Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Dance Archives Datebook Museums & Galleries VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

SWAN SONG

For the sixth season of its annual Stuart Regen Visionaries Series, the New Museum has elected the director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan) to be its keynote speaker. This honor — which places Aronofsky in conversation with the critic and novelist Lynne Tillman — has previously been given to such noteworthy personalities as the choreographer Bill T. Jones, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. A graduate of Harvard University and the AFI Conservatory, Aronofsky is nothing if not a capable orator, and the drastic arc of his career — from 1998’s micro-budget Pi to this year’s massive, commendably strange Noah — should provide more than enough fodder for a stimulating discussion.

Tue., Sept. 30, 7 p.m., 2014

Categories
ART ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES Dance Archives Theater

The Comeback of Narrative Dance: Visions in the Dark

When you attend a dance performance, you sit and watch other people move. They warm up; you settle down. They bask in bright light; you find yourself in the dark, literally and often metaphorically.

In the old days, you’d sit while performers acted out stories: about princes and princesses, women who turn into birds, wicked stepmothers. To a large extent, this is still the case. Narrative dance has made a comeback; this season New Yorkers will watch as beautifully trained artists perform Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (the National Ballet of Canada, at the Koch); flamenco genius Soledad Barrio enacts the ancient Greek tale of Antigone (at the Joyce); and Mark Dendy finally unveils his talky version of the Theseus myth (at Abrons Arts Center). The American Ballet Theatre season at the Koch is full of classic shorter stories; Bill T. Jones collects a bunch that are shorter still, at New York Live Arts; and two African men, Faustin Linyekula and Panaibra Gabriel Canda, bring tales of post-colonial dislocation, using words and movement, to Brooklyn’s BRIC House Ballroom.

See also: The 2014 Fall (Arts) Issue: An Index

Creating dance has historically been the province of the unemployed. In the 16th century that meant the nobility; King Louis XIV of France helped to popularize ballet as a diversion for his courtiers. More recently, it’s been young men without jobs who’ve had the freedom necessary to perfect the phenomenon we call breakdancing, on the streets of our cities, and on display during October’s Fall for Dance series at New York City Center.

Some of the most appealing shows this fall are, in fact, social dances, like Pina Bausch’s Kontakthof, which follows 11 couples through a long evening at a German dancehall — in this case, the BAM Opera House. Also at BAM, Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, founded 50 years ago with the help of Martha Graham and now under the direction of Ohad Naharin, knits together classical training with movement derived from pleasure-seeking young clubgoers in Sadeh21, made in collaboration with Naharin’s powerhouse ensemble.

We spectators, however, continue to sit—the price we pay for attending so-called “high art.” Go to a stadium: During the action, the lights stay on and you’re free to wander around, grab a beer, take a leak. But we whose job and pleasure is attending to the complexities of concert dance know our place: riveted to the action and, like the long-suffering Jewish mother in the light-bulb joke, sitting there in the dark.

DANCENOW Joe’s Pub Festival
September 3-6 and 13

Forty choreographers take the Pub’s tiny stage in short works; audience favorites each night take encores a week later. Highlights include the Bang Group, Bridgman/Packer Dance, Claire Porter, and Zvidance. Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, joespub.com

National Ballet of Canada
September 9-14

Christopher Wheeldon’s 2011 hit Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland finally comes to town, with an atmospheric score by Joby Talbot and dazzling designs by Bob Crowley. Performed by the marvelous National Ballet of Canada dancers, it’s been called “both recognizably traditional and joltingly contemporary at one and the same moment.” David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, davidhkochtheater.com

Fall for Dance at the Delacorte
September 12-13

The 11th Fall for Dance festival kicks off with a free show in Central Park, featuring Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in a work by Nacho Duato, Bill T. Jones’s spectacular D-Man in the Waters (Part 1), Damian Woetzel’s new project with jookin’ star Lil Buck, and dancers from the New York City Ballet. Tickets available in the park on show days, or via online lottery. Delacorte Theater, Central Park at 79th Street, publictheater.org

Pacific Northwest Ballet
October 8-12

This strong Seattle-based troupe, under the direction of NYCB alum Peter Boal, performs dances new to New York by Christopher Wheeldon (to music by Joby Talbot) and Alejandro Cerrudo (music by David Child and Max Richter). Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, joyce.org

Fall for Dance
October 8-19

This big dance bargain provides glimpses of 20 troupes hailing from India, Sweden, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, France, South Africa, and across the U.S. — including the Australian Ballet and Philly hip-hop stars Rennie Harris Puremovement, spread over five programs, each playing twice. Tickets, $15, go on sale September 14; move fast! New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, nycitycenter.org

RoseAnne Spradlin
October 8-11

Spradlin, an alchemist of risk, sexuality, and wild style, returns to NYLA with the haunting g-h-o-s-t c-r-o-w-n, for three women and “additional dancers.” She collaborates with composer Jeffrey Young, visual artist Glen Fogel, and lighting designer Stan Pressner. New York Live Arts, 219 West 19th Street, newyorklivearts.org

Dance Heginbotham
October 9-11

The New York premiere of Chalk and Soot marks a collaboration between witty choreographer John Heginbotham and composer Colin Jacobsen; the latter has set Dadaist poems by Wassily Kandinsky, and the score will be performed by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and singer Carla Kihlstedt. Jerome Robbins Theater, Baryshnikov Arts Center, 450 West 37th Street, whitelightfestival.org

Mark Dendy Projects
October 9-26

In his autobiographical Labyrinth, Dendy, as compelling an actor as he ever was a dancer, retells the Theseus myth as a drug-fueled adventure on the eve of Superstorm Sandy. Heather Christian, Stephen Donovan and Matthew Hardy join in to create sound, music, and video live onstage in the maelstrom. Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street, abronsartscenter.org

American Ballet Theatre
October 22-November 2

It’s the troupe’s 75th anniversary, and they’ll perform Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas and Christopher Wheeldon’s Thirteen Diversions, in addition to works by Antony Tudor, Twyla Tharp, Jerome Robbins, Frederick Ashton, Michel Fokine, Leonide Massine, and Agnes de Mille, plus a premiere by Liam Scarlett. David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, davidhkochtheater.com

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch
October 23-November 2

The mistress of European dance theater is five years gone, but her troupe marches on, returning to BAM with her 1978 Kontakthof, 30 years after it first wowed local audiences. BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue, bam.org

Tales of Home: Congo/Mozambique
October 24-25

Le Cargo by Faustin Linyekula/Studios Kabako fuses storytelling and dance to evoke a sense of loss. In Time & Spaces: The Marrabenta Solos, Panaibra Gabriel Canda works with guitarist Jorge Domingos. Both pieces explore intimate experiences of cultural dislocation in Africa. BRIC House Ballroom, 647 Fulton Street, Fort Greene, bricartsmedia.org

Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca
October 29-November 9

Noche Flamenca y Antigona, choreographed by artistic director Martin Santangelo, features the incomparable Barrio as Sophocles’ tragic heroine; the music is live, the performers are fierce, and the experience is unforgettable. Santangelo, who is Barrio’s husband, rewrote the play’s text into lyrics for singer and guitar. Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, joyce.org

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
November 4-15

Jones’s Story/Time 35, 36, 37 & 38 is inspired by John Cage’s Indeterminacy: Each performance is different, weaving together movement, music, and one-minute stories and featuring special guest artists. New York Live Arts, 219 West 19th Street, newyorklivearts.org

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company
November 6-8 and 13-15

Inspired by the life and work of photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris, who documented black life in Pittsburgh from 1936 to 1975, Brown’s One Shot has video projections by Clifton Taylor and music by Anónimo Consejo, Billy Strayhorn, Ahmad Jamal, Mary Lou Williams, Arturo Sandoval, Mamadouba Mohammed Camara, Lena Horne, and Phyllis Hyman. BRIC House Ballroom, 647 Fulton Street, Fort Greene, bricartsmedia.org

Batsheva Dance Company
November 12-15

Ohad Naharin invented a technique called Gaga, which has catapulted his 18-member troupe into the front ranks of contemporary dance. In Sadeh21, to a musical collage, they perform gender-bent line and club dances that evolve into abstract scenarios of humor and beauty. BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue, bam.org

Categories
Calendar CULTURE ARCHIVES Dance Archives Datebook Events FILM ARCHIVES NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES TV ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES

Alex Gibney’s Doc Finding Fela Celebrates the Musician

Perhaps fitting for a celebration of a musician whose polyrhythmic extravaganzas tended to run 20-plus minutes, Alex Gibney’s doc Finding Fela takes a while to get started. The opening scenes focus on rehearsals for Broadway’s Fela!, and in the early going, Gibney shows us more footage of stage-Fela Sahr Ngaujah than of the Afro-pop pioneer himself — an odd choice but not a tragic one, since the too-short musical performances of both prove thrilling and hypnotic.

A pair of talking-head notables offers what play as apologies for the haphazard structure of Gibney’s film: Bill T. Jones, the Broadway show’s choreographer and co-author of its book, admits that the theater reduced the complex Fela to just two dimensions, and we see him and Ngaujah hashing over how to present Fela’s polyamorous hedonism without alienating Manhattan audiences. Questlove, meanwhile, describes his own initial uncertainty about Fela!: How true to its hero could it be if the songs didn’t run the length of an album side?

Finding Fela also reduces its subject and skimps on the epicness of his art, but once it gets going, it’s fine, a somewhat scattered précis of the life and accomplishment of one of the 20th century’s towering musicians, activists, and curiosities.

Still, as Gibney dashes through histories of Nigeria’s civil wars, Fela’s declaration of his Lagos home as an independent republic, his discovery of James Brown, and his subsequent invention of Afro funk, his constant public weed-smoking, his courage in recording antimilitary political music and his numerous arrests for doing so, his simultaneous marriages and eventual death from AIDS, it’s hard not to wonder: Why waste time showing us rehearsals for a Broadway show?

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Dance Archives Living NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

LESSONS LEARNED

Robert (“not the highway guy”) Moses, award-winning San Francisco–based choreographer and teacher, uses movement to explore the lives, beliefs, and potential of “real people.” The Pleasure of the Lesson is his first work for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the country’s biggest, busiest modern dance company. It opens tomorrow and features a collage of songs by Baby Elephant and Hauschka. Also new to the Ailey troupe this season: the company premieres of Asadata Dafora’s groundbreaking 1932 solo Awassa Astrige/Ostrich and Hans van Manen’s 1995 Polish Pieces, as well as David Parsons’s high-tech 1982 charmer, Caught, which you can catch tonight. Completing the rep for this run are pieces by Wayne McGregor, Ronald K. Brown, Bill T. Jones, Ohad Naharin, and Aszure Barton — and at 12 of the 15 performances, Ailey’s masterful 1960 ballet, Revelations.

Wed., June 11, 7 p.m., 2014

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Dance Archives VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

FREE SPIRIT

Now in his third year at the helm of the former Dance Theater Workshop, Bill T. Jones adds intellectual heft to the operation with a project called Live Ideas. In 2013, he and curator Lawrence Weschler celebrated Oliver Sacks. This week, a diverse consortium of academics and artists gather for James Baldwin, This Time!, five days of attention to the pioneering black, gay writer’s life and prose, on the eve of what would have been Baldwin’s 90th birthday. Carrie Mae Weems and Jamaica Kincaid talk with Jones on opening night (Wednesday), Stew previews his new work, Notes of a Native Song, on Friday, and Charles O. Anderson and Dianne McIntyre offer new dances inspired by Baldwin’s work. Plus, appearances by poets, scholars, activists, and actors.

Thursdays-Sundays, noon. Starts: April 24. Continues through April 27, 2014

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Dance Archives FILM ARCHIVES NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

BODIES IN MOTION

Years in the making, Greg Vander Veer’s Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter (pictured at left), rich with archival footage, has its world premiere tonight at 8 at the Dance on Camera Festival. The opening night of this redoubtable festival at Walter Reade Theater appropriately takes place alongside the Juilliard School, where Martha Hill was the founding director of dance from 1952 until 1985, fighting the good fight to get the discipline recognized by the conservatory. Also on the roster, at sites all over Lincoln Center: films about Rudolf Nureyev, JoAnna Mendl Shaw with horses in Sweden, Bill T. Jones, Pina Bausch and Chantal Akerman, and many more, some of them free.

Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Starts: Jan. 31. Continues through Feb. 2, 2014

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Dance Archives Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

IN MOTION

Active in one form or another for close to 50 years, Fresh Tracks, a juried program of dances by emerging choreographers, has hosted such art stars as Bill T. Jones (who now runs the place, thankyouverymuch), Deborah Jowitt (longtime Voice dance critic), and Elizabeth Streb (one of several MacArthur winners on the roster). It attracts dance makers from across the world and across genres and has helped launch many an enduring career. This year’s presentations, ranging from physical theater to krump and house, include works by Martita Abril of Tijuana, Mexico; Maximilian Balduzzi of the Italian Dolomites; Philadelphia movers Ben Grinberg and Nick Gillette; Daniel Holt, from California by way of Ohio State and now a resident of Brooklyn; Leslie Parker, another Brooklynite; and Gabrielle Revlock, another Philadelphian.

Thu., Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m., 2013

Categories
ART ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES Dance Archives Theater

Bill T. Jones Celebrates the Joy of Oliver Sacks

Bill T. Jones could not be busier this week. His 30-year-old ensemble, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, just opened “Play and Play,” a two-week season at the Joyce, studded with new and repurposed dances, many set to live music by the Orion String Quartet. Another new work, based on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and made in collaboration with Anne Bogart and her SITI company, is touring, and Jones himself is taking meetings toward a big Broadway musical based on the film Super Fly, which he’s on deck to direct and choreograph.

But on Jones’s front burner right now is the first iteration of Live Ideas, an event designed to expand the audience of his company’s new headquarters on West 19th Street, bringing into its sleek theater “people who don’t ordinarily go to dance spaces,” according to humanities czar Lawrence Weschler, whom Jones recruited to curate “The Worlds of Oliver Sacks,” a five-day festival set to open on April 17.

Jones’s troupe, on the hunt for headquarters in the city, bailed out the 45-year-old Dance Theater Workshop two years ago, retiring its debt while acquiring office and studio space there. The new organization has been renamed New York Live Arts, though it’s sometimes sarcastically referenced by insiders as “Bill T.W.”; Jones is executive artistic director and “senior thought leader.” Next month they depart from their usual mission—the nurturing of emerging artists—to celebrate the polymath Dr. Sacks on the eve of his 80th birthday. Sacks is still practicing medicine and publishing his neurological thrillers (in The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, as well as between hard covers) at an age when most of his contemporaries have packed it in.

Planning the first of what are projected to be annual humanities festivals are Jones himself and Weschler, author of many nonfiction classics and a longtime friend of Sacks. Jones and Weschler, born just two days apart in 1952, met last year at a dinner at the home of Jenette Kahn, the former president of DC Comics and Mad magazine and now a movie producer. Weschler, a very busy guy with diverse interests that nearly rival those of his favorite scientist, agreed to helm the festival only if he could do exactly what he wanted, which was to focus on Sacks and “the embodied mind.” Weschler says Jones “wanted to explore the intellectual underpinnings of body work: body politic, body and soul.” The choreographer had read several of Sacks’s books, and was especially taken with his essay on autistic animal scientist Temple Grandin.

“It’s going to be pretty terrific,” says Weschler, who revels in designing festivals that fuse the arts, humanities, and other subjects; formerly the artistic director of the Chicago Humanities Festival, he’s now doing similar work at NYU. He befriended Sacks, whom he calls a “clinical ontologist,” in the 1970s, during Sacks’s days as “a complete recluse”—before the publication of the physician’s second book, Awakenings, which chronicles the impact of the drug L-dopa on an asylum full of “frozen,” nearly comatose people. Weschler calls the book a “strange, silent masterpiece”; it inspired the Oscar-nominated 1990 film starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. The questions Sacks tends to lead with in his clinical work, says Weschler, are “How are you? What is it like to be you?” His instinct is to treat the patient, the human being, rather than merely curing a disease.

A much larger and more multidisciplinary project than the usual run of dance activities scheduled in New York Live Arts’ spaces, the festival feels like an ocean liner steaming into a cove usually occupied by rowboats. Sacks himself is a serious swimmer and rower who lived for years on City Island and swam under the Throgs Neck Bridge; he has said he does his best thinking in the water. He has wide-ranging and evolving interests, and Weschler’s intention is to celebrate them all, including his early experiments with hallucinogens (chronicled in his latest book, Hallucinations). An avid motorcyclist in his youth, Sacks once held the record for a speeding ticket, coming off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge at 122 mph, says Weschler. He’s currently an artist-in-residence at Columbia, supported by a grant from a British supermarket magnate.

Now living in Greenwich Village, Sacks himself will grace several sessions of the festival, including a keynote conversation between him and Jones, moderated by Weschler, on opening day; a screening, on Saturday morning, of a British television documentary on Awakenings; and a Sunday-evening session in which the good doctor and Radiolab‘s Robert Krulwich will explore Sacks’s early years.

Performances Thursday through Sunday appear under the rubric Re: Awakenings; each is paired with a screening of a new film by Bill Morrison, a master at repurposing ancient film stock, who has transformed a six-hour trove of Sacks’s original Super-8 footage of his comatose patients waking up after decades of immobility into a lyrical 15-minute version scored by Philip Glass. The dance component includes a new work by choreographer Donna Uchizono, based on material in Awakenings. Original plans called for the piece to feature Mikhail Baryshnikov, but the great danseur-turned-producer had to bow out due to scheduling conflicts. So Uchizono herself will perform the work, which she calls Out of Frame, “because [Sacks’s subjects] are a little out of frame from what is deemed normal perception. They were sleeping for years; L-dopa brought them out of it, but it had so many challenges and side effects. It’s heartbreaking.”

Uchizono will also perform her 1999 piece State of Heads, reworked for a quartet. “We’re changing some of it to emphasize the Sacksian characteristics, the things he talks about. My physical vocabulary lends itself to those ideas.” She drew inspiration from a comment from one of Sacks’s patients, who had a habit of stopping dead while traveling across a room: “It’s not as simple as it looks. I don’t just come to a halt; I’m still going, but now I have run out of space to move in. . . . “

Other dance elements in the festival include a ballet score by Tobias Picker, played by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, accompanying a solo dance performance by Daniel Hay-Gordon choreographed by Aletta Collins, and a panel called “Minding the Dancing Body,” at which philosophers Colin McGinn and Alva Noë will discuss the intellectual foundations of dance with Jones and choreographer Miguel Gutierrez.

Sacks, says Weschler, “turned out to be extremely important in the revolution that happened at Gallaudet [the country’s leading university serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students] 25 years ago, when they tried to hire a president who didn’t speak American Sign Language: Oliver chronicled that for The New York Review of Books.” So Weschler has programmed Harold Pinter’s play A Kind of Alaska to be performed on April 20 and 21. Based on Sacks’s work, it appears in two versions: the Atlantic Theater Company production with actors who speak, directed by Karen Kohlhaas, and another rendered entirely in ASL, directed by Kim Weild. “If you’re going to do a sign-language version of the Pinter play, you have to translate it. I didn’t want supertitles: the audience of hearing people should be able to focus on how beautiful the sign language is.”

Festival sessions run five full days, and include panels on weight lifting, exercise, and long-distance swimming (all Sacks passions); disembodiedness; musicophilia and music therapy; ferns, cycads, and cephalopods (he was an old-fashioned botanist); chemistry (his original intellectual playground); stereoscopy; writing; neurology; and the Tourette’s, Parkinson’s, and deaf communities, all of which regard him as a hero. Plans are also afoot to live-stream keynote sessions at newyorklivearts.org, and all of them will be recorded.

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, through April 7, Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, joyce.org

Live Ideas: The Worlds of Oliver Sacks, April 17–21, New York Live Arts, 219 West 19th Street, newyorklivearts.org/liveideas

Categories
ART ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES Dance Archives Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES Theater

Spoon River Anthology Gets a Crowd

If you ever wondered what the love child of Bill T. Jones and Peter and the Starcatcher would look like at a fraction of the price, journey to Morningside Heights this weekend (or Boerum Hill next week) for Spoon River Anthology, Jimmy Maize’s adaptation of Edgar Lee Masters’ from-the-grave recollections of a small town’s citizens (à la Act III of Our Town). Masters’s tome contains no less than 212 characters and 240 poems, and has been repurposed by Maize as a free-form theatrical production with 100 (!) performers—most all fresh-faced, enthusiastic Columbia University students ready to prove their mettle.

Maize, who also directed, uses his massive cast as a delivery service for Masters’s melancholic short tales of war, poverty, religion, and marriage among many other themes. Choreographed by Jon Cooper and Marine Sialelli, the actors fluidly embody everything from trees to crashing waves to tombstones, and like Starcatcher, they do all the literal heavy lifting too—using electrical cord, handheld Klieg lights, and sometimes even musical instruments. As one would expect, casting college students has a drawback—all of the performances live in the same place of full-throated, jut-jawed earnestness—but as a fluid piece of theater, it’s often quite elegant.

Beautifully aided by David Bengali’s gorgeous lighting and Eli Zoller and Ethan Wagner’s appealing, rural-tinged orchestrations, the show occasionally loses focus, especially in a much-protracted final act. But no matter the content, it’s hard to deny the rush of seeing such a volume of performers engulfing you in such an elemental way—it takes the shape of the largest campfire tale ever concocted. And what’s purer theater than that?

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Dance Archives FILM ARCHIVES MUSIC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

TIME MACHINE

Once upon a time, before H&M and all the fancy boutiques took over, Soho was home to a little place called the Kitchen, the pioneering home for the avant-garde performing arts. In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Kitchen (which is now in Chelsea), they’ve raided their archives for the exhibit The View from a Volcano: The Kitchen’s Soho Years, 1971–1985. See videos and other artworks from those inspiring early days by Laurie Anderson, the Beastie Boys, Philip Glass, Bill T. Jones, Meredith Monk, Arthur Russell, Cindy Sherman, Sonic Youth, and the Talking Heads, among others.

Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: June 30. Continues through Aug. 27, 2011