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Thursday, August 29, 2013

DanceMotion USA 2013 Review:
Doug Varone and Dancers

by Sophie Shackleton

Since 2010, BAM has produced DanceMotion USA, a program funded by the US Department of State to promote diplomacy and cultural exchange through dance. This year, we sent four contemporary American dance companies to represent the United States on artistic missions in four regions around the world. Using dance as a language, they forged lifelong connections—both artistically and personally—with the artists and audiences they met during their travels.

The dancers were our eyes and ears on tour, sharing videos, photos, and blog posts as they traveled. We are featuring highlights from each of the four companies’ journeys here on the BAM blog.


In April and May, New York’s beloved Doug Varone and Dancers took us south, miles below the equator.



In Argentina, the company collaborated with South America’s most renowned dance companies—Buenos Aires being a hot spot for dance of all kinds. They taught at Julio Bocca’s school, flew in the air with Brenda Angiel’s Aerial dance company, and performed for a full house at the San Martin. But the cultural discoveries were no fewer: they explored the Recoleta Cemetery, burial place of Eva and Juan Perón. Dancer Xan Burley recounted the unique experience of getting their Mayan astrological signs read by a vendor outside Palermo. Alex Springer got a special note from one of his students. They saw capoeira and tango and danced in the streets of San Telmo. Doug whipped out some fancy footwork in Morón. Lawrence made sure to take photos of all the dogs in Argentina. They consumed plenty of steak, steak, and more steak. And we discovered the pun that would last the length of the tour—Varone/Varones: Doug Varone in the men’s room.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Curating BAMcinématek's Civil Rights Film Series: An Interview with Nellie Killian


BAMcinématek programmer Nellie Killian speaks about the process of researching and curating the monumental 40-film series A Time For Burning: Cinema of the Civil Rights Movement, which culminates on Wednesday, Aug 28, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Haskell Wexler's The Bus
When did you start working on this series?
I realized this summer we were coming up on a number of important anniversaries in the civil rights movement—the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, the assassination of Medgar Evers, and the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door. It’s also the anniversary of the March on Washington, which in many ways was a response to the escalating violence. It seemed important to commemorate the 50th anniversary, so I looked at all sorts of work from the 1960s that dealt with the civil rights movement.

While researching, I realized I was much more familiar with the late 1960s and early 1970s, and that the later wave of radicalism dominated the way I thought about that era. So I decided that this series would focus on the earlier period of the movement that’s been less represented, and that gave me some parameters, since there was so much excellent work.

DanceMotion USA 2013 in Review:
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

by Sophie Shackleton

Since 2010, BAM has produced DanceMotion USA, a program funded by the US Department of State to promote diplomacy and cultural exchange through dance. This year, we sent four contemporary American dance companies to represent the United States on artistic missions in four regions around the world. Using dance as a language, they forged lifelong connections—both artistically and personally—with the artists and audiences they met during their travels.

The dancers were our eyes and ears on tour, sharing videos, photos, and blog posts as they traveled. We are featuring highlights from each of the four companies’ journeys here on the BAM blog.


The celebrated talent of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago set off for Chicago’s sister city, Casablanca, to start a tour through the North African desert and Andalusian mountains.



At the airport, they shared their nerves with us, but were soon overwhelmed by the incredible food, markets, and marble mosques of Morocco. In Marrakech, they led a contemporary dance flash mob  in the public square. David Schultz proved he is not just a dancer, but a photographer. And Matt Miller, the company's quiet yet loquacious technical director, sent us the first of his many incredible blogs, which describe the world of Morocco with whimsy and wonderment.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Thirteen Years of Robert Lepage at BAM

by Joseph Bradshaw

Robert Lepage
From his recent upturning of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the Met to his reinvention of the hardboiled detective story in Polygraph (presented at 1990’s Next Wave Festival), Robert Lepage can always be found at the forefront of theatrical innovation. Also an acclaimed film director, Lepage’s work for the stage strikes an inventive balance between filmed and live action. His deep understanding of the potential of contemporary technology is used to reinterpret the past, and his results are always astonishing. What else would we expect from contemporary theater’s foremost Renaissance man?    

Since Polygraph, BAM has presented Lepage’s stage work on the regular. For the 1992 Next Wave a 35-year-old Lepage—who by that point was already an established figure on the international scene—performed his triumphal one-man show Needles and Opium. This piece, which Mel Gussow called “a chamber work marked by its absolute precision,” crosscut the lives of Miles Davis and Jean Cocteau with elements of Lepage’s own autobiography, in a gymnastic medley of musings on jazz, travel, Surrealism, and the act of creation itself.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fisher Performances—In Your Face

by Susan Yung

Kate Weare Company. Photo: Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang
After just one season, the new BAM Fisher (Fishman Space) has become a favorite BAM destination, alongside the Howard Gilman Opera House and the BAM Harvey Theater. Here, reasons why, plus a look at this fall’s Fisher offerings.

    • Variety. Dance, music, theater, and multi-genre events are equally at home in the Fisher.
    • Proximity. It offers unbeatable, arm's-length views of work that rewards an up-close experience from each of the theater’s 250 (or fewer) seats.
    • Affordability. Tickets are $20, and for DanceMotion USA(sm), free.
    • Access. The lobby is at street level at 321 Ashland Place, and the theater doors are situated just inside for simple access.
    • Flexibility. In the 2012 Next Wave, seats were on one, two, three, and four sides, in addition to zero seats, at least regulation theater style—they were stowed to make room for 60 rocking chairs, and for another show, the theater was converted into a laser pointer gallery. Plus, the balcony offers a totally different point of view. In the 2013 Next Wave Festival, all configurations will again be employed, some described with words like “tennis court” and “runway.”

      Friday, August 16, 2013

      DanceMotion USA 2013 in Review:
      Illstyle & Peace Productions in Eastern Europe

      by Sophie Shackleton

      Since 2010, BAM has produced DanceMotion USA, a program funded by the US Department of State to promote diplomacy and cultural exchange through dance. This year, we sent four contemporary American dance companies to represent the United States on artistic missions in four regions around the world. Using dance as a language, they forged lifelong connections—both artistically and personally—with the artists and audiences they met during their travels.

      The dancers were our eyes and ears on tour, sharing videos, photos, and blog posts as they traveled. We are featuring highlights from each of the four companies’ journeys here on the BAM blog.


      A lesson we've learned over the three years of DanceMotion USA: there is nothing quite like a hip-hop tour. Hip-hop has spread from its roots in New York’s boroughs to the farthest corners of the earth, and each country, culture, and group has adapted it to its own dance customs, political voices, and youth experiences. This April, we sent Philly’s own Illstyle & Peace Productions to a whole new hip-hop territory: Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. A whirlwind of cheering fans and breakdance battles, it was not only an incredible experience for everyone involved, but also some of the most fun we’ve had on the internet.


      Thursday, August 15, 2013

      We Love You, Shirley!

      by Nathan Gelgud



      They don’t come cooler than Cool World director Shirley Clarke. A pioneer in sixties independent movies, an innovator of the avant-garde, and key member of filmmaking collectives like Videofreex, Clarke is one of the best things to ever happen in underground American movies, up there with Stan Brakhage and Jonas Mekas.

      BAM is a huge fan of Clarke, having given her an overdue retrospective in 2005 that showed not only her key works like The Cool World and The Connection, but an undeservedly under-discussed Agnès Varda movie in which she co-starred called Lions Love from 1969. Clarke shared the screen with our favorite Andy Warhol superstar Viva in that movie, but it was Clarke’s honest performance that made us such big fans.

      Friday, August 9, 2013

      The Tramp at BAM

      Click here for more vintage Chaplin posters

      This weekend, several of Charlie Chaplin's films will be screened at BAM in a series called Chaplin in 35mm, from early career favorites to his controversial last feature.

      This is not the start of BAM's, or the world's, preoccupation with Chaplin. His grandson, James Thiérrée, is a BAM Next Wave favorite, dazzling audiences in his nouveau cirque company's productions of Bright Abyss (2005), Au Revoir Parapluie (2008), and Raoul (2010). It also is apparent that Chaplin is What We Talk About When We Talk About Silent Film—during the 2005 Buster Keaton retrospective at BAM, several critics couldn't help but compare Keaton's films to his rival/friend's Chaplin's. (In our post-Mean Girls era, can we use the word frenemy?)

      In 2009, BAM presented the series The Late Film, featuring work from many renowned directors' late periods. New Yorker film writer Richard Brody chose to focus his blog on a film BAM had missed—Chaplin's last, A King in New York (1957).

      It feels only right that BAM—whose Harvey (formerly Majestic) Theater thrived during the silent era and recently unveiled its Steinberg Screen—crowns Chaplin the King of Brooklyn for the weekend. As the late critic Roger Ebert said about Chaplin's City Lights, "It contains the slapstick, the pathos, the pantomime, the effortless physical coordination, the melodrama, the bawdiness, the grace, and, of course, the Little Tramp—the character said, at one time to be the most famous image on earth.” The iconic Chaplin's ability to make us laugh never overshadows his ability to move us.

      Thursday, August 8, 2013

      BAM R&B Festival at MetroTech Preview:
      Shuggie Otis

      By Robert Wood



      The BAM R&B Festival at MetroTech—BAM's free summertime showcase of heavy hitters from R&B, reggae, funk, and other genres—runs this year through August 8, with concerts happening (almost) every Thursday at noon. That means lunchtime for most, so for the full MetroTech experience, we suggest bringing takeout from a nearby restaurant and making an afternoon (or a long lunch break) out of it. Check back every week for these previews, which will also suggest appropriate eats to enjoy along with the music, and pigeons, in Downtown Brooklyn.



      Shuggie Otis
      Thu, Aug 8 at 12pm
      MetroTech Commons | map
      Free

      In a nutshell:
      Son of R&B legend Johnny Otis and guitar prodigy who recently returned to the limelight after almost four decades of silence.

      Genres:
      Psychedelic soul, analog drum machine funk

      Monday, August 5, 2013

      Tragedy in Blonde—Anna Nicole

      by Sandy Sawotka

      Sarah Joy Miller. Photo: Pari Dukovic

      It’s a special night at the opera when propulsive and richly idiomatic music is paired with a sharp and witty libretto. And it’s a unique night at the opera when an American tabloid tragedy is told with compassion and humor—also recalling the art form’s tragic heroines. Such is Anna Nicole, an opera by British composer Marc-Anthony Turnage (Greek, Blood on the Floor) and British writer Richard Thomas (Jerry Springer: The Opera), commissioned by London’s Royal Opera House which makes its US premiere in a co-production by BAM and New York City Opera and opens BAM’s 2013 Next Wave Festival on September 17.

      Directed by Richard Jones (who also directed the London production) and now with conductor Steven Sloane leading the New York City Opera Orchestra (including renowned jazz drummer Peter Erskine), the cast is culled from opera and Broadway—with soprano Sarah Joy Miller in the lead role, and featuring James Barbour (A Tale of Two Cities as Daddy Hogan); Susan Bickley as Virgie; Robert Brubaker as Old Man Marshall; Ben David (A Little Night Music) as Billy; John Easterin as Larry King; Rod Gilfry (South Pacific) as Howard K. Stern; Joshua Jeremiah as Deputy/Mayor; Christina Sajous (American Idiot) as Blossom; Mary Testa (Queen of the Mist) as Aunt Kaye; and Stephen Walden as the Trucker.

      Anna Nicole tells the sensational story of Anna Nicole Smith, a small-town Texas waitress and single mother (and later uber-breast-enhanced exotic dancer) in pursuit of not only a better life, but the American jackpot. Smith wed an octogenarian billionaire and became a Playboy model and tabloid celebrity, living a life of excess and substance abuse—under the constant glare of the media—until her death at the age of 39 from an accidental drug overdose.

      Friday, August 2, 2013

      Eight Movies About Photographers

      Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer opened today, and because we know BAM filmgoers are diligent about their favorite pastime, we thought they might want to do some pre-show preparation. Below, find eight movies (with some bonus ones in the descriptions) about photographers that we recommend as companions and context.

      Bill Cunningham New York
      Perhaps closest in subject matter to Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer is this ingratiating documentary, a tender portrait of a photographer and his city. Learn why Cunningham's meticulous approach to layout can be maddening to his editors, what the differences are between shooting street fashion and gala events, and where Cunningham has the same modest lunch every day.