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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Connecting Through Dance

Mark Morris leads a workshop in Cambodia. Photo: Johan Henckens
By R. Michael Blanco

One pilot year and four seasons later, DanceMotion USASM (DMUSA)—the US State Department’s cultural diplomacy program produced by BAM—continues to work its magic around the globe. By the end of 2016, the program will have sent 20 dance companies to 47 countries, reaching more than 100,000 people directly in workshops and performances and over 20 million people through digital platforms and social media.

Conceived in 2009 by BAM Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo in response to a Department of State request for proposals, DMUSA brings its extensive network of national and international dance contacts to work with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in choosing dance companies to send on missions of cultural exchange throughout the world.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Richard Eyre's Notes on Ghosts

Lesley Manville in Ghosts. Original photo: Hugo Glendinning
Ibsen said of Ghosts (coming to the BAM Harvey Theater April 5—May 3) that “in none of my plays is the author so completely absent as in this last one.” Nine years later, when he was 61, Ibsen met an 18-year-old Viennese girl and fell in love. She asked him to live with her; he at first agreed but, crippled by guilt and fear of scandal (and perhaps impotence as well), he put an end to the relationship. Emilie became the “May sun of a September life” and the inspiration for the character of Hedda Gabler, even if Ibsen himself contributed many of her characteristics with his fear of ridicule, his apparent repulsion with the reality of sex, and his yearning for emotional freedom.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Space is the Place: Afrofuturist Music Videos

By Ashley Clark

The term "Afrofuturism" was coined by cultural theorist Mark Dery in his 1994 essay "Black to the Future." While championing the work of pioneering African-American authors of speculative fiction including Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delany, Dery expressed surprise at the relative lack of African-American sci-fi literature. This absence was curious, he said, because “African-Americans, in a very real sense, are the descendants of alien abductees; they inhabit a sci-fi nightmare in which unseen but no less impassable force fields of intolerance frustrate their movements; official histories undo what has been done; and technology is too often brought to bear on black bodies.”

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rethinking Robeson

Daniel Beaty. Photo: Don Ipock
By Brian Scott Lipton

Tackling Paul Robeson’s tumultuous life story in one theatrical show is a monumental endeavor. Nonetheless, this Herculean undertaking has been taken on by two of America’s most gifted theater artists, writer-performer Daniel Beaty and director and Tectonic Theater Project co-founder Moisés Kaufman, in The Tallest Tree in the Forest, which receives its long-awaited New York premiere at the BAM Harvey Theater, March 22 to 28. (The show has played previous theatrical engagements in Washington, DC; Kansas City; La Jolla; and Los Angeles.)

Indeed, Robeson, who died in 1976 at age 77, can hardly be defined by any one description or any one accomplishment. This extraordinary African-American, born at the end of the 19th century, was a true groundbreaker—a son of a former slave who went from being valedictorian of his class at Rutgers University to a member of the National Football League, a Shakespearean actor on Broadway, a movie star, an internationally acclaimed singer, and a revered political figure.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mark Morris' Jazzy Spring

Spring, Spring, Spring. Photo: Peg Skorpinski
By Susan Yung

Mark Morris Dance Group returns in April with two rich programs of repertory, including his vivacious interpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring; Words, a lauded recent work seen briefly in New York before an international tour; and a world premiere entitled Whelm, to Debussy. Not only that, the troupe performs one of MMDG’s all-time favorites, Grand Duo; its soft-slipper rendition of Pacific, most often performed by ballet companies on pointe; and more.

In Context: The Tallest Tree in the Forest

Daniel Beaty celebrates legendary performer and political activist Paul Robeson in The Tallest Tree in the Forest at the BAM Harvey Theater March 22—29. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of articles, interviews, and videos related to the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Life of a Kodo Apprentice

Ajara, Kodo. Photo: Takashi Okamoto
There’s much to love about Kodo: the ritualistic precision, the subterranean sounds, the tensed, muscular bodies poised with impossible control. But beneath the surface of those displays lies an entire lifestyle devoted to a holistic folk ethos of which drumming is an integral part. Before a performer can officially join the group (which comes to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House tonight, March 19—Saturday, March 21), they must be vetted through an intensive, two-year-long apprenticeship on Sado Island. As touched on in our interview with former Kodo member Kaoru Watanabe, the daily routine of an apprentice involves drumming, dancing, singing, tea ceremony, woodworking, growing rice, and more...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

In Context: Kodo One Earth Tour: Mystery

Japanese taiko drum ensemble Kodo comes to BAM with Kodo One Earth Tour: Mystery March 19—21. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of articles, interviews, and videos related to the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Monday, March 16, 2015

BAM Illustrated: The United States vs. Paul Robeson

Legendary performer and political activist Paul Robeson is celebrated in Daniel Beaty's solo show The Tallest Tree in the Forest opening this Sunday at the BAM Harvey Theater. Illustrator Nathan Gelgud looks at Robeson's radical politics and turbulent relationship with the US government:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Many Faces of Paul Robeson

Daniel Beaty as Paul Robeson in The Tallest Tree in the Forest. Photo: Don Ipock

Daniel Beaty's The Tallest Tree in the Forest, playing the BAM Harvey March 22—29, celebrates the dynamic life of legendary performer and political activist Paul Robeson. He is best known for his iconic baritone and leading roles in The Emperor Jones, Show Boat, and Othello—a remarkable accomplishment despite the fact that his star rose at a time when segregation was legal. But his life trajectory took many turns and Robeson wore many hats as a public figure and outspoken champion of peace and justice: