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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.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Reflecting on DanceAfrica

"DanceAfrica 2002: 25 Years of DanceAfrica: Africa, My Africa" during BAM Spring Series, 2002.
Photo: Richard Termine
As part of DanceAfrica 2017, BAM is partnering with StoryCorps to create a platform for you to share your experiences with the 40-year-old festival.

Please follow these simple instructions to share your story:

1. Download the free StoryCorps mobile app, available on iPhone, Android, and Kindle, and create a free account.

2. Record a conversation with a friend or fellow DanceAfrica fan. Follow the prompts in the app to begin recording, and let the conversation flow!

Here are some questions to get you started:
  • When was the first time you participated in or attended DanceAfrica?
  • What do you remember about the first time you attended or participated in DanceAfrica?
  • Do you have any memories of Baba Chuck that you would like to share?
NOTE: while you can record up to 45 minutes, recordings can also be as short as a minute.

3. Publish and share the interview to StoryCorps’ public online collection at using the keyword DanceAfrica40.

4. Listen! Search for DanceAfrica40 to find more conversations about the memories of 40 years of DanceAfrica at BAM.

Learn more at Need help? Email

Behind the Scenes at BAM–Stacey Dinner, Artist Services Manager

Stacey Dinner (standing, 3rd from left) with friends including DanceAfrica artist directors Abdel Salaam to her left,
and Chuck Davis, seated, at right. Photo courtesy Stacey Dinner.
By David Hsieh

Stacey Dinner is hard to miss, even in a crowd of dancers. Her dark, shoulder-length hair flies in every direction. She keeps in sync with the most complicated African drum rhythms. She is also part of the four-people artist services team at BAM, which takes care of visiting artists' every need. She and her colleagues—Mary Reilly, Britney Polites, and Jeannine Baca—are the "frontline” between BAM and the artists it presents. We ask her what the job is like and her personal connection to DanceAfrica.

Q: Who are you? 

A: My name is Stacey Dinner and I am the BAM artist services manager. My background is in dance and arts administration. I first studied West African dance in college and then studied abroad in Mali, West Africa. I then traveled six more times to Africa, visiting 13 countries in total, and I ended up working at a world dance and music studio in Colorado, where I’m from, and also co-leading a study abroad trip to Senegal. These experiences made a significant impact on my life, and I continue to study West African dance to this day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

In Context: DanceAfrica 2017

Forty years after its inauguration under the artistic direction of the late Chuck Davis, the nation’s largest festival of African dance returns for a special anniversary celebration. 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 #DanceAfrica.

Oh, the Stories You'll See!

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in The Rite of Spring. Photo: Zerrin Aydin Herwegh
By Susan Yung

An abundance of the 31 events comprising the 35th Next Wave Festival tell stories. There will be renditions of historical tales, classics from the cultural canon, and intriguing personal narratives. A number are based on diaries and journals kept by protagonists or observers such as Walt Whitman and Samuel Pepys. A few recount seismic events of geopolitical import. Several cherished companies make return visits, and as always, new talents will be introduced. Here’s a brief overview of the 2017 Next Wave, curated by Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo.

Monday, May 22, 2017

BAM Illustrated: The Story of Tom Zé

Brazilian music legend Tom Zé presents an evening of samba and bossa nova at BAM on June 3. Illustrator Nathan Gelgud explores the Brazilian musician's career:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Eat, Drink & Be Literary: Maggie Nelson


On March 23, genre-defying writer and 2016 MacArthur fellow Maggie Nelson came to BAMcafé as part of the second installation of this season’s Eat, Drink & Be Literary series. Nelson works at the nexus of memoir, theory, poetry, and autobiography. She is the author of The New York Times bestselling book The Argonauts, which won the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, and eight other books, including The Art of Cruelty: A ReckoningBluetsThe Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial, and Jane: A Murder. Following a reading from The Argonauts, Nelson spoke with Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, about the book and the process, ethics and considerations that come with writing from lived experience.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Baba Chuck Davis, In Memoriam

With the passing of Baba Chuck Davis this past weekend, we lost one brilliant star—no, supernova—from the sky. Thousands and thousands of audience members knew Baba Chuck as the artistic director and founder of DanceAfrica, which began in 1977. With great flair, he hosted each year’s performances until his retirement in 2015, returning to assist his successor, Abdel R. Salaam, at last year’s shows. “Ago, amée!” was his signature call-and-response, a participatory gesture which was perennially peppered throughout the performances.

We who had the fortune of working with Baba Chuck over the 40 years of DanceAfrica festivals will miss his tremendous energy, which at times really did feel like our own sun. We’ll miss his heartwarming bear hugs and his unmatched generosity of spirit, and the unending amount of work he put into every detail of DanceAfrica. We pay tribute to the countless hours he spent teaching, choreographing, and rehearsing the BAM/Restoration Youth Dance Ensemble and the visiting companies, as well as the highly popular master classes he led each year.

Between DanceAfrica festivals (which grew to include other cities), Baba Chuck traveled the world—primarily throughout Africa but also to African diasporic locations such as Peru and Cuba—seeking out indigenous dance companies to bring to BAM’s stage. A multitude of American and New York-based troupes also participated, including Abdel R. Salaam’s company, Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, which has performed at BAM nine times. Baba Chuck was responsible for an unimaginable amount of cultural exchange, which was stealthily educational while being awesomely celebratory. He was beloved, but he also taught discipline, tradition, and respect not only for the Elders, but for all of humanity.

A shadow passes over our collective heart with the loss of Baba Chuck, but we honor the ways he changed each and every life he touched.

Ago, amée, Baba Chuck.

—Susan Yung, senior editorial manager at BAM

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Exceeding Limits

By Susan Yung

Cirkus Cirkör performs Limits, a physical theater piece about confronting and soaring above boundaries, at the Howard Gilman Opera House from June 7—10. We spoke with Cirkus Cirkör artistic director Tilde Björfors and set designer Fanny Senocq about the piece.

Anton Graaf in Limits. Photo: Mats Båcker

Was there one moment or news event that inspired you to make Limits?

Tilde Björfors, artistic director, Cirkus Cirkör: When I read about the drownings near Lampedusa in 2013, it turned my life upside down and I needed to know more. We as members of EU guard our borders, and the consequence for thousands of migrants whose only chance to survive is a dangerous journey with life at stake. So I created Borders, the first of a trilogy on circus, risk, and migration. Limits is the second part.

In fall 2015, I tried to welcome displaced people in a spirit of common humanity. I was involved in establishing a transitional housing facility and opened my home to hundreds of boundary-crossers, every encounter a personal tragedy. I became aware of limitations within society and myself. Several times, I felt I couldn’t take in any more; there was no room. But every time, a vulnerable soul showed me there was still hope. Suddenly there was room for more! Both our hearts and our brains have an innate capacity for growth.

It’s shocking to watch Europe close borders when our circus has dedicated 20 years to pushing boundaries. The word “circus” is often used disparagingly, but I think the opposite is true—the world should practice more circus!

Friday, May 5, 2017

In Context: Silent Voices

Silent Voices tackles systemic injustice in soaring soprano-alto harmony, entrusting the vital issues of our day to its most astonishing young singers. This powerful multimedia concert features music by Toshi Reagon, Nico Muhly, DJ Spooky, Caroline Shaw, and others, and texts by Hilton Als, Claudia Rankine, and Pauli Murray. 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 #BYCSilentVoices.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Behind the Scenes at BAM—Evan Kutcher: production, carpentry, and rigging

Evan Kutcher. Photo: David Hsieh
Shows at BAM come in all genres, medium, forms, and shapes. So our amazing stage crew is used to tackling any technical requirement, including building a set from scratch when the occasion arises. Evan Kutcher, a production coordinator and the head of carpentry and rigging at the BAM Fisher since August, 2016, demonstrated his bona fide carpentry skills recently. When the team for Poetry 2017, produced by BAM Education, decided to transform the Fishman stage into a graffiti-splashed building façade, Evan was happy to pick up his chainsaw and don a hard hat. The result speaks for itself, seen in these photos. We chat with Evan about how it all came about.

Q: What does your job entail? 

A: I’m a production coordinator and the head of carpentry and rigging at the BAM Fisher. Rigging is the term we use when we hang things over somebody’s head, whether it’s lights, speakers, curtains, set pieces, or projectors. I’m the one who makes sure that that’s safe and operated in the way it should be.