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Monday, June 16, 2014

Next Wave's 45 Flavors

by Susan Yung

Ivy Baldwin Dance in Oxbow. Photo: Andy Romer

Think of BAM’s 2014 Next Wave Festival’s 45 productions as you might Baskin-Robbins’ 31 flavors. There’s something for every taste, but it’s nearly impossible to imagine savoring everything, at least all at once. Here’s an approach to the festival that might help in parsing just what you want to see this Next Wave, and what flavors might be the most satisfying to you.

In September, we celebrate the recording label Nonesuch’s 50 years with a deep, diverse lineup of 14 programs, bookended upfront by a reunion of seismic proportions—Philip Glass and Steve Reich with their ensembles, on one stage—and at the end of the month, a true rock star, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters. In between, you’ll find the varied sounds of Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile; Dawn Upshaw and Gilbert Kalish; John Adams, Alarm Will Sound; Youssou N’Dour; Carolina Chocolate Drops; Rhiannon Giddens; Devendra Banhart, Sam Beam of Iron and Wine, and Stephin Merritt; Kronos Quartet with Natalie Merchant, Giddens, Sam Amidon, and Olivia Chaney; Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet in Landfall; Rokia Traoré, Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté; Tweedy, and Caetano Veloso. Seek out new sounds, choose your current favorite artists, or better yet, both.

Let’s look at the 12 shows in the BAM Fisher’s Fishman Space, the newest venue, which has acquired a big fanbase for its infinite flexibility and intimate size. Three lauded choreographers present new works, each with a unique approach: Jodi Melnick’s Moment Marigold has music by Steven Reker; Ivy Baldwin’s Oxbow includes a sculptural set by Wade Kavanaugh and Stephen Nguyen; and The Wanderer by Jessica Lang uses Schubert’s lieder.

Théâtre de la Ville in Six Characters in Search of an Author. Photo: Pierre Richard

Theater from Ireland at the Fisher includes riverrun by Olwen Fouéré voicing the river in Finnegans Wake, and Howie the Rookie by Mark O’Rowe, in which one actor tackles two roles. On the political end of the scale, in Salt of the Earth, PuppetCinema draws you in to its miniature puppet war drama via projected video, and a chapter in PFC Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning’s riveting story is revealed in The Source, a work of music-theater by Ted Hearne, Mark Doten, and Daniel Fish.

Fisher shows with a scientific twist: ABACUS, something like a performance/TED talk, and QUANTUM, touching on antimatter with the help of dancers and some advice from CERN physicists. Martha Wilson picked Clifford Owens, Dynasty Handbag, and Pablo Helguera for the second Brooklyn Bred series featuring performance artists. Geoff Sobelle and David Neumann examine attic junk and emotional assocations in The Object Lesson, and Holcombe Waller’s song cycle, Wayfinders, poetically weighs the question, where am I? One sure answer: the Fisher.

Now we turn to the Harvey Theater and the Howard Gilman Opera House. Of the four dance events, just the sleek, visceral Beijing Dance Theater is in the Harvey, with Wang Yuanyuan’s Wild Grass. In the big house, L.A. Dance Project makes its New York debut with rep by its director (and Paris Opera Ballet-bound leader) Benjamin Millepied, icon William Forsythe, and rising star Justin Peck. Perpetual favorite Batsheva Dance Company returns with Ohad Naharin’s Sadeh21. And Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch performs Kontakthof, a reprisal from the work’s first BAM performances in 1985.

LA Dance Project in Reflections. Photo: Dave Morgan

Theater offerings in the Harvey are rich, as usual. In Big Dance Theater’s Alan Smithee Directed This Play, expect genre-bending surprises. Lisa Dwan tackles the tour de force of three solo Beckett shorts in Not I, Footfalls, Rockaby. The acclaimed Dutch troupe Toneelgroep Amsterdam performs a stripped-down version of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Théâtre de la Ville brings an intimate production of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author. En Garde Arts’ Basetrack takes a look at the personal side of, and toll on, troops in Afghanistan. And in the Opera House, Lemi Ponifasio focuses on tragic endgame of climate change on a tiny island in Micronesia in Birds With Skymirrors.

Rufus Wainwright’s enchanting music fills the Opera House in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, performed by the Berliner Ensemble and directed by Robert Wilson. And Philip Glass returns with nine of his best piano virtuoso friends to render his 20 etudes in style. Rounding out the big venue’s fare is Exposed: Songs for Unseen Warhol Films, including 15 of Andy Warhol’s 1960’s films accompanied by songs from musicians culled by Dean Wareham, including Tom Verlaine and Eleanor Friedberger.

And finally, music-theater in the Harvey... Meredith Monk’s soaring vocals in On Behalf of Nature will no doubt transport audiences to spiritual heights. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus sings Black Mountain Songs in another inspiring collaboration, curated by Bryce Dessner and Richard Reed Parry. Los Angeles is the subject of Gabriel Kahane’s The Ambassador, a performance rich in visuals as well as music. And VIJAY IYER: Music of Transformation showcases this versatile, acclaimed composer in several works, including the world premiere of a BAM commission.

So take a deep breath, channel your inner Next Wave maven, and dig in to the rich selection!

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