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Friday, June 5, 2015

2015 Next Wave Preview—Earning the Next

Edivaldo Ernesto in Continu. Photo: Sebastian Bolesch
By Susan Yung

After 32 jam-packed years, the Next Wave Festival moniker gets its share of scrutiny. It was new in 1983, so how could it remain that way? A strong retort exists in descriptors, connected by a neat wave icon, that run along the page margins in the 2015 festival brochure. William Kentridge’s Refuse the Hour is tagged opera〰dance〰music〰visual art. Helen Lawrence: theater〰live filmmaking... and so on. The Next Wave’s multitude of cross-discipline performances are, ostensibly, new hybrid genres. The Next Wave is known for showcasing surprising collaborations by accomplished artists, and that trend is only amplified this fall. Chances are you won’t have seen anything quite like the 32 shows being presented from September through December.

Take, for example, Helen Lawrence: a noir drama is performed live before a green screen. It’s mixed with visuals and produced in real time; the audience also sees the edited film, viewing process and result simultaneously. Another show that garners the tag live filmmaking, in addition to music/film〰puppetry, is Nufonia Must Fall (Kid Koala, The Afiara Quartet, KK Barrett). This live puppet rendition of a graphic novel is filmed, scored, and viewed in the moment, its immediacy lending a tightrope walker’s daring. And speaking of puppets, Hagoromo (dance/music〰opera〰puppetry) features paradigm-breaking ballerina Wendy Whelan interacting with a Wendy puppet and a Wendy singer (choreographed by David Neumann, directed by David Michalek, with music by Nathan Davis/ICE). Epiphany: A Cycle of Life tosses chorals, projections, and an art installation into an aromatic experiential mix.

COLLAPSE. Photo: Kelli Smith
Several shows delve into the concept of time. William Kentridge, one of our great polymaths, is best known as a visual artist. If you caught his Magic Flute at BAM in 2007, you’re no stranger to his transportive stage pictures. Refuse the Hour draws on his skills—and those of his imaginative cohorts—in a multi-textured examination of time. U-Theatre of Taiwan folds martial arts, movement from Gurdjieff, and the latest in imaging tech into Beyond Time. In YOU US WE ALL, Shara Worden, Andrew Ondrejcak, and B.O.X. pass contemporary culture through a 17th-century filter; surprise is the one sure thing.

Storytelling plays a big part in the season. 17 Border Crossings (Thaddeus Phillips, Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental; theater〰solo show), creatively regards the disparate titular passages. The Exalted, by creative team Carl Hancock Rux, Theo Bleckmann, and Anne Bogart, delves into the life of African sculpture/cubist expert and art historian Carl Einstein, a German Jew who fled the Nazis, through theater~music~video.

Some festival artists are welcome returnees. Those who saw James Thierrée (and Compagnie du Hanneton, with this year’s Tabac Rouge) in previous acclaimed performances at BAM know of his magically inventive contemporary circus. Martin Zimmermann brings back his astonishing rubber face and limbs in Hallo, balanced by an engaging Tati-like poignance, in which the quotidian becomes the sublime.

Carlos Soto in YUWA. Photo: Hans Stockmans

Returning dance companies include Sankai Juku, beloved not only for its ravishing Butoh dances, but for its memorable slo-mo bows. It brings Umusuna: Memories Before History, choreographed by Ushio Amagatsu, a sublime contemplation on preserving our fragile link with the elements. Choreographer Sasha Waltz’s varied oeuvre is anything but predictable, ranging from fiery spectacle to mellifluous lyricism. Her gifted company performs Continu to a mix of music, from Varèse to Xenakis. And Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, respected for its rigorous, muscular modern style by Lin Hwai-min as well as its evocative designs, brings Rice, with stunning, atmospheric visuals.

New to the Next Wave from Sweden is K. Kvarnström & Co./Kulturhuset City Theatre Stockholm’s TAPE (dance〰baroque music), which makes the most of a roll of duct tape. And from Los Angeles comes Timur and the Dime Museum (music〰video〰glam rock) in COLLAPSE, a layered elegy on the planet’s numerous man-made ecological disasters. Fledgling Next Wavers also include the members of Circa in Opus (physical theater〰contemporary circus〰music). These Australians, backed by the Debussy String Quartet of Lyon, make shockingly daring, unforgettable acrobatic maneuvers look easy. Powerful performer Souleymane Badolo, a choreographer/dancer originally from Burkina Faso, in Yimbégré searches for a balance between liberty and personal history.

Miranda July is known for many things, foremost her films and books. One unknown is what her work, New Society, will be like, but it involves collaboration, utopia, and group trust. In More Up a Tree (performance art〰installation), collaborators Claudia de Serpa Soares and Jim White confront viewers through a surveillance mirror, implicating them—you—in the creative process. Savannah Bay, a work by rarely-staged playwright Marguerite Duras, unites two disparate women who explore memory and forgetting.

Seán Curran and Kyrgyz ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus join choreographic and musical talents in the exuberant Dream’d in a Dream. Cellist Maya Beiser performs a sweeping variety of music, from Led Zeppelin to contemporary sacred, in All Vows, with films by Bill Morrison. And Darcy James Argue leads his enthralling big band Secret Society on an exploration of conspiracy theories in Real Enemies, with elucidating film, text, and visuals.

Opus. Photo by Justin Nicholas/Atmosphere Photography
Crossing genres is one thing, but a number of artists also cross generations, plumbing historical subjects and texts with modern twists. Paterson Joseph wryly inhabits African-British Charles “Sancho” Ignatius in Sancho: An Act of Remembrance. John Jahnke explores the Greek myth of Hylas in Alas, the Nymphs, a mix of theater〰film. Julia Wolfe, SITI Co., Anne Bogart, and Bang on a Can All-Stars examine the American folk legend of John Henry in Steel Hammer, a music-filled, dramatic disquisition on the man. In texts&beheadings/ElizabethR, Karin Coonrod/Compagnia de’ Colombari deconstruct Elizabeth I, using her own writings, through four actresses as different faces of the queen.

The wrenching moral dilemma of Sophokles’ Antigone is explored by Ivo van Hove, featuring Juliette Binoche (new translation by Anne Carson); an otherworldly setting is created through stunning projections. Urban Bush Women’s Walking with ’Trane takes inspiration from the music of John Coltrane; choreography by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Samantha Speis grounds and elevates this dance theater work.

Mark Morris’ The Hard Nut is the festival’s endcap. The beloved season ritual resets Tchaikovsky’s classic performed by the MMDG Ensemble and the Hard Nut Singers, adds Charles Burns’ brilliant visual influence in sets by Adrianne Lobel, and stirs Morris’ singular modern dance throughout, performed by his peerless dancers. It’s a fitting celebration to end a cross-genre/era Next Wave.

Next Wave subscriptions (tickets to 4 or more shows) go on sale to members this coming Monday, June 8 (and to the general public next Monday, June 15). Join today to secure the best available seats and your 20—30% member-only discount. For more information, please visit
Reprinted from June 2015 BAMbill.

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