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Thursday, August 31, 2017

The People Spoke

By Nora Tjossem

Sitting in the red plushness of the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, facing the proscenium arch, the weight of tradition climbs into your lap and takes its seat. But on Tuesday night, March 24, it was not the legacy of Pina Bausch or Robert Wilson that sat with us. It was the history—fraught, inflammable, and frighteningly present—of the United States of America.

The People Speak uses the work of historian Howard Zinn to bring life to the revolutionaries that have ignited social justice movements in the United States. “I start from the supposition that the world is topsy-turvy,” Zinn once proclaimed. Directed by longtime Zinn collaborator Anthony Arnove and performed by a lineup of actors, musicians, poets, and writers, the words of some of the most radical and transformative voices in this country’s history are unearthed from the oppressive, topsy-turvy status quo and given a stage worthy of their present import.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pina, Dark and Light

Pina Bausch in Café Müller. Photo: J. Paulo Pimenta
By Susan Yung

"It is not that I wanted to confront people. The misunderstanding is not that I love violence, it was quite the opposite. I was terrified of violence, but I wanted to understand the person doing the violence. That was the exploration." —Pina Bausch

This fall, when Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch returns to BAM for its 15th engagement from September 14 to 24, it comes full circle with the works Café Müller (1978) and The Rite of Spring (1975), both performed in the company’s inaugural run at BAM in 1984. The look and feel of Bausch’s repertory over the decades has, for the large part, shifted from dark and literally earthbound to light and air- and water-suffused. Ask longtime viewers which they prefer and you’ll get resounding votes for each. Taken together, they form a body of work which, while cut short by Bausch’s sudden death in 2009, is one of our era’s most influential and uncompromising artistic outputs.

While contemporary theater artists may not consciously or overtly quote Pina, she has emerged as one of the most influential theater artists working over the past half-century. Is a dance performance interrupted by a random bit of spoken text or a quotidian gesture? Are seemingly unrelated vignettes mixed together in a performance? Do costumes reinforce or subvert gender stereotypes? Does a jukebox soundtrack shift moods and accumulate to provide a changing and varied emotional landscape? These are all threads that Pina repeatedly wove into her astonishing repertory, and which have become common practices.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Bill T. Jones—A BAM Featured Archival Collection

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company performs Jones' A Letter to My Nephew at the BAM Harvey from Oct 3 to 7.

It's a good occasion to introduce you to the Leon Levy BAM Digital Archive, a vast trove of artifacts and ephemera from BAM's 156-year history as a performance and community center.

The featured collection on Bill T. Jones includes links to richly detailed entries on all of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company's BAM productions, plus a selection of materials from performances.

Clicking on a show title takes you to a page with a description of the show, collaborators (with links to their other productions at BAM), and ephemera documenting that show including photos, audio, programs, and more.

We are excited to be able to share this incredibly rich archive, and encourage you to poke around and discover the history of BAM and the artists and art that have made it a popular destination since 1861.

Susan Yung

Monday, August 28, 2017

Plus ça change

Va savoir. Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The iconic directors of the French New Wave changed the future of film when they blasted on screen in the 1950s and 1960s, which were characterized by a rebellion of standard practices, experimental filmmaking, and social issue exploration. These French New Wave auteurs have continued to push the envelope into the 2000s, revealing how they changed and adopted the styles, politics, and technologies of the 21st century. BAMcinématek’s new series, Plus ça change, loosely translated means “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” which perfectly encompasses late-career feature films from titans like Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Jacques Rivette, and Agnès Varda.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Pina Bausch, in her own words

Many works by Pina Bausch (1940—2009) can and have been parsed for complex emotional and psychological meaning, including the two in the 2017 Next Wave Festival, The Rite of Spring and Café Müller. Many of her creative impulses grew from life experiences in her youth, and the means—dance and movement—through which she found true expression. Bausch’s parents owned a small hotel with a restaurant, where she spent many a night tucked under a table, music in the air, observing the messy, ever-changing humanity unfolding around her amidst a time of war. She was certainly influenced by the Folkwang School where she studied with Kurt Jooss, learning free expression alongside classical technique, and gaining exposure to other genres. But she would develop her own style of tanztheater, enfolding all of the disparate elements to craft a completely unique vision that has influenced generations of artists.

Following, in Bausch’s own words mined from remarks and interviews, are thoughts and influences that informed her work emerge to form a picture of how her remarkable point of view came to life.

Nazareth Panadero, Rolf Borzik, Dominique Mercy in Café Muller. Copyright Graziano Arici.

From "What Moves Me" speech by Pina Bausch when presented the 2007 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy (full text here):

"Even the restaurant in our hotel was highly interesting for me. My parents had to work a great deal and weren’t able to look after me. In the evenings, when I was actually supposed to go to bed, I would hide under the tables and simply stay there. I found what I saw and heard very exciting: friendship, love, and quarrels—simply everything that you can experience in a local restaurant like this. I think this stimulated my imagination a great deal. I have always been a spectator. Talkative, I certainly wasn’t. I was more silent."

"I was ravenous to learn and to dance. That is why I applied for a scholarship from the German academic exchange service for the USA. And I did in fact receive it. Only then did it become clear what that meant: traveling by ship to America, aged 18 years, all alone, without being able to speak a word of English. My parents took me to Cuxhaven. A brass band was playing as the ship was setting off and everybody was crying. Then I went onto the ship and waved. My parents were also waving and crying. And I was standing on the deck and crying too; it was terrible. I had the feeling we would never see each other again."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Shining Light on My Lai

Photo: Zoran Orlic
By Christian Barclay

On March 16, 1968, US Army pilot Hugh Thompson and his crew were flying on a reconnaissance mission over the South Vietnamese village of My Lai when he spotted the bodies of men, women, and children strewn across the fields. He nosed his helicopter down and quickly realized what was taking place: American soldiers were killing innocent villagers at will––it was a massacre.

Over the course of a few frantic hours, Thompson tried to halt the carnage. He landed his helicopter between the Americans and the villagers, ordering his crew to shoot their fellow soldiers if they attacked the civilians. He called in support from other air units and together they evacuated a small group of villagers, including a young boy Thompson pulled from an irrigation ditch. Official counts vary, but between 350 and 500 Vietnamese died in My Lai that day.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

About the Other Weekend: Paul Thomas Anderson at BAM

BAMcinématek was honored to host director Paul Thomas Anderson for the beginning of the Jonathan Demme: Heart of Gold film series. He was joined by producer Edward Saxon, actor Paul Lazar, and Demme biographer Louis Black. We had four packed screenings of Something Wild, Melvin and Howard, Married to the Mob, and Citizen’s Band.

In in-depth Q&As, guest speakers shared personal and professional anecdotes about the late filmmaker, including some eclectic and hilarious behind-the-scenes knowledge. Some of the highlights involved the casting of Demme’s features.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Beautiful Game: An Interview with /peh-LO-tah/’s Marc Bamuthi Joseph

Soccer—as both an intricate, euphoric choreography and an exploited corporate cash cow—is the subject of /peh-LO-tah/, an electric meditation on the racial dimensions of the sport from multi-talented theater artist and performer Marc Bamuthi Joseph (red, black & GREEN: a blues, 2012 Next Wave). Using spoken-word poetry and fútbol-inspired footwork, Joseph and four performers dribble and pass their way from the pickup games of rural Haiti to the mega stadiums of Rio and Johannesburg, parsing the social justice of soccer to the sounds of hip-hop and samba. Against his own childhood memories of the game as a race-transcending source of happiness, Joseph posits a global reality in which black joy is all too often co-opted for financial gain, yet perseveres nonetheless. We sat down with Joseph to discuss the work in anticipation of its New York premiere this fall during the 2017 Next Wave Festival.

Photo: Bethanie Hines

Can you discuss the idea of soccer as a universal language?

Soccer isn’t just the world’s most popular sport, it is the activity to which we globally assign the most value as an emblem of cultural aesthetics. It isn’t just success on the pitch that communicates a nation’s character, it’s how the game is played, from Ghanaian grace to Brazilian flair to Spanish polyrhythm to German focus and consistency. That universality then is more pronounced against the stark contrast of political monocultures and repressive regimes. How do we register that universal joy in the shadow of South African apartheid? How do we reconcile with a country that meddles in the elections of other sovereign nations and also invites the planet to roam freely within its borders during the World Cup? In this case the sport reveals that joy is universal, as are the contradictions inherent among the men and women who passionately engage in it.