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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

2016 Next Wave Festival—Shifting Borders

Company Wang Ramirez in Monchichi. Photo: Morah Geist, courtesy of Jacob's Pillow Dance
By Susan Yung

The 2016 Next Wave dives into new genre amalgamations and forms that have been in flux throughout the Festival’s 33-year history. Collaboration is prominent, notably in the Brooklyn/Paris Exchange, which underscores the frequent comparison between creative nerve centers Brooklyn and the Left Bank, with exchange runs by four inventive troupes—two each from Brooklyn and Paris. Dance is robustly represented by nine exhilaratingly disparate companies. Theater includes searing reboots of classics, as well as five of the Bard’s plays rolled into one, plus inventive productions that push known limits. Music also defies standards with compositional daring and physical risk-taking.

Brooklyn/Paris Exchange
(co-presented by BAM and Théâtre de la Ville)

Brooklyn-based nora chipaumire’s portrait of myself as my father explores the presentation and perception of the male body; The Undertaking (The Civilians/Steve Cosson) centers on a dialogue that touches on canonical texts including Jung and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, parsing mortality and the underworld. French artists include Yoann Bourgeois in Minuit, a series of vignettes playing with the concept of weightlessness while in motion; and Company Wang Ramirez in Monchichi, a physical exploration of the myriad cultural influences as represented in the heritage of performers Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez. The productions perform in both cities.

Toneelgroep in Kings of War. Photo: Jan Versweyveld

In addition to the three noted above, the impressive dance slate features the eagerly anticipated return of Rosas and Ictus with Vortex Temporum, in which dancer/musician tandems kinetically explore the music by Gérard Grisey; it is choreographed by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Another familiar name to BAM viewers is the perpetual experimenter John Jasperse, whose Remains touches on the ephemerality and fleeting legacy of performance. 

Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group returns with CITIZEN, concerning how notable African-Americans belong, or not, to a society, and the conflict that results from the ensuing disconnect. And Jonah Bokaer, Daniel Arsham, and Pharrell Williams’ New York premiere of Rules Of The Game anchors a triple bill completed by two earlier Bokaer repertory dances. Rules draws from Pirandello’s Il gioco delle parti, and Williams’ score for full orchestra is his first for the theater.

Dancemakers new to BAM, but likely familiar to dance fans, include Faye Driscoll, whose second part of her highly-lauded Thank You For Coming trilogy—subtitled Play—examines the difficulties in constructing meaning through dance. Zvi Gotheiner’s On The Road, performed by ZviDance, tags Jack Kerouac’s novel as inspiration, also dipping into 60s counterculture and the mythical open road along the way.

Abraham.In.Motion brings Kyle Abraham’s Pavement, a vivid imagining of the classic film Boyz N the Hood and WEB Du Bois’ book, Souls of Black Folk, with dance done in his fluid, muscular, sui generis style. Shen Wei’s Neither uses Morton Feldman’s composition, with a libretto by Samuel Beckett and painted set pieces by the polymath choreographer. And Mark Morris Dance Group reprises crowd favorite The Hard Nut, with mod designs inspired by Charles Burns, and Tchaikovsky’s ever-engaging score.

Abraham.In.Motion in Pavement. Photo: Rena Butler

On the topic of classics finding new life in inventive revisions, the Next Wave’s theater offerings abound with such events. Peter Brook’s The Mahabharata (1987 Next Wave) not only stands as one of contemporary theater’s great milestones, it was the reason that the Harvey Theater arose from an abandoned cinema house. There this fall, Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne direct CICT/Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Battlefield, a compact epilogue to The Mahabharata and a consideration of the aftermath and extreme costs of battle. Phaedra(s) is embodied by Isabelle Huppert in Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe’s production, which examines the title character’s myriad aspects, shedding new light on her terrifying complexity.

Shakespeare is never very far from the collective theatrical mind. His writing forms roots for Songs of Lear, Kings of War, and The Winter’s Tale. In Songs of Lear by Poland’s Songs of the Goat Theatre, key scenes and ideas from Lear are embodied in prose, chanting, and visceral movement to build this song cycle. Ivo van Hove returns with Kings of War, in which Toneelgroep adapts elements from five of the the scribe’s king plays, culminating in an account of the hazards and consequences of omnipotence. Esteemed troupe Cheek by Jowl interprets The Winter’s Tale in its inimitably reductive way, in a stripped down production that allows the play’s essence to ring true.

CICT/Théâtre des Boufes du Nord in Battlefield. Photo: Caroline Moreau

Several companies tread engrossing new turf. In Bridge Over Mud, Verdensteatret from Norway probes the staying power of humanity in an increasingly (and visually riveting) mechanized and electronic world. A Star Has Burnt My Eye, by Howard Fishman, unearths songs by 1950s songwriter phenom Connie Converse, and attempts to unravel threads leading to her mysterious disappearance. Speaking of threads, in Aurélien Bory/Cie 111’s Plexus, Kaori Ito’s body darts and weaves between thousands of nylon strings in an intriguing performance/installation.

The puppetry of Phantom Limb wields its spellbinding magic in Memory Rings, an elegy to the fragility of nature that is set under the boughs of the world’s oldest tree. Łaźnia Nowa Theater and TR Warszawa stage Yana Ross’ rendition of Request Concert, in which Danuta Stenka moves mesmerizingly through her quotidian routine amidst the questionable spoils of consumerism. And nonpareil performer Mikhail Baryshnikov returns in Robert Wilson’s Letter to a Man, based on the diary of Vaslav Nijinsky written in a time of clarity just before his descent into madness.


Film-based projects include Brent Green and Sam Green’s Live Cinema, in which live music and Foley sounds accompany the onscreen Southern Gothic and documentary realism by the (unrelated) filmmakers. The visual splendor of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life receives a lush live performance of its mixed composer orchestration by Wordless Music Orchestra.


Events that redefine opera comprise David Lang’s the loser, in which a baritone and piano with player hover above the Opera House stage, rendering Lang’s paean to unresolved artistic ambition and solitude for a mezzanine-situated audience only. Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy’s The Hunger, presented by innovative ensemble Alarm Will Sound, gives musical poignancy to the tragic Irish Famine.

Sō Percussion in A Gun Show. Photo: Stephanie Berger

Steven Reker builds metaphorical walls of sound with band Open House in Rememberer (based loosely on a Henry Miller novella), as the performers manipulate literal walls of styrofoam, amplifying its peculiar noises. Sō Percussion focuses on, and incorporates, firearms in A Gun Show, questioning society’s dependence on the weapons; Ain Gordon directs, with movement by Emily Johnson. In honor of Stephin Merritt’s 50th birthday, in two different programs on consecutive nights, his band The Magnetic Fields plays 50 Song Memoir, comprising 50 songs written by the composer. And Dublin Guitar Quartet, directed by Jim Findlay, sits amid an audience in the round to perform Michael Gordon’s Amplified, immersing the Fisher in the myriad sounds of the electric guitar.

The 2016 Next Wave Festival, curated by BAM Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo and the first in President Katy Clark’s tenure, furthers the evolution of performance in the 21st century, while acknowledging its rich, growing history. While there are events for lovers of particular genres, many events embrace several forms. It’s what BAM’s intellectually adventurous audiences have learned to demand in more than three decades of the Next Wave.

Subscriptions for the 2016 Next Wave Festival go on sale to members on Mon, Jun 6. To learn more about the many perks of a BAM Membership, visit our website.

Susan Yung is senior editorial manager at BAM.

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