. Since April, she continued this quest through online programming, leading a virtual discussion series with Black artists and cultural producers called “Conversations on Culture.”
On Friday at 3 p.m. via Zoom (you can register at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery website), Johnson will talk with the artists Enrico Riley, Blessing Ngobeni and Lisa Corinne Davis about how this past year has influenced their work and communities, along with the hope they have for the future of both. Despite past personal traumas, the South African painter Ngobeni — whose work references the country’s history of political oppression, assuming a violent, dreamlike quality that has invoked comparisons to the Surrealist Joan Miró — still aesthetically hints at his belief that things will someday get better. Riley’s newest paintings investigate the ability of African-American music, especially jazz, to empower. Taking a more abstract approach, Davis’s work speaks to our society’s belittling treatment of the complexities of race.