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Friday, September 21, 2018

BAM: The Next Wave Festival, the focus of Unbound book release event

By Susan Yung

The Next Wave was a bold experiment in drawing people to Brooklyn to see performances, and it worked. A new book, BAM: The Next Wave Festival (release: Sep 26, 2018), examines the 36-year course of the fall festival that has become an international paradigm. In 1981, Harvey Lichtenstein gathered a handful of primarily dance events as a series; it grew into a festival two years later, after a successful start. The early Next Wave presented mostly downtown New York artists who mingled and collaborated, until then performing in ad hoc spaces, such as lofts and galleries. Visual art was an integral component—it had been helping to provide vast rooms largely bereft but for art on the walls, and a conceptual underpinning both broad and unfettered. The genre stood its own alongside dance, music, and theater, and art became an integral part of the Next Wave, from program covers and posters to exhibitions in odd spaces.

The addition of international companies brought breadth and global luster to the festival. This was felt profoundly in 1984 with the festival debut of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in the first of the company’s runs at its sole New York home. It was as if Lichtenstein—and subsequently Joseph V. Melillo—cast a huge net, near and far, and hauled out treasures for Brooklyn to see. Postmodern and Judson dance experimentalists mingled with new music. In Available Light, choreographer Lucinda Childs collaborated with composers Philip Glass and John Adams, and artist Frank Gehry. Downtown theater artists mixed on the schedule with avant-gardists from abroad. New York art world figures shouldered through the Opera House lobby at intermission. It was a social scene, but the prime reason for all present was to see the fresh art on the stages. This spirit of collaboration has continued in the decades since then, and is clear in this season’s line-up.

BAM: The Next Wave Festival, co-edited by Steve Serafin and myself (published by Print Matters and distributed by Distributed Art Publishers), takes a look at the festival genre by genre. That said, one of the tenets of the NWF has been to break down boundaries between disciplines, often resulting in hyphenates or imprecise definors. (Classifying the often unclassifiable is not always easy!) Many of the artists in the 2018 NWF appear throughout the book, such as Mark Morris, ETHEL, Circa, Seán Curran, SITI Company/Anne Bogart, Trisha Brown Dance Company, and Wordless Music Orchestra.

We had the treasure trove that is the BAM Hamm Archive and the Leon Levy Digital Archive from which to draw the 230+ photos and artifacts that activate the 336 pages. It includes a chapter revealing Joe Melillo’s thoughts and processes; words from the late Lichtenstein, taken from his oral history; Kristy Edmunds penned the introduction; and the chapter authors are the esteemed critics Tom Sellar, Wendy Perron, Roger Oliver, Mark Swed, Dan Cameron, in addition to performance essays which I wrote. The book is, in part, a tribute to the amazing body of work presented at BAM that was chosen and/or produced by Joe Melillo, who takes his leave at the end of 2018 after 35 years. Melillo, along with several contributors to the book, will participate in an Unbound book launch event on BAM: The Next Wave Festival, on Wednesday, Sep 26 at 7:30pm in the BAMcafé.

© 2018 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.

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