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Monday, October 23, 2017

In Context: boulders and bones

Bay Area-based choreographers Brenda Way and KT Nelson make their BAM debut this season with boulders and bones, a meditation on permanence and decay inspired by British land artist Andy Goldsworthy’s hillside sculpture Culvert Cairn. Driven by cellist Zoë Keating’s propulsive live score, the dancers of ODC/Dance leap and glide through the geologic evocations of RJ Muna’s cinematic mise-en-scène, revealing the high drama simmering beneath Goldsworthy’s quiet earthen articulations.

Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Friday, October 20, 2017

In Context: Virago Man-Dem

Choreographer Cynthia Oliver and four performers excavate layers of racial and gender performance through the shared lens of their Afro-Caribbean and African-American ancestries. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

On a Road Trip with Bang on A Can All-Stars

Photo by Timothy Norris, courtesy of Ford Theatres
Artistic collectives don’t often last 30 years. Artistic goals formulated and shared when artists are just starting to figure out who they are often change as they mature and find their individual voices. Egos sometimes get in the way. Outside circumstances can lead the best intentions astray. And friendships can simply fizzle out. That is what makes the journey of the three Bang on a Can composers—Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe—so special. Starting from a marathon concert in a Soho gallery, they have since created hundreds of new pieces, records, productions, marathons, and summer festivals all over the world. They've won awards and mentored young musicians, sometimes together, sometimes separately. But they are still the best of friends and collaborators—on the road together, sharing the journey.

But they did not travel alone. Along the ride are some of their staunchest supporters and loyal friends—the musicians who have played their music over the years. The compositions of the Bang on A Can All-Stars—as the musicians are collectively called—have changed over the years, but the core still remains. And newcomers have become regulars. Six will perform in Road Trip, the 30th year commemorative piece: Ashley Bathgate (cello), Robert Black (bass), Vicky Chow (piano), David Cossin (percussion), Mark Stewart (electric guitar), Ken Thomson (clarinets). Here, four of them share their fondest memories and what has changed or not over the years.

Monday, October 16, 2017

In Context: /peh-LO-tah/

, an electric meditation on the racial politics of soccer from multi-talented theater artist, spoken-word poet, and performer Marc Bamuthi Joseph, comes to the BAM Harvey Theater Oct 18—21.

Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Friday, October 13, 2017

In Context: Mementos Mori

Combining analog craftsmanship and digital dexterity, the Chicago-based performance collective Manual Cinema engineers a live movie before the audience’s eyes in Mementos Mori, a meditation on death and ephemerality. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

17c — Writing the Self

Big Dance Theater returns to BAM Nov 14—18 with 17c, a dizzy intertextual romp through the diaries of Samuel Pepys, weaving music, dance, video and text into a spectacularly outré portrait of the famed 17th-century philanderer and his tragic wife Bess. Annie-B Parson, Co-Artistic Director of Big Dance Theater, spoke with Adriana Leshko about the piece, her technique, Pepys' diaries, and more.

Photo: Bylan Douglas

How would you describe Big Dance Theater’s body of work to someone who has never seen it?

Big Dance Theater, as its simple name suggests, has been in a protracted, aesthetic, alchemical conversation with dance and theater simultaneously. All elements from both camps are in play: costumes, props, language, structuralism, the use of space, time, line, causation, relationship, shape, literature, sound design, singing, dancing…

Big Dance’s body of work is a sprawling compendium of material wherein abstraction and narrative work hand-in-hand to express the world, dance and language cohabitate, design matters, sound matters, the body in space matters, literature matters. In a Big Dance piece, Form and Content intersect and have equal sway in expressing the world—meaning: what we say and how we chose to say it, are equally important.

The sources for each piece are unique, yet I’ve noticed themes over time that consistently make their way into each work—these human contradictions: our desire to live against the immutability of our mortality; our desire to be autonomous in the face of our interconnectedness; and the playful nature of theater against the innate tragedy of reality.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

In Context: La grenouille avait raison (The Toad Knew)

James Thierée and Compagnie du Hanneton return to BAM Oct 12—14 with La grenouille avait raison (The Toad Knew), a physical theater work in which two restless siblings are trapped in a dank subterranean world under the watchful gaze of an amphibian captor.

Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Me First

Photo: Jan Verweysveld
By David Cote

By his own admission, Ivo van Hove had never heard of Ayn Rand or The Fountainhead. But on opening night of Roman Tragedies at the 2008 Avignon Festival, an assistant heaved the 700-page tome onto his lap, with the inscription “This is for you and you have to read this now,” he recalls via Skype from Amsterdam. “So on a holiday, I opened the book and thought, Well, I’ll read 20 pages and then say, ‘Thank you. It’s not my thing,’ and get on with my life. But I started to read it and I didn’t stop. It was really like the classic page-turner for me.” Like countless readers since The Fountainhead published in 1943, van Hove was irresistably drawn into Rand’s Manichean struggle between rugged invividualists and craven compromisers against a bustling backdrop of American industry and capitalism.

Friday, October 6, 2017

In Context: Richard III

Dragging his clubfoot and hunchback across a clay- and glitter-caked stage, Shakespeare’s most wretched villain weaponizes his ugliness against a kingdom ravaged by its own elite infighting. In this prescient production, German director Thomas Ostermeier (An Enemy of the People, 2013 Next Wave) laces iambic pentameter with relentless drumming, bringing his trademark pop-cultural canniness to bear. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

In Context: Saudade

Vancouver-bred, New York-based choreographer Joshua Beamish pays tribute to saudade—a nostalgic yearning for an elusive past—which is said to be the essence of the Portuguese soul. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Reconsidering Richard's Rep

Portrait of King Richard III. Collection of National Portrait Gallery.
By Christian Barclay

In late August 2012, a collection of bones were uncovered and retrieved from beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England. There was no sign of a coffin or burial shroud, and it appeared as if the body had been dumped into a grave unceremoniously. Early findings concluded that the remains were those of an adult male with severe scoliosis of the spine––a condition that might've made one shoulder higher than the other. On February 4, 2013, the University of Leicester confirmed, through DNA testing, that the skeleton was that of Richard III. Less than a month later, following a public viewing period, a nationally televised funeral procession and service led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Richard was reburied in a public tomb in the Leicester Cathedral.

Looking for Richard: In Search of a King, the years-long project to locate and properly bury Richard’s remains, was led by the Richard III Society, a group dedicated to the reappraisal of England’s most maligned monarch. While many scholars acknowledge that Shakespeare’s infamous portrait of the king hovers between fact and fiction, the damage remains. The group was founded in 1924 by a group of amateur English historians who believed that history had not been fair to Richard. Through dedicated study of his life and times, they were determined to promote a more balanced view.

Much of the society’s scholarship aims to contextualize Richard’s reign. The morals and behaviors of 15th century England were radically different from our own, therefore Richard’s deeds (and alleged misdeeds) cannot be judged within a vacuum. Over the years, the society has published and funded dozens of papers and books on 15th century life, and in 1980, it received the honor of royal patronage when HRH The Duke of Gloucester agreed to become its patron.

Today the Society includes branches around the world. There are over 30 local groups within the United Kingdom, as well as branches in America, Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand. Through lectures, activities, and visits to Ricardian sites, Society members are slowly, but surely, rewriting history, in the meantime shedding new light on the reputation of a legendarily notorious figure.

Schaubühne Berlin's production of Richard III by William Shakespeare, directed by Thomas Ostermeier, with translation and adaptation by Marius von Mayenburg, will be performed from Oct 11—14 at the BAM Harvey Theater.

Christian Barclay is a publicist at BAM.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Ongoing State of Siege

Photo: Jean Louis Fernandez
By Brian Scott Lipton

R-E-S-I-S-T. While a commonplace word, it has come back strongly into the American linguistic vogue this year—seen every day on badges, Twitter walls, and protest signs—as many believe that our recently-elected federal government is impinging on, or taking away, our long-held freedoms.

But, truth be told, this word has been uttered countless times throughout history, most notably during the 1930s and 1940s during the reigns of such dictators like Franco, Mussolini, and Hitler. Equally true, the question has remained on the minds of many in the four corners of the world if resistance can be anything more than a mere word in the wake of a truly fascistic regime.

Unsurprisingly, this conundrum fascinated the French writer and philosopher Albert Camus, who put the query front and center in his highly allegorical 1948 play State of Siege. BAM is co-producing acclaimed French director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota’s visually stunning and emotionally complex production of this little-seen work at the Howard Gilman Opera House, November 2—4. (Camus, for reasons of his own, set the scene in Cadiz, Spain, although the work is written in and performed in French.)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Richard III—Prototypical Villain

By Christian Barclay

Richard III was King of England from 1483 until his death in 1485, at the age of 32, in the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. And, if centuries-old stories are to be believed, he was one of the great villains of English history. Shakespeare’s Richard III depicts his Machiavellian rise and reign. The play, written during the early 1590s, shaped and cemented Richard’s reputation as a “rudely stamp’d” hunchback, “subtle, false and treacherous,” guilty of “stern murder in the dir’st degree.”

Monday, October 2, 2017

What is it then between us?

Photo: Stefan Killen

In the fifth stanza of Crossing Brooklyn Ferryfrom which Matthew Aucoin’s new American opera takes its name—Walt Whitman asks, “What is it then between us?” First published in 1855, the poem speaks powerfully to the importance of solidarity in a national moment plagued by rivalry and violence.

Last week, we partnered with pinhole photographer Stefan Killen to capture unique, dreamlike portraits of Crossing’s cast and creative team. The deliberately lo-fi process engages the camera obscura phenomenon to create images with a nearly infinite depth of field—all without the use of a proper lens on the camera box. After the photoshoot, we asked each of them to answer Whitman’s prompt—to define, in their own words, what it is then between us, and what that phrase might mean presently in 2017. Their thoughts and portraits are shared below:

In Context: Mon élue noire (My Black Chosen One): Sacre #2

Senegalese dancer Germaine Acogny's scenically minimalist, emotionally maximalist solo, comes to BAM Fisher Oct 4—7. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Friday, September 29, 2017

In Context: Crossing

Composer Matthew Aucoin makes his BAM debut with Crossing—a chamber opera taking inspiration from Walt Whitman’s Civil War diary, directed by American Repertory Theater artistic director Diane Paulus. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

In Context: A Letter to My Nephew

Choreographer Bill T. Jones sets a portrait of his beloved nephew Lance T. Briggs against the political landscape of the present in A Letter to My Nephew, an intimate, impressionistic collage for nine dancers.

Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I Am With You: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Illustrated

When Matthew Aucoin's new opera Crossing comes to BAM next Tue, Oct 3, audiences will be treated to a new side of 19th century poet Walt Whitman: alive—on stage—with a booming baritone. Drawing inspiration from the diary Whitman kept while volunteering as a Civil War nurse, Aucoin places America's seminal poet (sung by Rod Gilfry) at the narrative heart of his opera—and draws titular inspiration from one of Whitman's most treasured texts. “The one poem that I couldn’t avoid is Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," notes Aucoin. "[Whitman] is obsessed with this question of what it is that links him to his fellow human beings...He has this insane instinct to speak to the future and say 'I've been there.'"

To celebrate Whitman's Brooklyn homecoming, we partnered with illustrator Nathan Gelgud to visually depict the first three sections of the prescient poem. Peruse the illustrations below before seeing the poet face-to-face when Crossing comes to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House Oct 3—8.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Uniforms Transform into Paper

This week, My Lai—Jonathan Berger and Kronos Quartet's fevered character study featuring tenor Rinde Eckert and Vân Ánh Võ—comes to the BAM Harvey Theater from Wed, Sep 27—Sun, Sep 30. Reflecting on a decisive moment when breaking rank in the name of human decency forever changed the public perception of a war, the piece interrogates the ethics of disobedience in the face of atrocity. During the development of My Lai, the show's creators worked with artist, veteran, and creator of Combat Paper Drew Cameron to generate new visual work inspired by the performance. Below, Cameron describes his process—and what first inspired this transformative creative practice.

Drew Cameron in Iraq, 2003

By Drew Cameron

I am a veteran of the war in Iraq. I entered the military not because of effective advertisements or hero films, not even college money or idealized patriotism. No, I feel that I entered the military because our society needs soldiers and has always found ways to force or entice us into service. I ran guns in the war, I occupied and criminalized strangers and wondered in the summer of 2003 if the people in Iraq would be better off after all of our invasions. Returning from the war I found other veterans and artists and began to make paper from our old uniforms.

Monday, September 25, 2017

In Context: Principles of Uncertainty

In this dance-theater collaboration, choreographer John Heginbotham brings author and illustrator Maira Kalman’s candy-colored musings on travel, beauty, and mortality to life. Inspired by the various walks the two acclaimed artists took together over many months, The Principles of Uncertainty is a meditation on the objects, memories, friends, and strangers that fill our days.

Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Wendy’s Subway returns

Wendy’s Subway returns to BAM for the second year with a newly envisioned Reading Room.

The space, as part of Next Wave Art, is located in the BAM Fisher Sharp Lobby and houses a collection of over 300 books, including titles selected by Next Wave Festival artists for their relevance to their shows on the BAM Fisher stage and their artworks on view throughout BAM’s campus this fall. Readers will also find a small collection of titles suggested for further reading on other Next Wave Festival performances happening this season.

This year, Wendy’s Subway has also invited 25 international, independent, and artist-run libraries and organizations to recommend titles from their own collections, broadly related to the field of performance. These titles expansively reflect the specific collections of each participating library or organization, and it is our hope that their involvement fosters a platform for sharing resources, references, and forms of knowledge across many publics, within a convivial and intimate reading context.

Below, peruse annotated reading lists from Next Wave Festival artists Maira Kalman and John Heginbotham, whose The Principles of Uncertainty comes to the BAM Fisher this Wednesday, September 25.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Performing Gender

by Nora Tjossem

A gentle voice fills the courtroom: “If you stop thinking of yourself as a stable identity, it changes the whole game.” Two figures in suits face the cavernous space of the Borough Hall courtroom, transformed into a destination for Brooklyn’s book lovers on September 17th for the annual Brooklyn Book Festival. Olivier Py and Peggy Shaw, artists whose work centers their own ever-dynamic identities, take the mics for “Performing Gender,” a talk highlighting themes of Olivier Py Sings Les Premiers Adieux de Miss Knife, part of the 2017 Next Wave Festival.

Olivier Py as Miss Knife at BAM Photo: Rebecca Greenfield

This glamorous, dark performance in the Next Wave features Py—in a way. It features, rather, Miss Knife, an old-style cabaret singer modeled after Py’s grandmother. “It was very difficult to sing without drag,” Olivier Py explains. As himself, he was unable “to do the thing I loved.” When he began performing as Miss Knife, Py was young, self-professedly “very sexy,” and excluded from a community of political leftists in France. To them, he explains, gender was not a political matter. But for Py, who observed a growing momentum around the gay rights movement that often excluded gender-nonconforming and gender-fluid individuals, it was both political and necessary to his art. To sing, he needed to become Miss Knife. “I had no idea 30 years later, Miss Knife would still be singing,” Py chuckles.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Notes on Crossing

Composer Matthew Aucoin's Crossing, a new American opera directed by American Repertory Theater's Diane Paulus, comes to BAM on October 3. A note from Aucoin follows.

by Matthew Aucoin

“But for the opera…I could never have written Leaves of Grass,” Walt Whitman reminisced late in life. It’s perhaps surprising that the quintessential American poet, the writer whose signature bard-call is a “barbaric yawp” rather than a refined warble, spent his formative years—before setting off to cross a wild, apparently “formless” poetic frontier—absorbing the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini, Rossini, and the young Verdi. I share Whitman’s opinion that the essence of opera has nothing to do with the stuffy salons and social one-upmanship of the Americans who imported it to New York in the 19th century: opera is a primal union of animal longing, as expressed in sound, and human meaning, as expressed in language. Indeed, Whitman considered opera the pinnacle of human expression, something beyond the powers of language alone. And in his best poems, Whitman operates like an opera composer: he carries the English language into a new musical landscape. Whitman’s “melodies” surge boundlessly, spilling over the side of the page; his exclamations are wild and craggy. His poetry is both the waterfall and the rocks on which the water crashes.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

For Ahkeem

For Ahkeem is an affecting coming-of-age documentary that shines a light on what it means to grow up poor and black in 21st Century America. Below, former White House Social Secretary Deesha Dyer shares her thoughts on this powerful film.

By Deesha Dyer

I knew something good would come out of my insomniac Twitter scrolling. A few months ago I came across the trailer for the documentary For Ahkeem. I had never heard of the film but watched the trailer and was completely taken back. I saw myself in Daje, the teenage girl whose story it follows. While circumstances are quite different between us, the parallels were strong. The most striking was the balancing act she struggled to master—being labeled a "bad kid," an unstable family structure, and poverty.

Not long ago, this was my reality. It’s how I felt growing up in Philadelphia and later at a boarding school in Hershey, PA. I was a loud kid, and I mean loud! While my parents always encouraged me to stand up for myself, this attitude and communication method was not highly accepted in an academic or residential environment. Every time I got in trouble, I would get more defensive because while I took responsibilities for my actions, I didn’t understand why the world was afraid of me. I watched Daje go through these same emotions.

When I finally watched the complete film, I wanted nothing more than to hug Daje and let her know that it is okay and she is okay. I say this from experience because I ended up okay—actually more than okay, working for President and Mrs. Obama at the White House for almost eight years. Looking at headlines, it is easy to see how the stigma attached to young black girls still exists. I don’t know why I was naive to think it didn’t. For Ahkeem moved me to start focusing more on the narrative labeled around young black girls who are perhaps deemed too loud, too sassy, or too grown. I started to have open conversations with young girls—even taking some to see For Ahkeem—about how they are beautiful, assertive, bold, and courageous. How they can use their voices for good, as I had.

I encourage everyone to go see For Ahkeem. It gives a human glimpse into a perspective that may have you questioning if Daje needs to change, or the system needs to change. Daje is hopeful and that shines through the whole movie. It’s hard not to catch that same feeling when watching this brilliant film.

For Ahkeem screens Oct 13—19, and tickets are on sale now.

Starting with a White House internship at age 31, Deesha Dyer rose to become White House Social Secretary to President and Mrs. Barack Obama from 2015—17.

In Context: My Lai

Jonathan Berger and Kronos Quartet's fevered character study featuring tenor Rinde Eckert and Vân Ánh Võ considers the line between duty and conscience. Context is everything, so get closer to the production through our series of curated links, videos, and articles. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Monday, September 18, 2017

In Context: Olivier Py Sings Les Premiers Adieux de Miss Knife

A beguiling chanteuse with a voice of honey and barbed wire, Miss Knife oozes grit, glitz, and old-world glamour. Context is everything, so get closer to the production through our series of curated links, videos, and articles. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Performing My Lai

Below, My Lai's Rinde Eckert reflects on the creation of a work wrestling with the repercussions of atrocity, duty, and conscience nearly five decades after an international tragedy.

Photo: Zoran Orlic

By Rinde Eckert

On March 16, 1968, C Company of the United States Armed Forces marched on My Lai, a hamlet within the Son My village complex near the border of what was then North Vietnam and South Vietnam. They killed more than 500 civilians: women, old people, children, and infants. It was to be the first of a series of search and destroy missions called Task Force Barker. Hugh Thompson, a helicopter pilot, realizing what was going on, landed his helicopter, imposed himself between the berserk soldiers and the remaining villagers, and stopped the massacre. Shortly after Thompson’s irate report to his superiors immediately upon his return to base, Task Force Barker was suspended. It is safe to say that Thompson saved many more than the dozen lives he and his crew (gunners Larry Colburn and Glenn Andreotta) are credited with saving that day.

Tragedies of such magnitude cannot be approached with the brash velocity of the photographic. An almost pornographic nakedness in the document of the atrocity impresses us with its horror at the same time it distances us from that horror—makes it impossible to engage with, to stay with long enough to understand something of redemptive value, something to improve our understanding of ourselves and the world. The broad brush of revulsion paints us into a familiar (and therefore comforting) corner from which we look with a kind of hauteur. We are sympathetic while remaining essentially aloof. “We cannot possibly be that!,” we tell ourselves. The interviews with survivors of My Lai are heart-rending; there are no words… But they are not art. And art is often what we need most when the world has turned ugly and crazy. Documentary history tells us what happened, but art allows us to enter the past fully, to be made wiser by it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

In Context: Café Müller/The Rite of Spring

In 1984, Tanztheater Wuppertal made its New York debut at BAM, performing what would become the two most iconic works of Pina Bausch’s extraordinary repertoire. More than three decades later, the company returns with a landmark restaging of that historic double bill. Context is everything, so get closer to the production through our series of curated links, videos, and articles. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #PinaBausch.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Jamaa Fanaka: L.A. Rebel

By Jesse Trussell

Born in Jackson, Mississippi but raised in LA’s Compton, Jamaa Fanaka is a key figure in the group of filmmakers that emerged from UCLA in the 1970s, known as the L.A. Rebellion. Recent rediscovery efforts have elevated Julie Dash and Charles Burnett (who shot Fanaka’s first feature) into the pantheon of American filmmakers, but Fanaka’s films—an elemental mixture of an entertainer’s drive for narrative with a neo-realist focus on place and social relations—are still wildly under-seen. Financially successful yet forgotten, labeled Blaxploitation while recalling Cinema Novo as much as Super Fly, the work of Jamaa Fanaka is still hard to pin down today, five years after his passing.

For the first time in New York, BAMcinématek’s retrospective tribute Jamaa Fanaka: L.A. Rebel (Sep 22—27) brings together all of Fanaka’s work—from his first short film A Day in the Life of Willie Faust, or Death on the Installment Plan (starring Fanaka himself) to his final feature, 1992’s Street Wars. Though stark in his depiction of the struggle and violence his characters must endure in their daily lives, his sense of the African-American community as a family is key to the overarching humanism of his work. It’s not for nothing that the filmmaker, who was born Walter Gordon, chose the Swahili words meaning "togetherness" and "success” for his nom de cinema.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Fall Dance Insider

This fall, BAM Education partners with Mark Morris Dance Group to present a free workshop series designed especially for teenage dancers and choreographers. Three companies featured in BAM’s Next Wave Festival—Marc Bamuthi Joseph/The Living Word Project, ODC/Dance, and David Dorfman Dance—will lead immersive sessions in technique, composition, and improvisation, igniting students’ imaginations through movement. Meanwhile, participants will engage in direct discussion with the artists and attend performances, gaining unique insight into the creative process. The 2017 Fall Dance Insider application deadline is Sept 18—apply now!

Below, BAM Education & Community Program's own Eveline Chang reflects on the program in this piece originally published back in 2014.

Fall Dance Insider with Ivy Baldwin Dance. Photo: Piotr Redlinski

by Eveline Chang

This Fall, BAM Education partnered with Mark Morris Dance Center to present Fall Dance Insider, a free workshop series for 40 dance students grades 9—12. In conjunction with the 2014 BAM Next Wave Festival, participants learned from and engaged with some of the festival’s most renowned dance artists. Bénédicte Billet—who worked for years as a dancer with Iconic BAM Artist Pina Bausch and Tanztheater Wuppertal—and the 2014 Artist in Residence Ivy Baldwin led immersive workshops for these aspiring dancers and choreographers.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Whitman, Across the Divide

Photo: Gretjen Helene
By Robert Jackson Wood

“Since I have sat where you sit and breathed the air you breathe, I know you will hear me,” sings the poet Walt Whitman at the beginning of Matthew Aucoin’s opera Crossing, at BAM from October 3 to 8. It is, in our time, an almost perversely optimistic sentiment. Yet in the context of Whitman’s exuberant oeuvre, it’s maybe fitting. Whitman was an idealist, whose ebullient verse betrayed a sprawling fantasy of human communion—of bodies and souls merged, of distances overcome—sanctioned by an erotic metaphysics of shared experience. “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” he wrote in “Song of Myself.”

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The People Spoke

By Nora Tjossem

Sitting in the red plushness of the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, facing the proscenium arch, the weight of tradition climbs into your lap and takes its seat. But on Tuesday night, March 24, it was not the legacy of Pina Bausch or Robert Wilson that sat with us. It was the history—fraught, inflammable, and frighteningly present—of the United States of America.

The People Speak uses the work of historian Howard Zinn to bring life to the revolutionaries that have ignited social justice movements in the United States. “I start from the supposition that the world is topsy-turvy,” Zinn once proclaimed. Directed by longtime Zinn collaborator Anthony Arnove and performed by a lineup of actors, musicians, poets, and writers, the words of some of the most radical and transformative voices in this country’s history are unearthed from the oppressive, topsy-turvy status quo and given a stage worthy of their present import.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pina, Dark and Light

Pina Bausch in Café Müller. Photo: J. Paulo Pimenta
By Susan Yung

"It is not that I wanted to confront people. The misunderstanding is not that I love violence, it was quite the opposite. I was terrified of violence, but I wanted to understand the person doing the violence. That was the exploration." —Pina Bausch

This fall, when Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch returns to BAM for its 15th engagement from September 14 to 24, it comes full circle with the works Café Müller (1978) and The Rite of Spring (1975), both performed in the company’s inaugural run at BAM in 1984. The look and feel of Bausch’s repertory over the decades has, for the large part, shifted from dark and literally earthbound to light and air- and water-suffused. Ask longtime viewers which they prefer and you’ll get resounding votes for each. Taken together, they form a body of work which, while cut short by Bausch’s sudden death in 2009, is one of our era’s most influential and uncompromising artistic outputs.

While contemporary theater artists may not consciously or overtly quote Pina, she has emerged as one of the most influential theater artists working over the past half-century. Is a dance performance interrupted by a random bit of spoken text or a quotidian gesture? Are seemingly unrelated vignettes mixed together in a performance? Do costumes reinforce or subvert gender stereotypes? Does a jukebox soundtrack shift moods and accumulate to provide a changing and varied emotional landscape? These are all threads that Pina repeatedly wove into her astonishing repertory, and which have become common practices.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Bill T. Jones—A BAM Featured Archival Collection

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company performs Jones' A Letter to My Nephew at the BAM Harvey from Oct 3 to 7.

It's a good occasion to introduce you to the Leon Levy BAM Digital Archive, a vast trove of artifacts and ephemera from BAM's 156-year history as a performance and community center.

The featured collection on Bill T. Jones includes links to richly detailed entries on all of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company's BAM productions, plus a selection of materials from performances.

Clicking on a show title takes you to a page with a description of the show, collaborators (with links to their other productions at BAM), and ephemera documenting that show including photos, audio, programs, and more.

We are excited to be able to share this incredibly rich archive, and encourage you to poke around and discover the history of BAM and the artists and art that have made it a popular destination since 1861.

Susan Yung

Monday, August 28, 2017

Plus ça change

Va savoir. Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The iconic directors of the French New Wave changed the future of film when they blasted on screen in the 1950s and 1960s, which were characterized by a rebellion of standard practices, experimental filmmaking, and social issue exploration. These French New Wave auteurs have continued to push the envelope into the 2000s, revealing how they changed and adopted the styles, politics, and technologies of the 21st century. BAMcinématek’s new series, Plus ça change, loosely translated means “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” which perfectly encompasses late-career feature films from titans like Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Jacques Rivette, and Agnès Varda.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Pina Bausch, in her own words

Many works by Pina Bausch (1940—2009) can and have been parsed for complex emotional and psychological meaning, including the two in the 2017 Next Wave Festival, The Rite of Spring and Café Müller. Many of her creative impulses grew from life experiences in her youth, and the means—dance and movement—through which she found true expression. Bausch’s parents owned a small hotel with a restaurant, where she spent many a night tucked under a table, music in the air, observing the messy, ever-changing humanity unfolding around her amidst a time of war. She was certainly influenced by the Folkwang School where she studied with Kurt Jooss, learning free expression alongside classical technique, and gaining exposure to other genres. But she would develop her own style of tanztheater, enfolding all of the disparate elements to craft a completely unique vision that has influenced generations of artists.

Following, in Bausch’s own words mined from remarks and interviews, are thoughts and influences that informed her work emerge to form a picture of how her remarkable point of view came to life.

Nazareth Panadero, Rolf Borzik, Dominique Mercy in Café Muller. Copyright Graziano Arici.

From "What Moves Me" speech by Pina Bausch when presented the 2007 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy (full text here):

"Even the restaurant in our hotel was highly interesting for me. My parents had to work a great deal and weren’t able to look after me. In the evenings, when I was actually supposed to go to bed, I would hide under the tables and simply stay there. I found what I saw and heard very exciting: friendship, love, and quarrels—simply everything that you can experience in a local restaurant like this. I think this stimulated my imagination a great deal. I have always been a spectator. Talkative, I certainly wasn’t. I was more silent."

"I was ravenous to learn and to dance. That is why I applied for a scholarship from the German academic exchange service for the USA. And I did in fact receive it. Only then did it become clear what that meant: traveling by ship to America, aged 18 years, all alone, without being able to speak a word of English. My parents took me to Cuxhaven. A brass band was playing as the ship was setting off and everybody was crying. Then I went onto the ship and waved. My parents were also waving and crying. And I was standing on the deck and crying too; it was terrible. I had the feeling we would never see each other again."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Shining Light on My Lai

Photo: Zoran Orlic
By Christian Barclay

On March 16, 1968, US Army pilot Hugh Thompson and his crew were flying on a reconnaissance mission over the South Vietnamese village of My Lai when he spotted the bodies of men, women, and children strewn across the fields. He nosed his helicopter down and quickly realized what was taking place: American soldiers were killing innocent villagers at will––it was a massacre.

Over the course of a few frantic hours, Thompson tried to halt the carnage. He landed his helicopter between the Americans and the villagers, ordering his crew to shoot their fellow soldiers if they attacked the civilians. He called in support from other air units and together they evacuated a small group of villagers, including a young boy Thompson pulled from an irrigation ditch. Official counts vary, but between 350 and 500 Vietnamese died in My Lai that day.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

About the Other Weekend: Paul Thomas Anderson at BAM

BAMcinématek was honored to host director Paul Thomas Anderson for the beginning of the Jonathan Demme: Heart of Gold film series. He was joined by producer Edward Saxon, actor Paul Lazar, and Demme biographer Louis Black. We had four packed screenings of Something Wild, Melvin and Howard, Married to the Mob, and Citizen’s Band.

In in-depth Q&As, guest speakers shared personal and professional anecdotes about the late filmmaker, including some eclectic and hilarious behind-the-scenes knowledge. Some of the highlights involved the casting of Demme’s features.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Beautiful Game: An Interview with /peh-LO-tah/’s Marc Bamuthi Joseph

Soccer—as both an intricate, euphoric choreography and an exploited corporate cash cow—is the subject of /peh-LO-tah/, an electric meditation on the racial dimensions of the sport from multi-talented theater artist and performer Marc Bamuthi Joseph (red, black & GREEN: a blues, 2012 Next Wave). Using spoken-word poetry and fútbol-inspired footwork, Joseph and four performers dribble and pass their way from the pickup games of rural Haiti to the mega stadiums of Rio and Johannesburg, parsing the social justice of soccer to the sounds of hip-hop and samba. Against his own childhood memories of the game as a race-transcending source of happiness, Joseph posits a global reality in which black joy is all too often co-opted for financial gain, yet perseveres nonetheless. We sat down with Joseph to discuss the work in anticipation of its New York premiere this fall during the 2017 Next Wave Festival.

Photo: Bethanie Hines

Can you discuss the idea of soccer as a universal language?

Soccer isn’t just the world’s most popular sport, it is the activity to which we globally assign the most value as an emblem of cultural aesthetics. It isn’t just success on the pitch that communicates a nation’s character, it’s how the game is played, from Ghanaian grace to Brazilian flair to Spanish polyrhythm to German focus and consistency. That universality then is more pronounced against the stark contrast of political monocultures and repressive regimes. How do we register that universal joy in the shadow of South African apartheid? How do we reconcile with a country that meddles in the elections of other sovereign nations and also invites the planet to roam freely within its borders during the World Cup? In this case the sport reveals that joy is universal, as are the contradictions inherent among the men and women who passionately engage in it.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Jonathan Demme: Heart of Gold

Demme at work on The Manchurian Candidate. Photo: Paramount Pictures/Photofest

by Lindsay Brayton

Jonathan Demme: Heart of Gold is the most comprehensive retrospective to date of the late director’s work. The series showcases the depth of Demme’s cinematic genius with screenings of his classic films, such as the Talking Heads concert-documentary Stop Making Sense (screening Aug 18—24) and the Academy Award-winning The Silence of the Lambs (Aug 12), along with a number of Demme’s lesser-known documentaries.

When asked which of his films he felt was underappreciated, Demme responded Cousin Bobby (Aug 17), his 1992 documentary about his Harlem-based, politically passionate, Episcopalian minister cousin with ties to the Black Panthers. It’s a film about political awakening and crusading for civil rights—but with Demme’s trademark gentle touch.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Portrait of Pina (in 35 Objects)

In 1984, Tanztheater Wuppertal made its New York debut at BAM, performing what would become the two most iconic works of Pina Bausch’s extraordinary repertoire—Café Müller and The Rite of Spring. More than three decades later, the company returns with a landmark restaging of that historic double bill this fall as part of the 35th annual Next Wave Festival.

How fitting, then, that back in 2012 we asked illustrator Nathan Gelgud to illustrate a list of 35 objects that evoke her and her work—portraiture by association. Peruse the pictographs below, but be sure to let us know if we left anything out!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Edgar Wright Presents Heist Society

Reservoir Dogs.

By Edgar Wright

Newsflash, BAM: Crime does not pay! Don’t let this criminally entertaining series of heist films influence you to go a-robbing and a-looting when you leave the theater. Avoid the sticky ends and time in the slammer by simply living vicariously from the cinematic thrills of these robbing hoods. Getaway this summer with 22 solid gold heist movies curated by the team at BAMcinématek and myself:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Eat, Drink & Be Literary: Jacqueline Woodson

On April 5, acclaimed author Jacqueline Woodson came to BAMcafé for the third installment of this season’s Eat, Drink & Be Literary series. She read from both her novel Another Brooklyn and her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which also received the 2014 National Book Award, a Newbery Honor Award, and the NAACP Image Award. After the reading, she chatted with The New Yorker's Deborah Treisman. Listen to the full reading and conversation after the jump:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Reflecting on the Refugee Crisis

This past February, BAM and PEN America brought together writers from around the world to address the many refugee crises facing the world today. South African author Jonny Steinberg (whose book was adapted for Isango Ensemble’s A Man of Good Hope) joined Ethiopian-American novelist and writer Dinaw Mengestu for a conversation moderated by Iranian-American writer Roya Hakakian.

Mengustu spoke about his new acceptance of the term "immigrant writer:"

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Portraits and Process: BAMcinemaFest 2017

The 9th annual BAMcinemaFest kicks off tonight with the New York premiere of Aaron Katz's Gemini in the BAM Harvey Theater at 7:30pm. Earlier this season, BAM had the pleasure of partnering with photographer Robin Holland to create a series of portraits depicting this year's filmmakers. During the shoot, we asked each director a series of short questions about process, inspiration and this year's festival. Their answers follow:

Photo © Robin Holland
Lauren Wolkstein & Christopher Radcliff

1. Describe your film in three words:
Lauren: Atmospheric road mystery.
Chris: Sad-boy-secrets.

2. What movie(s) made you want to become a filmmaker?
L: Blue Velvet is one of many for me.
C: I honestly don't remember.

3. What film(s) are you looking forward to seeing at this year's festival?
L: A Ghost Story.
C: Golden Exits. Also we both really want to see I Am Another You for a second time.

Friday, June 9, 2017

BAM 1968: Merce Cunningham’s First Major New York Season

This summer, in the Natman Room off of BAM's main lobby, a moment in BAM's history is celebrated—the first major New York run of Merce Cunningham Dance Company in May 1968. Stop by and check out the photos and artifacts that document the first run of many to follow by this renowned company.

In May 1968, as the Vietnam War raged on and the civil rights movement gained momentum, the cultural scene was undergoing a revolution of its own in Brooklyn. That month, choreographer Merce Cunningham and his company performed 12 dances in eight performances at BAM in his troupe’s first major New York season. It was part of the first full season of programming curated by Harvey Lichtenstein, the impresario who would go on to lead BAM for 32 years. That inaugural season emphasized dance and included runs by the companies of Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor, and José Limón, as well as poetry and symphonic and jazz music programs. (The following year, BAM presented the Festival of Dance, comprising Martha Graham, Anna Sokolow, Erick Hawkins, Twyla Tharp, Meredith Monk, and Yvonne Rainer, as well as the above.)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

BAM R&B Festival

The Suffers. Photo courtesy of the artists
On June 8, the BAM R&B Festival at MetroTech Commons in Downtown Brooklyn begins its 23rd season with a dynamic slate of live R&B, soul, and jazz. It includes familiar names—Ramsey Lewis, or the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band—plus new finds, chosen by longtime producer Danny Kapilian. Here’s a brief overview of the series lineup, which takes place on Thursdays from noon to 2pm, free of charge.

Jun 8—Ramsey Lewis was named a Jazz Master by the NEA. He has 80 albums, seven gold, and three Grammys. He became a fixture on the 1950s Chicago jazz scene, and worked with Earth, Wind & Fire, who appeared on his 1974 album Sun Goddess.

Jun 15—Raul Midón sang backup for Shakira and worked with Stevie Wonder. This emotionally powerful singer is known for his improvisational mouth-horn technique, performing a “trumpet” solo with his mouth.

Jun 22—The Suffers of Houston, TX comprises 10 members. Its “Gulf Coast Soul” braids in threads of rock, Latin, country, and southern hip-hop. Its big horn section and vocals by Kam Franklin have earned accolades and TV appearances.

Jun 29—John Hammond, acoustic guitar legend, had Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix in his band—at once. This Blues Hall of Famer and Grammy winner has 33 albums to his name.

July 6—Sinkane, a four-piece led by Ahmed Gallab, offers Afrobeat cadences, funky guitar, and slinky grooves, celebrating life with a generosity of spirit.

Jul 13—Tank and The Bangas blend rhythmic soul and spoken word. This New Orleans outfit, with intriguing lyrics, funky synth, sax, and flute won the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest.

Jul 20—Preservation Hall Jazz Band is the house band of New Orleans’ Preservation Hall. Now in its 50th year, the group combines a reverence for deep tradition with fresh explorations.

Jul 27—El Septeto Santiaguero of Cuba explores and updates traditional son music. Its seven players won the 2015 Latin Grammy (Best Traditional Tropical Album), honing their chops at the famed Casa de la Trova nightclub.

Aug 3—Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles are a six-piece led by Henry, who debuted at the Apollo. Henry has won two Grammys with Snarky Puppy and has a huge fanbase.

Aug 10—Liv Warfield, Judith Hill, and Shelby J: Love 4 One Another are proteges of Prince, and continue his incomparable legacy under his charity’s namesake.

Need more? Check out a playlist of this year's artists over on Spotify.

Forest City Ratner Companies is Presenting Sponsor of BAM R&B Festival at MetroTech.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A World of Emotions

A World of Emotions. Photo courtesy Onassis Cultural Center New York
By William Lynch

The humanities are the exploration of aspects of human culture—that which makes us human—often expressed in the arts, literature, and philosophy. BAM’s formal programmatic focus on the humanities goes back decades. Given its 156-year history and place in Brooklyn and American culture, BAM has roots in the pursuit of those genres going back to its founding. From its earliest days, the Academy offered lectures for local seamen’s and tradesmen’s associations, while well into the 20th century many great thinkers, explorers, and leaders held sway before a populace eager for civic engagement. Indeed, the Academy’s founders directly alluded to the concept and place of the academy in ancient Greece when selecting a name that would imply the notion of “ideas.”

Monday, June 5, 2017

Next Wave of Stagecraft

Joshua Leon, Michelle Aguda, and Victoria Inguanta.
Photo: Adriana Leshko
By David Hsieh & Adriana Leshko

One came from Washington State after deciding a career in social sciences was not for her. Another got a wake-up call when she entered the carpentry shop of MoMA PS1 to encounter machines she didn’t know how to operate. Yet another was told by a mentor that it might be a good way to channel his penchant for public speaking. What they now have in common is their participation in the inaugural BAM Apprentice in Stagecraft (BAS) program. Thanks to a grant from the New York City Theater Subdistrict Council, BAS allows BAM to train young people from under-represented communities as stagehands and production managers in four-month periods. As Victoria Inguanta, one of this highly selective and enthusiastic group of trailblazers, put it: “I get paid to get an education and then hands-on experience? Are you kidding me?” Here, she and fellow apprentices Michelle Aguda and Joshua Leon talk about their experiences at BAM after a month in the program.

What is your earliest and/or most powerful memory of the performing arts?

Michelle Aguda: My earliest memory of performing arts is when I chose to learn to play the trumpet at 11 years old. 

Joshua Leon: My first experience with theater was in the second grade. I played John Henry.

Victoria Inguanta: When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to see The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center several times. It definitely was a formative part of my childhood. When I grew older, my family would get tickets to Broadway shows for special occasions, so I was privileged enough to see a lot of theater growing up.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Jimmy D’Adamo Lights Up BAM

Jimmy D'Adamo in his natural habitat, stage left. Photo: David Hsieh
By David Hsieh

Jimmy D’Adamo, the head electrician at BAM, once ran the spotlight for his high school plays. “I was hooked,” he said. A short post-college stint at American Express confirmed that “I was not a suit-and-tie person.” So when one of his classmates from Brooklyn College (major: technical theater) asked him to make a change, he immediately went down to the union office (Local 4, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees [I.A.T.S.E.], AFL-CIO), filled out a card, and started working at BAM in 1977. And now, after 40 years, he is saying goodbye.

In Context: Limits

Sweden’s Cirkus Cirkör offers an acrobatic exploration of an EU in flux, equal parts high-flying spectacle and trenchant critique. Context is everything, so get closer to the production through our series of curated links, videos, and articles. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #CirkusCirkör.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

2017 BAMcinemaFest

Marjorie Prime. Photo: FilmRise
By Maureen Masters

In just nine years, BAMcinemaFest has established itself as a leading American independent film festival. With an annual slate of around 30 New York premieres of features, documentaries, and shorts, plus special events like the 25th anniversary of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing in 2014, and 2015’s 20th anniversary cast reunion of Larry Clark’s Kids, the festival provides an invaluable platform for emerging artists and holds an important place in the Brooklyn film community, making it an ideal hometown premiere spot for New York and Brooklyn-based filmmakers. Plus, films don’t get lost in the shuffle at BAMcinemaFest with the tightly curated selection screening only at two venues on the BAM campus (the BAM Rose Cinemas and the Harvey Theater) during the 12-day festival, from June 14 to 25.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

In Context: Tom Zé

Music legend Tom Zé, the avant garde conscience of Brazil’s 1960s Tropicália movement, exuberantly channels the spirit of Salvador and São Paulo with an evening of samba and bossa nova reimagined as only he can. Context is everything, so get closer to the production through our series of curated links, videos, and articles. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #TomZé.

Circus—an inclusive art form

Honorary Ringmaster Isabella Rossellini at the Big Apple Circus in 1978.
Courtesy BAM Hamm Archives.
by Chris Tyler

The circus is many things: an experience, a practice, a lifestyle, an education, a culture. But, above all else, it is an inclusive art form. “There’s no exclusion,” remarked Duncan Wall, co-founder and former national director of Circus Now, during a 2013 talk on contemporary circus. “Audiences of any class, race, or culture can enjoy the form and participate in it.” For denizens of a visual society, there’s something uniquely accessible about the circus and its focus on the physical body. People are not shut out from understanding the experience.

Yet, “because circus enters our lives so early in our lives as children...we become fixed in our thinking” about the form, as noted by Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo in the Beyond Physical Theater podcast (embedded below). The term itself summons images of elephants, clown cars, and bombastic ringleaders alongside the requisite smells of popcorn and cotton candy. But the circus itself is not codified—it is a non-verbal bodily practice. It’s a vehicle for expression, a delicate marriage of risk and virtuosity. It’s theater, dance, music, sport, and visual art—and the sky is (quite literally) its limit. Circus is an inclusive art in this sense then, too, in that it readily incorporates multiple forms while simultaneously blurring genre boundaries.