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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rhythms and Liberation: Meet the BAM/Restoration DanceAfrica Ensemble

by Tamar MacKay

While many New Yorkers headed out of town for Memorial Day weekend, BAM presented the 36th DanceAfrica Festival. In another successful year, the youth dance company Restoration Dance Theatre Company represented Brooklyn in the highly coveted event. This important partnership between BAM and the Restoration Dance Theatre began in 1997, when the BAM/Restoration DanceAfrica Ensemble debuted. The company includes dancers varying in age from small children to young adults. The dancers are ambassadors for the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the nation's first community development corporation, which partners with residents and businesses to improve the quality of life in central Brooklyn.

We caught up with some of the company performers, all of whom have been with the company for several years, and two who started dancing with Restoration at the ages of 4 and 5! They shared some of their favorite DanceAfrica moments and gave valuable advice to the next generation of artists.

BAM/Restoration Dance Ensemble performers Deirdre Brock, Qahirah Kibler, Shaniya Hyndman, Jasmine Poole, Tianna Smith

In Context: DanceAfrica

Get even closer to the DanceAfrica 2013 performances, bazaar, films, and more with this curated selection of links, articles, and original blog pieces related to the celebration. For those who've already seen any part of it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below. Ago! Amée!

Friday, May 24, 2013

How Many Miles from Brooklyn to Bulawayo?

by Sophie Shackleton

Umkhathi Theatre Works performing in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (Photo: Nick Schwartz-Hall)

DanceAfrica is a treasured annual event for BAM and the Brooklyn community to celebrate African and African-American culture. Behind the scenes, it's much more than a weekend: it's a story of an ongoing relationship between BAM and Africa. Baba Chuck Davis started DanceAfrica 36 years ago, and for more than 20 years, has invited an ensemble from the African continent to perform at BAM. Two years ago, a dynamic relationship began to form with Zimbabwe.

DanceAfrica's Diaspora: A Guide

By Robert Wood; Illustrations by Nathan Gelgud

It's tough to overstate the feeling of unity that attending a DanceAfrica performance can inspire. This is not a time for cynicism, the Memorial Day weekend celebration seems to say; it's a time for feeling the common ancestor in your drum-and-dance-rattled bones. Even so, we couldn't help but note one fact related to this year's festival that's based around differences: the sheer number of countries involved. Below, enjoy this breakdown of DanceAfrica by country—11 in all.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Gallim Dance Blushes in Black and White

by Susan Yung

Bret Easterling and Dan Walzack in Blush. Photo by: Franziska Strauss

Gallim Dance's Blush, choreographed by Andrea Miller, transforms the Fishman into an ersatz boxing ring, rimmed by a row of brilliant footlights upstage. The six dancers wear elegant, stylized black garments, and their bodies are chalk-white, heightening the sense of ritual and formality while ironically disguising the title's action. However, by the hour-long work's end, the white paint has smudged, dripped, and smeared across the black marley, transforming the stage into an abstracted mud pit.

Miller's movement is informed by the years she danced with Ohad Naharin's Batsheva Company in Israel, but it is distinctly Miller's own. It has an overt, inventive physicality, which at times approaches the breathtakingly brutal, but it can also draw you in with a minute subtlety. The close proximity in the Fishman allows the audience to absorb every detail and be engaged by a dancer's curious stare. Miller's musical choices make for an entertainingly divergent sound score, from Chopin to Wolf Parade.

Gallim Dance, which presents Blush through May 26, is among the Brooklyn-based companies chosen to participate in BAM's inaugural Professional Development Program. Look for additional performances in the coming months at the BAM Fisher, beginning with Tiffany Mills Company from May 30 to June 2.

Ibsen and Munch—What's the Connection?

by William Lynch

Edvard Munch, The Dance of Life, 1925. Photo: Munch Museet, Oslo.

Ibsen and Munch. What's the connection? Besides being two giants of Norwegian culture when Scandinavia was a hotbed of artistic ferment, I never really thought about it until I saw the promotional image that BAM marketing is using to promote the current production of The Master Builder, directed by Andrei Belgrader.

It was mistakable, at least to me. The arresting black-and-white photograph of actors Katherine Borowitz, John Turturro, and Wrenn Schmidt had all the weight, psychological insight, and similar composition to several of  Edvard Munch’s familiar works—among them Woman from 1925 and more specifically The Dance of Life from 1899—1900.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

DanceAfrica Eats:
Nyota's Vegan Chopped Barbecue and Spinach Mushroom Curry

Nyota's Ting at the DanceAfrica Bazaar. 
Anyone who's ever been to the DanceAfrica Bazaar knows that the food is outstanding. Powdered sugar-dusted funnel cakes, flaky fried fish, roasted corn on the cob, green beans, and decadent mac and cheeses come to mind, not to mention the fantastic lemonade served by the bucketful.

For those who'd prefer to steer clear of meat this Memorial Day weekend while sauntering among the bazaar's over-300 vendors, keep Nyota's Ting vegetarian cuisine in mind.  

A Queens-based gourmet catering company in operation since 1978, Nyota's Ting has been a DanceAfrica Bazaar staple for almost as many years. Its specialty: a variety of non-dairy raw and vegetarian dishes prepared with a Caribbean and soul food spirit.

We caught up with Nyota this week and asked her if she might be willing to part with a few recipes for dishes she'll be serving this weekend. Lucky for us, she agreed. Have a go at Nyota's Vegan Chopped Barbecue and Spinach Mushroom Curry, or stop by her booth at the bazaar and let the master show you how it's done.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Sam Waterston-inspired tour of Brooklyn architecture

The Master Builder is finally here. It's Ibsen's play about an architect, and when we at the blog think about architects, we think about Sam Waterston. That is, the character he plays in Hannah and her Sisters. Offering a master class in efficient flirtation, Waterston plays an architect who meets Dianne Wiest and Carrie Fisher (aka the Stanislavski Catering Company) at a party, and next thing you know he's cruising around NYC showing the ladies his favorite buildings.

We got to wondering how that scene would play out in Brooklyn, so we gave Andrew Scott Dolkart a call. Dolkart is the James Marston Fitch Associate Professor of Historic Preservation at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and Director of the school's Historic Preservation Program. He got back to us with a great list of preferred spots and some reasons why he picked them. We have a feeling the Stanislavski Catering Company would have been into it.

New York Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church (now Union United Methodist Church)
101 New York Avenue between Dean and Bergen Streets, Crown Heights

photo by Emilio Guerra

A bold and powerful essay in orange brick designed in 1889 by J. C. Cady & Co. This building has a series of severe geometric forms stepping up to a tall tower, with the masses punctuated by enormous round-arch windows. One of the gutsiest buildings in New York.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

To Each His Own Hilde

Wrenn Schmidt. Photo by Graeme Mitchell.

From newspaper reviews of the British and American premieres of Ibsen's The Master Builder. Wrenn Schmidt (Boardwalk Empire) plays the enigmatic Hilde in BAM's current production of the play.

The New York Times, January 18, 1900:
[Hilde Wangel is] a healthy, buoyant creature from the mountains, who still has a touch of the neurotic in her composition, and is united to the unhappy architect by a mystic bond; who invades his household as one answering a spiritual call, awakens the better side of his nature to a mood of self-revelation, and inspires him to the symbolical feat which causes his [spoiler redaction!].
London's Pall Mall Gazette, 1893:
Hilde Wangel is perhaps the most detestable character in the drama’s range. In one regard a victim of nymphomania; in another a deliberate murderess; in any aspect, mean, cheap, and hateful, Hilde Wangel stands out in dishonourable distinctness.
Finally, director Andrei Belgrader's description of Hilde in the current BAM production:
A free spirit, bubbling with physical and mental energy. [...] a beacon of hope and a sexual force [...] Solness' nemesis, a bewitching breath of fresh air while simultaneously a source of temptation. Wise beyond her years. Headstrong, forthright, has immense beauty and allure. Possesses the body of a woman and the fixed thinking and literality of a child. [...]  Embodies myth and light. 
If you've seen The Master Builder, tell us who Hilde Wangel is to you.

Mur-Mur—The Walls Have Ears (and Eyes...)

Ahearn/Torres' Life on Dawson St. in the Bronx. Photo:
by Susan Yung

Mur-Mur (The Wall), by DynamO Théâtre (presented by BAM Education & Humanities at the BAM Fisher, May 18) is a fascinating case of art inspired by art inspired by life. Director Robert Dion saw John Ahearn & Rigoberto Torres' wall installation Life on Dawson St. and was inspired to create a theater work, which evolved into Mur-MurThe everyday people who had inspired larger-than-life sculptures had in turn inspired DynamO to re-enliven them. A full creative circle.

Mur-Mur. Photo: Robert Etcheverry
Art in the Bronx in the late 1970s—80s often meant graffiti. In stark contrast, John Ahearn (who later teamed up with an early subject, Rigoberto Torres) had been making casts—busts and full figures—of his Bronx neighbors, painting them realistically, and mounting them on the sides of buildings. Not only did the sculptures enliven blank walls in a borough blighted by drugs and violence, they were (literally) heightened representations of average citizens done in the manner of classical representational sculpture, a medium often reserved for heroes. 

Ahearn/Torres' art is quintessentially about folks from a specific geographical area, but it wound up being universally embraced and exhibited internationally. While it originated  from the streets of the Bronx, it had nothing to do with the vandalism and turf wars of graffiti. It didn't try to lionize the emerging hip-hop artists' scene. It simply depicted everyday peoples' lives, at work or play, and remains a timeless inspiration for viewers and other artists.

Friday, May 10, 2013

In Context: The Master Builder

Katherine Borowitz, John Turturro, and Wrenn Schmidt. Photo by Graeme Mitchell.

Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder runs at BAM through Sunday, June 9. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. For those who've already seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Friends of BAM Learn About the Royal Ballet of Cambodia's Dazzling Costumes

by Sarah Mischner

Sylvain Lim. Photo: Elena Olivo
Anyone who attended the Royal Ballet of Cambodia’s The Legend of Apsara Mera last week will admit to being dazzled by the ornate costumes worn by the dancers. Friends of BAM gathered in the Hillman Studio for an afternoon reception and discussion on these costumes given by fashion and costume designer Sylvain Lim.

Lim, a native Cambodian who lived in Paris for more than 30 years and worked in fashion houses including Dior and Balmain, described the history of the costumes and their construction—a process that has barely changed since the 11th century.

Costumes in Cambodian ballet consist of pieces of raw silk or velvet brocade, stitched with thick spring-like coils of golden threads, metalwork, and sequins or beads to catch the light. It can take one person five months to create one costume, or four people can make a single costume in a month with three people doing the intricate embroidery. The costumer works up to the moment a dancer goes onstage; the dancers are sewn into their costumes. (Those dancers playing male roles often can’t use the bathroom for up to 4 hours.) As Lim explained, the Royal Ballet dancers' costumes are stitched tightly to their bodies, which helps them make the shapes of the deliberate choreography.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry: An Epic Recap

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Part Deux is over, but we're still reliving the event through your photos, tweets, blog posts, Instagrams, and yes, even Vines. (In fact, we started our very own Vine account just for the occasion.) Whether you were there for all three nights or just one, it was impossible not to get caught up in the infectious energy that comes from discovering a new artist, tasting a mystery brew, rubbing shoulders with a talking head, and dancing with 3,000 other kindred spirits in the Opera House. Here is our collection of unforgettable moments—what were yours?

Monday, May 6, 2013

BAM podcast: Get It Out There

The crowd at Get It Out There. Photo by Etienne Frossard

Listen to the first episode of the BAM podcast. Host Adam Sachs takes you behind the scenes of the March edition of Get It Out There: Comedy by BAM & IFC. Get It Out There curator Caroline Creaghead and Emily Heller discuss comedy in New York, all female line ups, and naked crowd rushers.

Friday, May 3, 2013

60 Years of Cambodian Dance at BAM

by Sharon Lehner

Rama from the dance The Ramayana, Classical Khmer Dancers of Cambodia, 1971.
Courtesy of the BAM Hamm Archives.

The Royal Ballet of Cambodia rarely performs in the United States, but appearances are not unprecedented at BAM. In October of 1971, the first extensive US tour of Cambodian classical dance enjoyed its New York premiere here. According to a 1971 BAM press release, “until recently the company performed only in the Royal Palace in Phnom Penn and was the personal property of the Royal Family, their origin going back 1400 years.” In 1971 the company was billed as “The Classical Khmer Ballet of Cambodia,” probably because members of the Royal Family were prohibited by government from joining the tour.

BAMcinématek—Booed at Cannes

By David Reilly

Jodie Foster and Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, courtesy Photofest

Since its inception in 1946, the Cannes Film Festival has gained a reputation as the film world’s most reliable hotbed for scandal: scenes clipped by censors moments before a film’s premiere, torrents of walkouts, and endless volleys of vicious repartee between the droves of moguls, critics, starlets, and dignitaries who descend upon the Palais des Festivals. Yet within the cavernous repository of Cannes controversy, there remains a place of honor for those films and directors eliciting that most visceral, ear-catching of hostile audience responses: the boo.

In recent years, booing at Cannes has become virtually de rigueur, the tabloids brimming with reports of Mel Gibson, Sofia Coppola, Brad Pitt, and Terrence Malick savaged by finicky Croisette crowds. But the practice has a long and colorful history, and BAMcinématek’s survey Booed at Cannes (May 8—12 & 16—23) reveals a diverse array of films maudits and canonical classics subjected to a hearty hooting on the French Riviera.

We begin in 1960. As the new decade ushers in groundbreaking avenues of filmic expression, bewildered Cannes audiences start to voice their displeasure at “the shock of the new,” taking aim at Michelangelo Antonioni. His infamous L’Avventura (1960) premiere left leading lady Monica Vitti “crying like a baby” (in her words). Despite the emboldening support of a vocal contingent of critics and fellow filmmakers, the pair fared little better two years later when L’Eclisse (1962) met similar disdain.