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Monday, February 27, 2017

Doug Varone's Passions

ReComposed. Photo: Nikki Carrara
By Susan Yung

Doug Varone and Dancers performs three works at the BAM Harvey from March 29 to April 1. Varone discussed the varied repertory and some sources of inspiration.

Susan Yung: Can you reflect on the fact that Doug Varone and Dancers is celebrating 30 years? And does the BAM repertory reflect that?

Doug Varone: I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity and support to do what I do everyday for the past 30 years. With the creative successes also come the disappointments, and as a result I’ve learned the great virtue of patience both in and out of the studio. I think mostly about the great and dedicated artists that I’ve had the honor to work with and how they’ve each left an imprint on the dances that have been created. The “and Dancers” part of the company’s name speaks to a family of artists and friends who have always allowed their passionate views to help shape the work and vision. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

In Context: Teknopolis

This luminous showcase of interactive technology features three floors of innovative installation pieces that bridge the arts and digital media. Learn more about the artists and the technology behind their works through our series of curated links, videos, and articles. After you’ve attended the exhibit, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMTeknopolis.

In Context: Dreaming of Lions

Malpaso Dance Company, the reigning standard-bearers of Cuban contemporary dance, find inspiration in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, with music by Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble. Context is everything, so get closer to the production through our series of curated links, videos, and articles. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #MalpasoDance.

In Context: Dadan 2017

Japan’s preeminent taiko drum ensemble Kodo showcases the spectacular sonic possibilities of traditional time-honored instruments in this tightly choreographed pageant of percussion. Context is everything, so get closer to the production through our series of curated links, videos, and articles. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #DadanKodo.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rigorous Rhythm: Kaoru Watanabe on Taiko

Kaoru Watanabe, courtesy the artist's website.

Drawing on the images, sounds, and techniques of ancient Japanese ritual, taiko drum ensemble Kodo melds rigor with grace in Dadan, coming to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House March 1—4. Led by artistic director Tamasaburo Bando, Kabuki theater giant and a national treasure of Japan, the troupe showcases its legendary drumming alongside virtuosic dance and instrumental performance.

To get a better sense of this athletic musical tradition, we sat down with Kaoru Watanabe—founder of the Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center in Crown Heights. In 1997, after graduating from the Manhattan School of Music, Kaoru moved to Japan and joined Kodo—touring across the globe with the ensemble and even serving as one of its artistic directors from 2005—2007. It was, in the artist's words, "a truly transformative experience."

A Moveable Hemingway

Photo: TM Rives
By Robert Jackson Wood

As inspiration for a dance work, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea might seem strange. For much of the book, a fisherman sits nearly motionless in his skiff, waiting—for a fish to bite, for a fish to tire, for a fish to surface, for sharks to eat the fish. There is occasional shifting, knot-tying, and harpooning, but it’s largely the fish that moves—an 18-foot marlin, hooked but tenacious, slowly pulling the boat out to sea.

The dance muse needn’t be bound to movement, though. For Havana-based Malpaso Dance Company—which based its forthcoming BAM commission, Dreaming of Lions, on the novel—there were the book’s cultural resonances to consider. Hemingway was American, for example, but wrote the book during an extended stay at Finca Vigia, his Cuban home. The story is itself something of a Cuban-American amalgam, mixing the experiences of a real-life Cuban fisherman with Hemingway’s own maritime exploits. Add in the book’s themes—perseverance, loneliness, destiny—and its attraction becomes clear.

Friday, February 17, 2017

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 March 1—4), 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...

Unsafe and Unwelcome: The Impossible Life of a Refugee

In A Man of Good Hope, the Olivier Award-winning Isango Ensemble takes up Jonny Steinberg’s riveting book by the same name. Following a young Somali refugee who flees his country’s civil war only to find himself in a new violent reality in South Africa, the production offers clear-eyed portrait of resilience amid the challenges of displacement. Here, illustrator Nathan Gelgud explores Asad Abdullahi's journey across Africa and beyond.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Harvey's Road to BAM

Harvey Lichtenstein, 2nd from right, dancing with Bennington College Dance Group in 1953.
Photo: Lloyd Studio
Sixty-two years ago, Harvey Lichtenstein (1929—2017)—in his dancing debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music—could not have guessed that he would eventually transform the institution into a modern paradigm for performing arts. In 1955, he was performing with modern dance group Mary Anthony and Company on a program of four works. His experience as a professional dancer was one of several threads of experience, in addition to working in marketing, fundraising, and arts administration, that he would draw upon in the years prior to 1967, when he took over at BAM.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Caryl Churchill—Beyond Boundaries

Escaped Alone, a new play by Caryl Churchill, comes to BAM February 15—26. Illustrator Nathan Gelgud explores Churchill's expansive career and body of work.