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Thursday, August 27, 2015

To Baba Chuck, With Love

Baba Chuck Davis. Photo: Jack Vartoogian
By David Hsieh

DanceAfrica 2015—Brazilian rhythms, African roots ended on a theatrical and emotional high note. Multiple shows sold out completely with long cancellation lines. The high-octane Balé Folclórico da Bahia and the BAM/Restoration DanceAfrica Ensemble roused the audience to their feet to join their samba/reggae dance. On the street, gorgeous weather brought out tens of thousands of people to the bazaar, sampling everything from crafts, fabrics, jewelry, masks, and clothes, to foods and drinks. The smell of BBQ wafted in the air, mixing with the aroma of soap and incense. The beat of drums were counterpoints to trumpet and saxophone lines. The impromptu street musicians conjured bazaar attendees to dance in the streets.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Visually Literate, Critical Generation

by Lucie Hecht

This fall marked the 8th year of BAM’s Young Film Critics After-School Program, inaugurated in 2006. Fourteen students from Brooklyn area high schools spent 10 weeks with instructor Josh Cabat, watching films and learning how to talk and write about them. Cabat selected movies made by directors “outside of the white male-dominated mainstream,” introducing the students to directors such as Agnès Varda, Akira Kurosawa, and Hany Abu-Assad, among others. As is tradition in the program, the Young Film Critics benefited from a visit from a professional film critic; this year’s guest was Wesley Morris of

According to BAM’s Assistant Director of Education John Tighe, “these kids are astute because, more so than any generation before, they are visually literate… They all love film because they can ‘read’ images.” The idea of a universal language of cinema that is best read by someone who has grown up immersed in its grammar is nowhere better exemplified than in the work of BAM’s Young Film Critics, whose final film reviews can be as elegant as A.O. Scott’s. Here’s an example from Ali Motte, a junior at the French-American School of New York: “While film is completely valid as a form of entertainment, Cleo from 5 to 7 engages the viewer in a melting pot of the gravity of reality and the light nature of fiction, inducing a delightfully confusing third reality.”

This season continued a powerful tradition and also marked a first: the fledgling expedition into distance learning between BAM’s Young Film Critics and Cabat’s students at Roslyn High on Long Island. The two student groups made strides for BAM’s expanding technological education initiatives as they discussed Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and its powerful resonance with youth today.

To read more of the students’ reviews, visit the program page. And, if you know a high schooler who would benefit from the program, check back in the fall for information on the 2015 application process.

Lucie Hecht is the general management administrative assistant at BAM and takes great photos of her cats.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Babel, Babel, Bastille!

Courtesy BAM Hamm Archives
In honor of Bastille Day, here's a shot of Maguy Marin's company in Babel, Babel from the 1987 Next Wave Festival. Read the full New York Times review here (including a rather glorious intro!).

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

About Last Weekend: Contemporary Color

A photo posted by tedalcorn (@tedalcorn) on

"Ladies and gentlemen, America has changed!" noted David Byrne before beginning his thrilling "I Was Changed"—a collaboration with Longueuil, Quebec's Les Éclipses Winterguard—last weekend at Contemporary Color (BAM's first co-presenation with the Barclays Center!)Bathing the arena in vibrant hues, Byrne's set provided an unexpected moment of celebration for SCOTUS's monumental Friday ruling...but it was by no means the program's only instance of jubilee. Audiences took to social media in droves to memorialize this once-in-a-lifetime performance spectacular, and we partnered with PHHHOTO to provide audiences dynamic portrait opportunities with an onsite PHHHOTO booth. After the jump, enjoy some of our favorite posts from the weekend and relive Contemporary Color's creative magic in posterity...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thank you and farewell—A message from Karen Brooks Hopkins

Dear Friends,

Today is my last day at BAM after 36 years of service in many different capacities, including the last 16 years as president. During my tenure, we have added many programs, built new facilities, quadrupled the size of our audience and budget, and played a key role in the revitalization of our beloved Brooklyn.

I am so proud to have worked with a generous and committed Board of Trustees, led by Alan Fishman, Adam Max, and Bill Campbell, and the BAM Endowment Trust, headed by Tim Ingrassia. In addition, I salute a brilliant and hardworking staff, including my dear partner, BAM’s Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo, and former president, Harvey Lichtenstein. Our donors, many of whom believed in BAM when it was the punchline of a Brooklyn joke, have transformed the institution through their generous support. And through it all, the elected officials from the Borough of Brooklyn and the City of New York, including the Borough President and Mayor’s Office, the City Council, and the Department of Cultural Affairs have been true partners in assuring a bright future for BAM.

Running a cultural institution with such diverse programs—in music, dance, theater, opera, film, visual art, and humanities—and so many constituents—from teachers and students, to artists, to seniors, toddlers, teenagers, and adults—is both complicated and exhilarating. Every choice is fraught with financial considerations, programming alternatives, and workload.

But at the end of the day, this is the best job on the planet. For 36 years, I have been privileged to live in the community of the arts—a special and magical place where the creative churn of ideas, passion, and expression bubble up to illuminate our lives. What else but the arts energizes education, generates tourism, builds community, celebrates great collections and architecture, and endures from century to century as mankind’s finest achievement?

BAM is, as our mission states, the home for adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas. It certainly has been my home and I hope that you share that experience.

It is a bittersweet moment as I move on to new endeavors but the work on our stages and screens and the exciting new venues here in the Brooklyn Cultural District are forever in my heart.

I wish my successor Katy Clark the very best of luck and I thank you for this extraordinary journey.


Karen Brooks Hopkins

Friday, June 26, 2015

About Last Night: Kids 20th Anniversary at BAMcinemaFest

Chloë Sevigny, Leo Fitzpatrick, Rosario Dawson, Larry Clark, and Harmony Korine. Photo: © GODLIS

Last night, members of the cast and crew of Larry Clark's controversial film Kids reunited at BAM for a special 20th Anniversary screening, part of BAMcinemaFest 2015. It was the first time in over fifteen years that Clark, writer Harmony Korine, and actors Chloë Sevigny, Rosario Dawson, and Leo Fitzpatrick, as well as many other former "kids" who appeared in the film, were in the same room together, and the first time in a while that they—and much of the audience—had watched the raw, vérité portrait of urban adolescence.

Following the screening, which featured Clark's absolutely pristine personal 35mm print of the film, critic Eric Hynes (Rolling Stone, The New York Times) led a Q&A with Clark, Korine, Sevigny, Dawson, Fitzpatrick, producer Cary Woods, and distribution executive Eamonn Bowles. Here are some excerpts from their conversation:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

David Byrne, Lucius, How To Dress Well, and tUne-yArDs get their guard on

The WGI Color Guard World Championships in Dayton, Ohio are the equivalent of the Super Bowl for the flag-twirling set. On April 18 of this year BAM tagged along with Contemporary Color artists David Byrne, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessing (Lucius), Tom Krell (How To Dress Well), and Merrill Garbus (tUne-yArDs) for a whirlwind 24-hour-immersion in the “sport of the arts.” All photos by Rebecca Greenfield.

Jess and Holly from Lucius meet their team Shenendahowa High School for the first time at a local food court. Camera phones abound:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Behind the Scenes—There’s something about Mary Lou

By David Hsieh

Mary Lou Houston, BAM's wardrobe supervisor, is retiring after 20 years. Photo: Ben Katz

Mary Lou Houston started working in the theater on a fluke. It was in 1975 and she was in San Francisco, trying to open a restaurant. “A friend of mine who was working for the San Francisco Opera knew I could sew and told me the company needed someone in the costume shop. I went in for what I thought was an interview. Instead, they immediately sat me at the sewing machine, making alterations,” said Mary Lou, BAM’s wardrobe supervisor.

The sideline turned out to be very useful when the restaurant business did not pan out. So instead of spatulas and ladles, she waved scissors and needles; instead of carrots, lemongrass, and salmon, she arranged satin, sequins, and buttons. When BAM came calling in 1995, she had 20 years of experience working opera, ballet, American Conservatory Theater, touring houses in San Francisco, toured herself nationally, and worked New York theater. By then she was living in Prospect Heights and was happy to walk to work.  

Fast-forward 20 years: Mary Lou Houston will retire at the end of this season. Sitting in her sun-filled workroom in the Peter Jay Sharp Building, where the Howard Gilman Opera House is located (“Probably the best wardrobe room in New York—all these windows!”), she recalled the tens of thousands of costumes that passed through her hands and revealed a few tricks for those of us who treat a trip to the laundromat as the pinnacle of clothing care...

In Context: Contemporary Color

Creative mastermind David Byrne's multi-genre, sabre-spinning spectacular Contemporary Color comes to BAM by way of the Barclays Center on June 27 & 28. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #ContemporaryColor.

Monday, June 8, 2015

BAM Illustrated: Icons and Innovators in Sparkly Spandex

David Byrne's Contemporary Color is less than three weeks away! Acquaint yourself with the musicians and color guard moves with this helpful guide: