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Monday, May 22, 2017

BAM Illustrated: The Story of Tom Zé

Brazilian music legend Tom Zé presents an evening of samba and bossa nova at BAM on June 3. Illustrator Nathan Gelgud explores the Brazilian musician's career:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Baba Chuck Davis, In Memoriam

Baba Chuck Davis. Photo: Julieta Cervantes
With the passing of Baba Chuck Davis this past weekend, we lost one brilliant star—no, supernova—from the sky. Thousands and thousands of audience members knew Baba Chuck as the artistic director and founder of DanceAfrica, which began in 1977. With great flair, he hosted each year’s performances until his retirement in 2015, returning to assist his successor, Abdel R. Salaam, at last year’s shows. “Ago, amée!” was his signature call-and-response, a participatory gesture which was perennially peppered throughout the performances.

We who had the fortune of working with Baba Chuck over the 40 years of DanceAfrica festivals will miss his tremendous energy, which at times really did feel like our own sun. We’ll miss his heartwarming bear hugs and his unmatched generosity of spirit, and the unending amount of work he put into every detail of DanceAfrica. We pay tribute to the countless hours he spent teaching, choreographing, and rehearsing the BAM/Restoration Youth Dance Ensemble and the visiting companies, as well as the highly popular master classes he led each year.

Between DanceAfrica festivals (which grew to include other cities), Baba Chuck traveled the world—primarily throughout Africa but also to African diasporic locations such as Peru and Cuba—seeking out indigenous dance companies to bring to BAM’s stage. A multitude of American and New York-based troupes also participated, including Abdel R. Salaam’s company, Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, which has performed at BAM nine times. Baba Chuck was responsible for an unimaginable amount of cultural exchange, which was stealthily educational while being awesomely celebratory. He was beloved, but he also taught discipline, tradition, and respect not only for the Elders, but for all of humanity.

A shadow passes over our collective heart with the loss of Baba Chuck, but we honor the ways he changed each and every life he touched.

Ago, amée, Baba Chuck.

—Susan Yung, senior editorial manager at BAM

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Exceeding Limits

By Susan Yung

Cirkus Cirkör performs Limits, a physical theater piece about confronting and soaring above boundaries, at the Howard Gilman Opera House from June 7—10. We spoke with Cirkus Cirkör artistic director Tilde Björfors and set designer Fanny Senocq about the piece.

Anton Graaf in Limits. Photo: Mats Båcker

Was there one moment or news event that inspired you to make Limits?

Tilde Björfors, artistic director, Cirkus Cirkör: When I read about the drownings near Lampedusa in 2013, it turned my life upside down and I needed to know more. We as members of EU guard our borders, and the consequence for thousands of migrants whose only chance to survive is a dangerous journey with life at stake. So I created Borders, the first of a trilogy on circus, risk, and migration. Limits is the second part.

In fall 2015, I tried to welcome displaced people in a spirit of common humanity. I was involved in establishing a transitional housing facility and opened my home to hundreds of boundary-crossers, every encounter a personal tragedy. I became aware of limitations within society and myself. Several times, I felt I couldn’t take in any more; there was no room. But every time, a vulnerable soul showed me there was still hope. Suddenly there was room for more! Both our hearts and our brains have an innate capacity for growth.

It’s shocking to watch Europe close borders when our circus has dedicated 20 years to pushing boundaries. The word “circus” is often used disparagingly, but I think the opposite is true—the world should practice more circus!

Friday, May 5, 2017

In Context: Silent Voices



Silent Voices tackles systemic injustice in soaring soprano-alto harmony, entrusting the vital issues of our day to its most astonishing young singers. This powerful multimedia concert features music by Toshi Reagon, Nico Muhly, DJ Spooky, Caroline Shaw, and others, and texts by Hilton Als, Claudia Rankine, and Pauli Murray. 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 #BYCSilentVoices.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Behind the Scenes at BAM—Evan Kutcher: production, carpentry, and rigging


Evan Kutcher. Photo: David Hsieh
Shows at BAM come in all genres, medium, forms, and shapes. So our amazing stage crew is used to tackling any technical requirement, including building a set from scratch when the occasion arises. Evan Kutcher, a production coordinator and the head of carpentry and rigging at the BAM Fisher since August, 2016, demonstrated his bona fide carpentry skills recently. When the team for Poetry 2017, produced by BAM Education, decided to transform the Fishman stage into a graffiti-splashed building façade, Evan was happy to pick up his chainsaw and don a hard hat. The result speaks for itself, seen in these photos. We chat with Evan about how it all came about.

Q: What does your job entail? 

A: I’m a production coordinator and the head of carpentry and rigging at the BAM Fisher. Rigging is the term we use when we hang things over somebody’s head, whether it’s lights, speakers, curtains, set pieces, or projectors. I’m the one who makes sure that that’s safe and operated in the way it should be.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Faces in DanceAfrica

Janice Hart-Brathwaite, 2nd from left, with Charles Moore Dance Theater.
Photo courtesy of the artist 
By David Hsieh

In February 1976, dancer/choreographer Charles Davis held three performances in the Lepercq Space in today’s Peter Jay Sharp Building at BAM. He constructed an African village to honor the ancestry of African-Americans. From there, a tradition and institution grew steadily. This year the DanceAfrica Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary (May 26—29). It is not only BAM’s longest running program, but also has wide-ranging elements for everyone—performances (including for students during schooltime), classes, a bazaar, films, community events, scholarships, and a Memorial Room. All contribute to spread Baba Chuck’s, and current Artistic Director Abdel R. Salaam’s, enduring central messages: love, respect, and tradition. Here are stories from a few people whose lives have been touched by DanceAfrica.


William Mathews, “Baba Bill”
Council of Elders

I met my future wife Mama Lynette [White] in 1981 and she invited me to an African dance class taught by Chuck. After a while sitting on the side, Chuck asked me to get up and dance with them. I was not a dancer and knew nothing about African dance. But his presence was so illuminating and his personality so inviting that I did as he said. After that, he said I was to come back next week, which I did. Some time after that, Lynette told me I was going to be on this “Council of Elders.” Since I was courting her, I did as told. That’s how I became involved with DanceAfrica. I remember asking Chuck once why he wanted me to be a member. He said, “Anyone that can make my premier dancer smile and look so happy is part of my family.” The Council of Elders is an important part of the festival. We instill the sense of respect for tradition, culture, and elders in all participants. I oversee arranging the Memorial Room and have set up two mentorship programs (Crowns and Seeds) at Bed-Stuy Restoration. Chuck really makes you want to participate. He makes you feel loved, like you’re in a family. I call it the magic of Chuck.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

About the Other Night: The Alan Gala

The Howard Gilman Opera House transforms for The Alan Gala. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

Brooklyn, New York—it’s a helluva town!

On Tuesday, April 4th, we celebrated the incomparable legacy of our very own "no-holds-barred, take-it-to-the-limit Chairman” Emeritus, Alan H. Fishman. After nearly 30 years of service on BAM’s Board of Trustees (14 of which he spent as chairman), the Brooklyn-bred Fishman stepped down at the end of 2016–leaving us no choice but to fête him in style.

Alan & Judith Fishman arrive. Photo: Elena Olivo

Silent Voices—Composers' Notes


In Silent Voices, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus will sing 10 commissioned songs by composers such as Toshi Reagon, Shara Nova, Nico Muhly, and DJ Spooky, giving powerful voice to the disenfranchised. Helga Davis hosts, writers Hilton Als (a recent Pulitzer Prize winner) and Claudia Rankine (2017 Guggenheim Fellow) contribute text, and the International Contemporary Ensemble will play as well. Silent Voices was conceived, and is conducted, by Dianne Berkun Menaker, and directed by Kristin Marting.

The following notes are by the composers, including some lyric excerpts:

so quietly
Music by Caroline Shaw
Text by Caroline Shaw


“so quietly” is an unfolding and an amplification of the voices of individuals who do not feel empowered to speak up, to contribute to a conversation, to perhaps point out an injustice or offer a solution. It could be a tendency to swallow words or backtrack when voicing an idea or opinion in a meeting, or a broader discomfort with engaging politically in society. This piece begins with text that is blurred, muted, and unsure of itself, eventually transforming into something focused, bright, strong, and joyfully outspoken.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Eat, Drink & Be Literary: Walter Mosley



For the past twelve winter spring seasons, audiences have shared a meal with some of today's leading contemporary authors in BAMcafé. Proudly presented by BAM and the National Book Foundation, Eat, Drink & Be Literary features both long established and newer voices as they read from and reflect on their work to date. Each evening starts off with a seasonal, farm fresh dinner by Great Performances, wine from Seghesio Family Vineyards, and live music and features a reading, an interview, a Q&A, and a book signing with the featured author.

On February 21, the 13th season kicked off with Walter Mosley—author of more than 50 critically acclaimed books and the winner of numerous awards, including a Grammy and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His iconic Easy Rawlins detective series celebrated its 25th anniversary this year with the publication of Charcoal Joe. He spoke with Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, about his illustrious career to date:





While the series sells out quickly (though a few tickets for the remainder of the series were recently released—grab them fast!), we hope you'll stay tuned for highlights from the rest of this season's authors, which include Ben Lerner, Claudia Rankine, and Elif Batuman.

Monday, April 10, 2017

DanceMotion USA—A Lucky 7


Yeman Brown of Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Group with a student in Santo Domingo, DR. Photo: Ariana Hellerman
By Sarah Horne

The seventh season of DanceMotion USASM (DMUSA) has just been announced, with participating companies Bebe Miller Company, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. DMUSA, the US State Department’s cultural diplomacy program that is produced by BAM, fosters mutual understanding, acceptance, and community engagement through dance and movement exchange. Season seven companies will continue this work with residencies in Colombia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Peru, Russia, and South Korea in early 2018.

By the end of 2017, this partnership between the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and BAM will have sent 20 dance companies to 55 countries reaching more than 115,000 people directly in workshops and performances, and over 20 million people through digital platforms and social media.