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Monday, April 14, 2014

Christian Rizzo on love, doubt, and David Bowie

French choreographer Christian Rizzo has a professional background in rock music, fashion, and visual art, and draws from all these experiences and more in his work. The following is a selection of his thoughts on the foundations of his choreography.

Christian Rizzo
The presence of another person engenders a question whose answer could be love, which for me is the essential reaction to all creation. The artist James Lee Byars said, "Beauty is the response, not the

To doubt is to begin without knowing the rules, to throw all the dice, and it allows me to avoid posturing and repetition. When I begin, I may have an idea and it is what it is, but the work doesn't exist yet. During the creation process I concentrate on a transformation revealed through the movement of the body, the music, and the lighting. I am interested in opposition. I work in the space between the action and its opposite. 

BAM Board Chairman's Dinner

Last Thursday, we were honored to host the 13th annual BAM Board Chairman's Dinner, a celebration of the work of BAM's most passionate advocates. Hosted by Board Chairman Alan Fishman and his wife, Judy Fishman, the event has become one of BAM's favorite traditions.

Alan and Judy Fishman welcome guests to the 13th Annual BAM Board Chairman's Dinner
This particular evening was especially significant, as it included the dedication of one of the iconic arched windows in BAM's Lepercq Space in honor of BAM Trustee Richard Feldman. During the 2013 BAM Ignite Gala, Richard was named the recipient of the first Ignite Award in recognition of his incredible contributions to arts education at BAM.

The plaque reads: "This iconic BAM window is dedicated to Ignite Award recipient Richard E. Feldman in recognition
of his tireless support for arts education at BAM. June 4, 2013"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fresh Hamm: A Prima Donna and Schnapps

When the BAM building at 176-194 Montague Street was destroyed by fire in 1903, many programs and playbills dating from our incorporation in 1861 to 1901 were lost. In an effort to rebuild some of the history that was lost we at the BAM Hamm Archives have been using the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online to research those years. (A big thank you to the Brooklyn Public Library for working with us!) The Brooklyn Daily Eagle has given us some fun finds.

For example, did you know Brooklyn had a Prima Donna?

Brooklyn bred soprano Susan Strong delighted audiences across New York and around the world, prompting the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to praise her as "Brooklyn's Prima Donna." Shortly after returning from a period of intense study and critical acclaim in Europe, Strong starred in Faust here in November 1896.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lifetime Lear—A pass to every King Lear produced at BAM and Theatre for a New Audience, forever

Limited quantity available beginning April 2, 10am
April 1, 2014, Brooklyn—Brooklyn Academy of Music and Theatre for a New Audience will offer a special pass that includes a pair of seats to every production of William Shakespeare's King Lear presented by the Fort Greene cultural neighbors, beginning January 2015 until the end of time. Additional Brooklyn venues to be announced.
BAM Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo said, "We are thrilled at the prospect of offering true 'Learheads' guaranteed access to the many future productions of this essential tragedy." Added TFANA Founding Artistic Director Jeffrey Horowitz, "The Bard would surely approve of this profound pledge of loyalty to one of his finest works. Now and forever!"

This current season, each presenter will have had a run of King Lear. BAM's, in January/February, by Chichester Festival Theatre, directed by Angus Jackson, and starred Frank Langella. TFANA's, which runs through May 4, is directed by Arin Arbus and stars Michael Pennington. (This production is not included in Lifetime Lear.) The enduring popularity and relevance of this play catalyzed the idea of creating Lifetime Lear. Other notable King Lear productions at BAM, approaching 20 in number since 1862, include portrayals by Edwin Booth, Ian McKellen, and Derek Jacobi.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Twyla Tharp—On the Limit

by Susan Yung

Twyla Tharp. Photo: Gjon Mili
Twyla Tharp's new Cornbread Duet, danced by New York City Ballet principals Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, premieres at BAM on April 10 on a bill with Carolina Chocolate Drops, who will perform live. The following is from BAM: The Complete Works.

Twyla Tharp may have more popular breadth than any of her choreographer peers, though it’s hard to say how she is best known. It could be for her Broadway shows, such as Movin’ Out, for which she won a Tony Award; for the films she’s choreographed, including White Nights; or for the three books she has authored. Or because she has embraced all types of music, from classical to chart-topping pop. What is certain is that she has never compromised on concept, technique, or principle throughout her prolific career.

In her early work from the 1960s, Tharp disassembled, analyzed, and re-created conventional jazz and modern movement, turning it inside out, running it in retrograde. She crafted roiling, cursive phrases that flowed seamlessly or darted unpredictably. It was too technical to be called strictly postmodern, despite the loopy, relaxed demeanor and the dollops of pedestrian movement.

In the 1970s, she began working with Mikhail Baryshnikov—then a guest principal with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT)—who, with a similar compact build, mop of hair, and physical genius, became a male doppelgänger for Tharp. On him, she could satisfactorily combine jazzy, pelvis-swiveling movement with bravura ballet, topped off with his irresistible charisma. She choreographed Push Comes to Shove, featuring Baryshnikov, for ABT in 1976, and began choreographing more with ballet.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Summation Dance—Please Standby

Updating Route, Please Standby. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Summation Dance is presenting two premieres choreographed by Sumi Clements at the BAM Fisher from April 2 to 5. Clements' style is bold, visceral, fearless, and often involves nuanced relationships and partnering experiments between the dancers.

The company's nine dancers will perform Updating Route, Please Standby, to a mixed score by DJ/electronic musician Lorn. The work "considers how society, the media, literature, and visual culture have molded our understanding of who, and what, we are and reasons that we contemplate dismissing these preconceptions in favor of simple re-evaluation and advancement." A version of this piece was recently presented as part of the Dancing Literate Festival, growing from an initiative advanced by Summation to make modern dance relatable by all.

Also on the April program is Hunt, for eight dancers, which looks at the persecution of witches from a feminist perspective. The soundscape is by Kyle Olson, who has previously collaborated with Summation. Costumes for both premieres are designed by Brigitte Vosse.

The company was founded in 2010 by Clements with fellow NYU alum Taryn Vander Hoop (executive director and associate artistic director). It may be young, but its foundation and mission are impressively clear-eyed and well-reasoned in this hypercompetitive dance ecology. The troupe has a modestly ambitious five-year business plan which it has stuck to; it employs women as the vast majority of able dancers are female; and dancers are paid for each performance. Summation self-produces at venues that in addition to BAM, include Baryshnikov Arts Center and the Dancing Literate Project at Judson Church, which allows them to control factors including house size and location; thus far, they have sold out all of their performances.

Click here for more information on April's performances.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Christian Rizzo's Quiet Daring

by Susan Yung

Lyon Opera Ballet in ni fleurs, ni ford-mustang. Michel Cavalca

Lyon Opera Ballet returns to BAM this spring with a quietly daring work by polymath Christian Rizzo. The company’s classical name is, by now, somewhat of a misnomer (although the dancers are remarkably fluent in ballet). The troupe was formed in 1969 by Lyon Opera director Louis Erlo; in 1984, under Françoise Adret, its focus became contemporary dance. Since 1991, Yorgos Loukos has been artistic director (preceded by several years in which he was associate director), commissioning and reviving dances by some of this era’s leading choreographers.

Reflecting on his ongoing mission, Loukos said recently, “I’m trying to expand the repertory and have different approaches by artists without excluding anything—neo-classic, modern, post-modern, more theatrical, and whatever young people are trying to do and show through a personal vision of dance and performance.” The list includes such varied visionaries as William Forsythe, Mathilde Monnnier, Trisha Brown, Rachid Ouramdane, Merce Cunningham, and Jiri Kylian. You’d be pressed to find a better, more multi-faceted representation of the current and past half-century of dance repertory.

Lyon Opera Ballet will perform Rizzo’s ni fleurs, ni ford-mustang, his first commission from the company, from May 7—10 in the Howard Gilman Opera House. The original score is by Gerome Nox, and the subtle lighting design by Caty Olive. Rizzo began his career by founding a rock band, and then designed clothing, pursued visual art, and over the last decade plus has created performance work and choreography.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Best Places to See Folk and Country Music in Brooklyn

by Kerri Lowe

Greenwich Village may have been the start of the 1960s folk music revival, but today, Brooklyn is holding down the fort as the best place to get your folk and country music fix in New York City. Below you’ll find the best venues in Brooklyn to listen, watch, square dance, and maybe even play a little tune yourself.

The Jalopy Theatre
315 Columbia St. (Red Hook)

The Fabulous Jalopy Theatre and School of Music, founded by Geoff and Lynette Wiley, is the hub of folk music in Brooklyn. From blues to country to old-time and more, Jalopy is the go-to place for folk enthusiasts from all walks of life. Enter the Jalopy and on the left you’ll see vintage guitars, banjos and ukuleles for sale. The blackboard above the bar highlights the drink menu and schedule of bands playing that week. Weekly shows, like the Tuesday night open mic and Wednesday night Roots & Ruckus (curated by master songsmith and Brooklyn folk staple Feral Foster) keep up a clientele of regulars and new faces. A bust of Thomas Jefferson watches over the audience from the side of the red-curtained stage.

Jalopy also offers affordable group music lessons for adults and kids, taught by some of Brooklyn’s most knowledgeable folk musicians. Eli Smith—who plays in The Down Hill Strugglers (that’s his voice singing “The Roving Gambler” on the Inside Llewyn Davis Soundtrack) and founded the Brooklyn Folk Festival—teaches banjo. Now in its sixth year, the Brooklyn Folk Festival (April 18—20) is co-presented by Jalopy and takes place over three days at The Bell House.

Friday, March 21, 2014

BAM Blog Questionnaire: the men of A Doll's House

Dominic Rowan, Steve Toussaint, and Nick Fletcher

Many conversations about A Doll’s House tend to center around Nora, and rightfully so, but let us not forget the men of the play! We caught up with actors Dominic Rowan (Torvald), Steve Toussaint (Dr. Rank), and Nick Fletcher (Krogstad) to learn more about their rituals, characters, and advice they’ve ignored.

The male characters in A Doll’s House are pretty unlikeable. How do you empathize with or relate to your character?

Dominic Rowan: Unlikeable? Torvald tries his best in difficult circumstances— all the characters do.

Steve Toussaint: Well, firstly I reject the premise of the question: I don’t believe that Dr. Rank is unlikeable, (can’t speak for the other two); of course, that could just be me. He is funny, smart, and in the terrible circumstance of having found a woman who enchants and delights him and yet is married to his best mate. I think most of us can understand an unrequited love…I’ll say no more…

Nick Fletcher: I'm a father like Krogstad. I'm lucky that I've never been in circumstances as desperate as his. Like him I can nurse a sense of injustice. The redemption that he and Kristine Linde experience in Act III is always a pleasure to play; all the pain and poison I have to carry for him is conveniently drained away at the exact moment I walk off stage!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

About Last Night: Next Society Celebration at River Café

The cast of A Doll's House poses under the New York skyline with Karen Brooks Hopkins and Joe Melillo.
The scene Sunday night was perfect for an event: a candle-lit restaurant overlooking the East River, the New York skyline looming, the Brooklyn Bridge overhead. After a matinee performance, the lauded cast of A Doll’s House joined BAM’s Next Society members at The River Café  for the annual dinner event.