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Friday, May 31, 2019

In Context: Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)

Situated somewhere between erotic heat and cool classicism, the work of controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe obliterates the high-low divide, exploding classical conceptions of beauty. Fueled by a lifelong fascination with the artist’s transgressive, sacred-profane vision, composer Bryce Dessner (The National), in collaboration with Korde Arrington Tuttle, designer Carlos Soto, video designer Simon Harding, and director Kaneza Schaal (JACK &, 2018 Next Wave), invites us to experience these arresting images anew. Featuring photographic projections and a new score by Dessner—performed by the daring eight-person vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth and a chamber orchestra—Triptych (Eyes of One on Another) examines how we look and are looked at, bringing us face to face with our innermost desires, fears, and humanity.

After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #Triptych.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

BAM Artists and the Culture Wars of the 80s and 90s

Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), Photo: Maria Baranova

By Susan Yung

Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), coming to the Howard Gilman Opera House June 6—8, is a paean to photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whose work was key in the culture wars of the 1980—90s. The Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, and its Director Dennis Barrie, were acquitted of obscenity charges stemming from an exhibition of Mapplethorpe photographs. Bryce Dessner, who composed the score for Triptych, grew up in Cincinnati and recalls, “I was told by the authorities that I was not allowed to look at Mapplethorpe’s photographs—that these tremendous works of art were not art at all, but pornography … Barrie was jailed and art was put on trial in municipal court. It was a huge moment for me.”

In Context: in the shelter of the fold / epilogue

Photo: Erin Baiano
In an intricately woven tapestry of sound, shape, momentum, and stillness, choreographer Doug Varone and his 13-member ensemble contemplate our private and public relationship to faith. in the shelter of the fold / epilogue comprises seven interconnected vignettes, featuring original music by Lesley Flanigan, Julia Wolfe, David Lang, Michael Gordon, Raz Mesinai, and Kevin Keller, masterfully performed by Flanigan, PUBLIQuartet, and the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Drawing upon Varone’s own personal questions about prayer as both a spiritual and secular dialogue, this episodic work digs deep to ask how and why we find shelter in the unknown.

After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #shelterofthefold.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

In Context: Youssou NDOUR

Youssou NDOUR graces the stage of the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, joined by his band the Super Étoile de Dakar. With a soaring tenor that brims with passion and nuance, the Dakar-born singer-songwriter is a global music icon and tireless cultural ambassador. An early emissary of the mbalax style—a blend of bubbling Senegalese griot percussion, Wolof lyrics, and Afro-Cuban influences—he has gone on to become one of the most revered figures on the world stage.

After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #YoussouNDOUR.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Bryce Dessner on Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)

By Susan Yung

Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), at the Howard Gilman Opera House (Jun 6—8), features large-scale projections of the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe and combines music by Bryce Dessner with a libretto by Korde Arrington Tuttle, performed by Roomful of Teeth with Alicia Hall Moran and Isaiah Robinson, directed by Kaneza Schaal. We spoke to Dessner (whose band The National released its eighth album last week) about his connection to Mapplethorpe’s photography, how he structured his composition, and how Tuttle’s libretto influenced the music.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Three Choreographers Bringing Contemporary Ballet to BAM in June

To This Day, photo: Michael Slobodian

By Susan Yung

Vancouver-based Ballet BC bears its geographical stamp in its name, but the “C” might just as well stand for “contemporary.” The company makes its BAM debut at the Howard Gilman Opera House from June 13 to 15. The three repertory dances to be performed are by choreographers whose paths have crossed previously—William Forsythe, Crystal Pite, and Emily Molnar, the artistic director of Ballet BC.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Next Wave 2019 Reading List

The Great Tamer, photo: Julian Mommert

Want to go deeper into Next Wave? We asked this year’s presenting artists for some suggested reading to give greater context for their productions or practice. Reference copies of these books and others can be found in venue lobbies, and this list will be updated throughout the summer.

In Context: DanceAfrica 2019

This year’s DanceAfrica performances (May 24—27) offer a taste of the rich culture and traditions of Rwanda, under the leadership of artistic director Abdel R. Salaam. In acknowledgement of the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and the undaunted national movement toward reconciliation and renewal, DanceAfrica offers a moment to celebrate a path forward.

This year’s visiting company is the globally recognized Rwandan dance troupe Inganzo Ngari. Founded in 2006, the ensemble is utterly beloved by Rwandans for its dedication to traditional forms and movement idioms, from warrior dances to a variety of crop rituals. They are joined onstage by Rwandan-born spoken word artist Malaika Uwamahoro, composer Michael Wimberly, percussionist Kofi Osei Williams, percussionist Frank Molloy IV, the DanceAfrica Spirit Walkers, and the beloved RestorationArt Dance Youth Ensemble. Together, with the DanceAfrica and BAM community, they rejoice in the transcendent power of movement and music.

After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #DanceAfrica.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Guide to DanceAfrica 2019

Photo: Adreinne Waheed

By Akornefa Akyea

DanceAfrica is the longest-running program at BAM. The festival founded in 1977 by traditional African dance choreographer Dr. Charles "Chuck" Davis (1937—2017) began as a three-day event in the Lepercq Space; a note in the program read:

“In essence, you are visitors to our village which is wherever we are. We welcome you with Dyembes (Drums) and Eparoro (Chant). Through the chant we ask that you not only enjoy your stay with us but form with us a comradeship that will remain a lasting association.”

In its 42nd year and now under the artistic direction of Abdel R. Salaam, DanceAfrica is almost two weeks long, taking place in several venues, with a community that is very much alive and well. This year we celebrate the rich movement and dance traditions of Rwanda in acknowledgement of the 25th anniversary of the government-sponsored genocide against the Tutsi.

Here’s your guide to this expansive event, which has everything from performances, classes, and screenings to the sprawling DanceAfrica Bazaar, a late-night dance party, and a chance to talk and interact with Rwandans in real time.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Beyond the Canon: Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling + All That Jazz

Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling (1986) + All That Jazz (1979)

It is no secret that the cinema canon has historically skewed toward lionizing the white, male auteur. Beyond the Canon is a monthly series that seeks to question that history and broaden horizons by pairing one much-loved, highly regarded, canonized classic with a thematically or stylistically-related—and equally brilliant—work by a filmmaker traditionally excluded from that discussion. This month’s double feature pairs Richard Pryor’s Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling (1986) with Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz (1979).

By Christina Newland

“He tore his ass on the freeway of life,” says Richard Pryor, to peals of laughter from an audience. This is his eulogy to himself, delivered onstage in Pryor’s own inimitable fashion, and the last scene of the only film he ever directed: Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Rwanda Gets the Spotlight at DanceAfrica 2019

By David Hsieh

When this year’s DanceAfrica opens at the Howard Gilman Opera House stage on May 24, audiences will see a dance tradition that has never been presented in the 41 years of this treasured festival—the dance of Rwanda. It will be the fulfillment of Artistic Director Abdel R. Salaam’s longtime dream—using the festival to expand our understanding of African dance and demonstrate the healing power of dance.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

In Context: Pepperland

Photo: Mat Hayward

Mark Morris continues to redefine the relationship between music and movement in his homage to a monument of 20th-century art: The Beatles’ 1967 revolution in sound, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Commissioned by the City of Liverpool in celebration of the album’s 50th anniversary, Pepperland teases out the album’s colorfully avant-garde heart and omnivorous influences—from Bach to Stockhausen, music hall to raga—straining it through a theremin- and harpsichord-laced score by jazz composer Ethan Iverson, performed live by a remarkable seven-piece music ensemble. Morris’ company transforms the stage into a candy-colored kaleidoscope of modish 60s dance crazes and balletic intricacy that hovers, like its inspiration, between pop pleasure and exhilarating abstraction.

After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #pepperland.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Mark Morris: Mastery at BAM

Mark Morris (kneeling) joined an all-star lineup celebrating the 15th Next Wave in 1997. First row, L-R: Jene Highstein (artist), Kristin Jones (artist), Merce Cunningham (choreographer), Mark Morris (choreographer), Harvey Lichtenstein (BAM President/Executive Producer). Back row: Andrew Ginzel (artist), Susan Marshall (choreographer), Joanne Akalaitis (director), Bill T. Jones (choreographer), Lou Reed (musician), Bob Telson (composer), Ping Chong (artist), Howard Gilman (benefactor), Pina Bausch (choreographer), John Kelly (artist), Joseph V. Melillo (BAM Producing Director). Photo: Joanne Savio.

By Susan Yung

BAM has presented work by Mark Morris since 1984, when his debut program took place in the Lepercq Space and included one of his early milestone works, Gloria. Since then, more than 60 of his dances have graced BAM’s stages, with live music on every program. Pepperland—a tribute to The Beatles’ landmark album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, with a new jazz score by Ethan Iverson—will be at the Howard Gilman Opera House May 8—11. Here’s a look back at some of Morris’ previous choreographic mastery at BAM.