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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Notes on Crossing

Composer Matthew Aucoin's Crossing, a new American opera directed by American Repertory Theater's Diane Paulus, comes to BAM on October 3. A note from Aucoin follows.

by Matthew Aucoin

“But for the opera…I could never have written Leaves of Grass,” Walt Whitman reminisced late in life. It’s perhaps surprising that the quintessential American poet, the writer whose signature bard-call is a “barbaric yawp” rather than a refined warble, spent his formative years—before setting off to cross a wild, apparently “formless” poetic frontier—absorbing the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini, Rossini, and the young Verdi. I share Whitman’s opinion that the essence of opera has nothing to do with the stuffy salons and social one-upmanship of the Americans who imported it to New York in the 19th century: opera is a primal union of animal longing, as expressed in sound, and human meaning, as expressed in language. Indeed, Whitman considered opera the pinnacle of human expression, something beyond the powers of language alone. And in his best poems, Whitman operates like an opera composer: he carries the English language into a new musical landscape. Whitman’s “melodies” surge boundlessly, spilling over the side of the page; his exclamations are wild and craggy. His poetry is both the waterfall and the rocks on which the water crashes.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

For Ahkeem

For Ahkeem is an affecting coming-of-age documentary that shines a light on what it means to grow up poor and black in 21st Century America. Below, former White House Social Secretary Deesha Dyer shares her thoughts on this powerful film.

By Deesha Dyer

I knew something good would come out of my insomniac Twitter scrolling. A few months ago I came across the trailer for the documentary For Ahkeem. I had never heard of the film but watched the trailer and was completely taken back. I saw myself in Daje, the teenage girl whose story it follows. While circumstances are quite different between us, the parallels were strong. The most striking was the balancing act she struggled to master—being labeled a "bad kid," an unstable family structure, and poverty.

Not long ago, this was my reality. It’s how I felt growing up in Philadelphia and later at a boarding school in Hershey, PA. I was a loud kid, and I mean loud! While my parents always encouraged me to stand up for myself, this attitude and communication method was not highly accepted in an academic or residential environment. Every time I got in trouble, I would get more defensive because while I took responsibilities for my actions, I didn’t understand why the world was afraid of me. I watched Daje go through these same emotions.

When I finally watched the complete film, I wanted nothing more than to hug Daje and let her know that it is okay and she is okay. I say this from experience because I ended up okay—actually more than okay, working for President and Mrs. Obama at the White House for almost eight years. Looking at headlines, it is easy to see how the stigma attached to young black girls still exists. I don’t know why I was naive to think it didn’t. For Ahkeem moved me to start focusing more on the narrative labeled around young black girls who are perhaps deemed too loud, too sassy, or too grown. I started to have open conversations with young girls—even taking some to see For Ahkeem—about how they are beautiful, assertive, bold, and courageous. How they can use their voices for good, as I had.

I encourage everyone to go see For Ahkeem. It gives a human glimpse into a perspective that may have you questioning if Daje needs to change, or the system needs to change. Daje is hopeful and that shines through the whole movie. It’s hard not to catch that same feeling when watching this brilliant film.

For Ahkeem screens Oct 13—19, and tickets are on sale now.

Starting with a White House internship at age 31, Deesha Dyer rose to become White House Social Secretary to President and Mrs. Barack Obama from 2015—17.

In Context: My Lai

Jonathan Berger and Kronos Quartet's fevered character study featuring tenor Rinde Eckert and Vân Ánh Võ considers the line between duty and conscience. 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 #BAMNextWave.

Monday, September 18, 2017

In Context: Olivier Py Sings Les Premiers Adieux de Miss Knife

A beguiling chanteuse with a voice of honey and barbed wire, Miss Knife oozes grit, glitz, and old-world glamour. 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 #BAMNextWave.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Performing My Lai

Below, My Lai's Rinde Eckert reflects on the creation of a work wrestling with the repercussions of atrocity, duty, and conscience nearly five decades after an international tragedy.

Photo: Zoran Orlic

By Rinde Eckert

On March 16, 1968, C Company of the United States Armed Forces marched on My Lai, a hamlet within the Son My village complex near the border of what was then North Vietnam and South Vietnam. They killed more than 500 civilians: women, old people, children, and infants. It was to be the first of a series of search and destroy missions called Task Force Barker. Hugh Thompson, a helicopter pilot, realizing what was going on, landed his helicopter, imposed himself between the berserk soldiers and the remaining villagers, and stopped the massacre. Shortly after Thompson’s irate report to his superiors immediately upon his return to base, Task Force Barker was suspended. It is safe to say that Thompson saved many more than the dozen lives he and his crew (gunners Larry Colburn and Glenn Andreotta) are credited with saving that day.

Tragedies of such magnitude cannot be approached with the brash velocity of the photographic. An almost pornographic nakedness in the document of the atrocity impresses us with its horror at the same time it distances us from that horror—makes it impossible to engage with, to stay with long enough to understand something of redemptive value, something to improve our understanding of ourselves and the world. The broad brush of revulsion paints us into a familiar (and therefore comforting) corner from which we look with a kind of hauteur. We are sympathetic while remaining essentially aloof. “We cannot possibly be that!,” we tell ourselves. The interviews with survivors of My Lai are heart-rending; there are no words… But they are not art. And art is often what we need most when the world has turned ugly and crazy. Documentary history tells us what happened, but art allows us to enter the past fully, to be made wiser by it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

In Context: Café Müller/The Rite of Spring

In 1984, Tanztheater Wuppertal made its New York debut at BAM, performing what would become the two most iconic works of Pina Bausch’s extraordinary repertoire. More than three decades later, the company returns with a landmark restaging of that historic double bill. 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 #PinaBausch.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Jamaa Fanaka: L.A. Rebel

By Jesse Trussell

Born in Jackson, Mississippi but raised in LA’s Compton, Jamaa Fanaka is a key figure in the group of filmmakers that emerged from UCLA in the 1970s, known as the L.A. Rebellion. Recent rediscovery efforts have elevated Julie Dash and Charles Burnett (who shot Fanaka’s first feature) into the pantheon of American filmmakers, but Fanaka’s films—an elemental mixture of an entertainer’s drive for narrative with a neo-realist focus on place and social relations—are still wildly under-seen. Financially successful yet forgotten, labeled Blaxploitation while recalling Cinema Novo as much as Super Fly, the work of Jamaa Fanaka is still hard to pin down today, five years after his passing.

For the first time in New York, BAMcinématek’s retrospective tribute Jamaa Fanaka: L.A. Rebel (Sep 22—27) brings together all of Fanaka’s work—from his first short film A Day in the Life of Willie Faust, or Death on the Installment Plan (starring Fanaka himself) to his final feature, 1992’s Street Wars. Though stark in his depiction of the struggle and violence his characters must endure in their daily lives, his sense of the African-American community as a family is key to the overarching humanism of his work. It’s not for nothing that the filmmaker, who was born Walter Gordon, chose the Swahili words meaning "togetherness" and "success” for his nom de cinema.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Fall Dance Insider

This fall, BAM Education partners with Mark Morris Dance Group to present a free workshop series designed especially for teenage dancers and choreographers. Three companies featured in BAM’s Next Wave Festival—Marc Bamuthi Joseph/The Living Word Project, ODC/Dance, and David Dorfman Dance—will lead immersive sessions in technique, composition, and improvisation, igniting students’ imaginations through movement. Meanwhile, participants will engage in direct discussion with the artists and attend performances, gaining unique insight into the creative process. The 2017 Fall Dance Insider application deadline is Sept 18—apply now!

Below, BAM Education & Community Program's own Eveline Chang reflects on the program in this piece originally published back in 2014.

Fall Dance Insider with Ivy Baldwin Dance. Photo: Piotr Redlinski

by Eveline Chang

This Fall, BAM Education partnered with Mark Morris Dance Center to present Fall Dance Insider, a free workshop series for 40 dance students grades 9—12. In conjunction with the 2014 BAM Next Wave Festival, participants learned from and engaged with some of the festival’s most renowned dance artists. Bénédicte Billet—who worked for years as a dancer with Iconic BAM Artist Pina Bausch and Tanztheater Wuppertal—and the 2014 Artist in Residence Ivy Baldwin led immersive workshops for these aspiring dancers and choreographers.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Whitman, Across the Divide

Photo: Gretjen Helene
By Robert Jackson Wood

“Since I have sat where you sit and breathed the air you breathe, I know you will hear me,” sings the poet Walt Whitman at the beginning of Matthew Aucoin’s opera Crossing, at BAM from October 3 to 8. It is, in our time, an almost perversely optimistic sentiment. Yet in the context of Whitman’s exuberant oeuvre, it’s maybe fitting. Whitman was an idealist, whose ebullient verse betrayed a sprawling fantasy of human communion—of bodies and souls merged, of distances overcome—sanctioned by an erotic metaphysics of shared experience. “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” he wrote in “Song of Myself.”

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The People Spoke

By Nora Tjossem

Sitting in the red plushness of the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, facing the proscenium arch, the weight of tradition climbs into your lap and takes its seat. But on Tuesday night, March 24, it was not the legacy of Pina Bausch or Robert Wilson that sat with us. It was the history—fraught, inflammable, and frighteningly present—of the United States of America.

The People Speak uses the work of historian Howard Zinn to bring life to the revolutionaries that have ignited social justice movements in the United States. “I start from the supposition that the world is topsy-turvy,” Zinn once proclaimed. Directed by longtime Zinn collaborator Anthony Arnove and performed by a lineup of actors, musicians, poets, and writers, the words of some of the most radical and transformative voices in this country’s history are unearthed from the oppressive, topsy-turvy status quo and given a stage worthy of their present import.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pina, Dark and Light

Pina Bausch in Café Müller. Photo: J. Paulo Pimenta
By Susan Yung

"It is not that I wanted to confront people. The misunderstanding is not that I love violence, it was quite the opposite. I was terrified of violence, but I wanted to understand the person doing the violence. That was the exploration." —Pina Bausch

This fall, when Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch returns to BAM for its 15th engagement from September 14 to 24, it comes full circle with the works Café Müller (1978) and The Rite of Spring (1975), both performed in the company’s inaugural run at BAM in 1984. The look and feel of Bausch’s repertory over the decades has, for the large part, shifted from dark and literally earthbound to light and air- and water-suffused. Ask longtime viewers which they prefer and you’ll get resounding votes for each. Taken together, they form a body of work which, while cut short by Bausch’s sudden death in 2009, is one of our era’s most influential and uncompromising artistic outputs.

While contemporary theater artists may not consciously or overtly quote Pina, she has emerged as one of the most influential theater artists working over the past half-century. Is a dance performance interrupted by a random bit of spoken text or a quotidian gesture? Are seemingly unrelated vignettes mixed together in a performance? Do costumes reinforce or subvert gender stereotypes? Does a jukebox soundtrack shift moods and accumulate to provide a changing and varied emotional landscape? These are all threads that Pina repeatedly wove into her astonishing repertory, and which have become common practices.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Bill T. Jones—A BAM Featured Archival Collection

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company performs Jones' A Letter to My Nephew at the BAM Harvey from Oct 3 to 7.

It's a good occasion to introduce you to the Leon Levy BAM Digital Archive, a vast trove of artifacts and ephemera from BAM's 156-year history as a performance and community center.

The featured collection on Bill T. Jones includes links to richly detailed entries on all of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company's BAM productions, plus a selection of materials from performances.

Clicking on a show title takes you to a page with a description of the show, collaborators (with links to their other productions at BAM), and ephemera documenting that show including photos, audio, programs, and more.

We are excited to be able to share this incredibly rich archive, and encourage you to poke around and discover the history of BAM and the artists and art that have made it a popular destination since 1861.

Susan Yung

Monday, August 28, 2017

Plus ça change

Va savoir. Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The iconic directors of the French New Wave changed the future of film when they blasted on screen in the 1950s and 1960s, which were characterized by a rebellion of standard practices, experimental filmmaking, and social issue exploration. These French New Wave auteurs have continued to push the envelope into the 2000s, revealing how they changed and adopted the styles, politics, and technologies of the 21st century. BAMcinématek’s new series, Plus ça change, loosely translated means “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” which perfectly encompasses late-career feature films from titans like Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Jacques Rivette, and Agnès Varda.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Pina Bausch, in her own words

Many works by Pina Bausch (1940—2009) can and have been parsed for complex emotional and psychological meaning, including the two in the 2017 Next Wave Festival, The Rite of Spring and Café Müller. Many of her creative impulses grew from life experiences in her youth, and the means—dance and movement—through which she found true expression. Bausch’s parents owned a small hotel with a restaurant, where she spent many a night tucked under a table, music in the air, observing the messy, ever-changing humanity unfolding around her amidst a time of war. She was certainly influenced by the Folkwang School where she studied with Kurt Jooss, learning free expression alongside classical technique, and gaining exposure to other genres. But she would develop her own style of tanztheater, enfolding all of the disparate elements to craft a completely unique vision that has influenced generations of artists.

Following, in Bausch’s own words mined from remarks and interviews, are thoughts and influences that informed her work emerge to form a picture of how her remarkable point of view came to life.

Nazareth Panadero, Rolf Borzik, Dominique Mercy in Café Muller. Copyright Graziano Arici.

From "What Moves Me" speech by Pina Bausch when presented the 2007 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy (full text here):

"Even the restaurant in our hotel was highly interesting for me. My parents had to work a great deal and weren’t able to look after me. In the evenings, when I was actually supposed to go to bed, I would hide under the tables and simply stay there. I found what I saw and heard very exciting: friendship, love, and quarrels—simply everything that you can experience in a local restaurant like this. I think this stimulated my imagination a great deal. I have always been a spectator. Talkative, I certainly wasn’t. I was more silent."

"I was ravenous to learn and to dance. That is why I applied for a scholarship from the German academic exchange service for the USA. And I did in fact receive it. Only then did it become clear what that meant: traveling by ship to America, aged 18 years, all alone, without being able to speak a word of English. My parents took me to Cuxhaven. A brass band was playing as the ship was setting off and everybody was crying. Then I went onto the ship and waved. My parents were also waving and crying. And I was standing on the deck and crying too; it was terrible. I had the feeling we would never see each other again."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Shining Light on My Lai

Photo: Zoran Orlic
By Christian Barclay

On March 16, 1968, US Army pilot Hugh Thompson and his crew were flying on a reconnaissance mission over the South Vietnamese village of My Lai when he spotted the bodies of men, women, and children strewn across the fields. He nosed his helicopter down and quickly realized what was taking place: American soldiers were killing innocent villagers at will––it was a massacre.

Over the course of a few frantic hours, Thompson tried to halt the carnage. He landed his helicopter between the Americans and the villagers, ordering his crew to shoot their fellow soldiers if they attacked the civilians. He called in support from other air units and together they evacuated a small group of villagers, including a young boy Thompson pulled from an irrigation ditch. Official counts vary, but between 350 and 500 Vietnamese died in My Lai that day.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

About the Other Weekend: Paul Thomas Anderson at BAM

BAMcinématek was honored to host director Paul Thomas Anderson for the beginning of the Jonathan Demme: Heart of Gold film series. He was joined by producer Edward Saxon, actor Paul Lazar, and Demme biographer Louis Black. We had four packed screenings of Something Wild, Melvin and Howard, Married to the Mob, and Citizen’s Band.

In in-depth Q&As, guest speakers shared personal and professional anecdotes about the late filmmaker, including some eclectic and hilarious behind-the-scenes knowledge. Some of the highlights involved the casting of Demme’s features.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Beautiful Game: An Interview with /peh-LO-tah/’s Marc Bamuthi Joseph

Soccer—as both an intricate, euphoric choreography and an exploited corporate cash cow—is the subject of /peh-LO-tah/, an electric meditation on the racial dimensions of the sport from multi-talented theater artist and performer Marc Bamuthi Joseph (red, black & GREEN: a blues, 2012 Next Wave). Using spoken-word poetry and fútbol-inspired footwork, Joseph and four performers dribble and pass their way from the pickup games of rural Haiti to the mega stadiums of Rio and Johannesburg, parsing the social justice of soccer to the sounds of hip-hop and samba. Against his own childhood memories of the game as a race-transcending source of happiness, Joseph posits a global reality in which black joy is all too often co-opted for financial gain, yet perseveres nonetheless. We sat down with Joseph to discuss the work in anticipation of its New York premiere this fall during the 2017 Next Wave Festival.

Photo: Bethanie Hines

Can you discuss the idea of soccer as a universal language?

Soccer isn’t just the world’s most popular sport, it is the activity to which we globally assign the most value as an emblem of cultural aesthetics. It isn’t just success on the pitch that communicates a nation’s character, it’s how the game is played, from Ghanaian grace to Brazilian flair to Spanish polyrhythm to German focus and consistency. That universality then is more pronounced against the stark contrast of political monocultures and repressive regimes. How do we register that universal joy in the shadow of South African apartheid? How do we reconcile with a country that meddles in the elections of other sovereign nations and also invites the planet to roam freely within its borders during the World Cup? In this case the sport reveals that joy is universal, as are the contradictions inherent among the men and women who passionately engage in it.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Jonathan Demme: Heart of Gold

Demme at work on The Manchurian Candidate. Photo: Paramount Pictures/Photofest

by Lindsay Brayton

Jonathan Demme: Heart of Gold is the most comprehensive retrospective to date of the late director’s work. The series showcases the depth of Demme’s cinematic genius with screenings of his classic films, such as the Talking Heads concert-documentary Stop Making Sense (screening Aug 18—24) and the Academy Award-winning The Silence of the Lambs (Aug 12), along with a number of Demme’s lesser-known documentaries.

When asked which of his films he felt was underappreciated, Demme responded Cousin Bobby (Aug 17), his 1992 documentary about his Harlem-based, politically passionate, Episcopalian minister cousin with ties to the Black Panthers. It’s a film about political awakening and crusading for civil rights—but with Demme’s trademark gentle touch.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Portrait of Pina (in 35 Objects)

In 1984, Tanztheater Wuppertal made its New York debut at BAM, performing what would become the two most iconic works of Pina Bausch’s extraordinary repertoire—Café Müller and The Rite of Spring. More than three decades later, the company returns with a landmark restaging of that historic double bill this fall as part of the 35th annual Next Wave Festival.

How fitting, then, that back in 2012 we asked illustrator Nathan Gelgud to illustrate a list of 35 objects that evoke her and her work—portraiture by association. Peruse the pictographs below, but be sure to let us know if we left anything out!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Edgar Wright Presents Heist Society

Reservoir Dogs.

By Edgar Wright

Newsflash, BAM: Crime does not pay! Don’t let this criminally entertaining series of heist films influence you to go a-robbing and a-looting when you leave the theater. Avoid the sticky ends and time in the slammer by simply living vicariously from the cinematic thrills of these robbing hoods. Getaway this summer with 22 solid gold heist movies curated by the team at BAMcinématek and myself:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Eat, Drink & Be Literary: Jacqueline Woodson

On April 5, acclaimed author Jacqueline Woodson came to BAMcafé for the third installment of this season’s Eat, Drink & Be Literary series. She read from both her novel Another Brooklyn and her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which also received the 2014 National Book Award, a Newbery Honor Award, and the NAACP Image Award. After the reading, she chatted with The New Yorker's Deborah Treisman. Listen to the full reading and conversation after the jump:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Reflecting on the Refugee Crisis

This past February, BAM and PEN America brought together writers from around the world to address the many refugee crises facing the world today. South African author Jonny Steinberg (whose book was adapted for Isango Ensemble’s A Man of Good Hope) joined Ethiopian-American novelist and writer Dinaw Mengestu for a conversation moderated by Iranian-American writer Roya Hakakian.

Mengustu spoke about his new acceptance of the term "immigrant writer:"

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Portraits and Process: BAMcinemaFest 2017

The 9th annual BAMcinemaFest kicks off tonight with the New York premiere of Aaron Katz's Gemini in the BAM Harvey Theater at 7:30pm. Earlier this season, BAM had the pleasure of partnering with photographer Robin Holland to create a series of portraits depicting this year's filmmakers. During the shoot, we asked each director a series of short questions about process, inspiration and this year's festival. Their answers follow:

Photo © Robin Holland
Lauren Wolkstein & Christopher Radcliff

1. Describe your film in three words:
Lauren: Atmospheric road mystery.
Chris: Sad-boy-secrets.

2. What movie(s) made you want to become a filmmaker?
L: Blue Velvet is one of many for me.
C: I honestly don't remember.

3. What film(s) are you looking forward to seeing at this year's festival?
L: A Ghost Story.
C: Golden Exits. Also we both really want to see I Am Another You for a second time.

Friday, June 9, 2017

BAM 1968: Merce Cunningham’s First Major New York Season

This summer, in the Natman Room off of BAM's main lobby, a moment in BAM's history is celebrated—the first major New York run of Merce Cunningham Dance Company in May 1968. Stop by and check out the photos and artifacts that document the first run of many to follow by this renowned company.

In May 1968, as the Vietnam War raged on and the civil rights movement gained momentum, the cultural scene was undergoing a revolution of its own in Brooklyn. That month, choreographer Merce Cunningham and his company performed 12 dances in eight performances at BAM in his troupe’s first major New York season. It was part of the first full season of programming curated by Harvey Lichtenstein, the impresario who would go on to lead BAM for 32 years. That inaugural season emphasized dance and included runs by the companies of Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor, and José Limón, as well as poetry and symphonic and jazz music programs. (The following year, BAM presented the Festival of Dance, comprising Martha Graham, Anna Sokolow, Erick Hawkins, Twyla Tharp, Meredith Monk, and Yvonne Rainer, as well as the above.)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

BAM R&B Festival

The Suffers. Photo courtesy of the artists
On June 8, the BAM R&B Festival at MetroTech Commons in Downtown Brooklyn begins its 23rd season with a dynamic slate of live R&B, soul, and jazz. It includes familiar names—Ramsey Lewis, or the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band—plus new finds, chosen by longtime producer Danny Kapilian. Here’s a brief overview of the series lineup, which takes place on Thursdays from noon to 2pm, free of charge.

Jun 8—Ramsey Lewis was named a Jazz Master by the NEA. He has 80 albums, seven gold, and three Grammys. He became a fixture on the 1950s Chicago jazz scene, and worked with Earth, Wind & Fire, who appeared on his 1974 album Sun Goddess.

Jun 15—Raul Midón sang backup for Shakira and worked with Stevie Wonder. This emotionally powerful singer is known for his improvisational mouth-horn technique, performing a “trumpet” solo with his mouth.

Jun 22—The Suffers of Houston, TX comprises 10 members. Its “Gulf Coast Soul” braids in threads of rock, Latin, country, and southern hip-hop. Its big horn section and vocals by Kam Franklin have earned accolades and TV appearances.

Jun 29—John Hammond, acoustic guitar legend, had Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix in his band—at once. This Blues Hall of Famer and Grammy winner has 33 albums to his name.

July 6—Sinkane, a four-piece led by Ahmed Gallab, offers Afrobeat cadences, funky guitar, and slinky grooves, celebrating life with a generosity of spirit.

Jul 13—Tank and The Bangas blend rhythmic soul and spoken word. This New Orleans outfit, with intriguing lyrics, funky synth, sax, and flute won the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest.

Jul 20—Preservation Hall Jazz Band is the house band of New Orleans’ Preservation Hall. Now in its 50th year, the group combines a reverence for deep tradition with fresh explorations.

Jul 27—El Septeto Santiaguero of Cuba explores and updates traditional son music. Its seven players won the 2015 Latin Grammy (Best Traditional Tropical Album), honing their chops at the famed Casa de la Trova nightclub.

Aug 3—Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles are a six-piece led by Henry, who debuted at the Apollo. Henry has won two Grammys with Snarky Puppy and has a huge fanbase.

Aug 10—Liv Warfield, Judith Hill, and Shelby J: Love 4 One Another are proteges of Prince, and continue his incomparable legacy under his charity’s namesake.

Need more? Check out a playlist of this year's artists over on Spotify.

Forest City Ratner Companies is Presenting Sponsor of BAM R&B Festival at MetroTech.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A World of Emotions

A World of Emotions. Photo courtesy Onassis Cultural Center New York
By William Lynch

The humanities are the exploration of aspects of human culture—that which makes us human—often expressed in the arts, literature, and philosophy. BAM’s formal programmatic focus on the humanities goes back decades. Given its 156-year history and place in Brooklyn and American culture, BAM has roots in the pursuit of those genres going back to its founding. From its earliest days, the Academy offered lectures for local seamen’s and tradesmen’s associations, while well into the 20th century many great thinkers, explorers, and leaders held sway before a populace eager for civic engagement. Indeed, the Academy’s founders directly alluded to the concept and place of the academy in ancient Greece when selecting a name that would imply the notion of “ideas.”

Monday, June 5, 2017

Next Wave of Stagecraft

Joshua Leon, Michelle Aguda, and Victoria Inguanta.
Photo: Adriana Leshko
By David Hsieh & Adriana Leshko

One came from Washington State after deciding a career in social sciences was not for her. Another got a wake-up call when she entered the carpentry shop of MoMA PS1 to encounter machines she didn’t know how to operate. Yet another was told by a mentor that it might be a good way to channel his penchant for public speaking. What they now have in common is their participation in the inaugural BAM Apprentice in Stagecraft (BAS) program. Thanks to a grant from the New York City Theater Subdistrict Council, BAS allows BAM to train young people from under-represented communities as stagehands and production managers in four-month periods. As Victoria Inguanta, one of this highly selective and enthusiastic group of trailblazers, put it: “I get paid to get an education and then hands-on experience? Are you kidding me?” Here, she and fellow apprentices Michelle Aguda and Joshua Leon talk about their experiences at BAM after a month in the program.

What is your earliest and/or most powerful memory of the performing arts?

Michelle Aguda: My earliest memory of performing arts is when I chose to learn to play the trumpet at 11 years old. 

Joshua Leon: My first experience with theater was in the second grade. I played John Henry.

Victoria Inguanta: When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to see The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center several times. It definitely was a formative part of my childhood. When I grew older, my family would get tickets to Broadway shows for special occasions, so I was privileged enough to see a lot of theater growing up.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Jimmy D’Adamo Lights Up BAM

Jimmy D'Adamo in his natural habitat, stage left. Photo: David Hsieh
By David Hsieh

Jimmy D’Adamo, the head electrician at BAM, once ran the spotlight for his high school plays. “I was hooked,” he said. A short post-college stint at American Express confirmed that “I was not a suit-and-tie person.” So when one of his classmates from Brooklyn College (major: technical theater) asked him to make a change, he immediately went down to the union office (Local 4, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees [I.A.T.S.E.], AFL-CIO), filled out a card, and started working at BAM in 1977. And now, after 40 years, he is saying goodbye.

In Context: Limits

Sweden’s Cirkus Cirkör offers an acrobatic exploration of an EU in flux, equal parts high-flying spectacle and trenchant critique. 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 #CirkusCirkör.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

2017 BAMcinemaFest

Marjorie Prime. Photo: FilmRise
By Maureen Masters

In just nine years, BAMcinemaFest has established itself as a leading American independent film festival. With an annual slate of around 30 New York premieres of features, documentaries, and shorts, plus special events like the 25th anniversary of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing in 2014, and 2015’s 20th anniversary cast reunion of Larry Clark’s Kids, the festival provides an invaluable platform for emerging artists and holds an important place in the Brooklyn film community, making it an ideal hometown premiere spot for New York and Brooklyn-based filmmakers. Plus, films don’t get lost in the shuffle at BAMcinemaFest with the tightly curated selection screening only at two venues on the BAM campus (the BAM Rose Cinemas and the Harvey Theater) during the 12-day festival, from June 14 to 25.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

In Context: Tom Zé

Music legend Tom Zé, the avant garde conscience of Brazil’s 1960s Tropicália movement, exuberantly channels the spirit of Salvador and São Paulo with an evening of samba and bossa nova reimagined as only he can. 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 #TomZé.

Circus—an inclusive art form

Honorary Ringmaster Isabella Rossellini at the Big Apple Circus in 1978.
Courtesy BAM Hamm Archives.
by Chris Tyler

The circus is many things: an experience, a practice, a lifestyle, an education, a culture. But, above all else, it is an inclusive art form. “There’s no exclusion,” remarked Duncan Wall, co-founder and former national director of Circus Now, during a 2013 talk on contemporary circus. “Audiences of any class, race, or culture can enjoy the form and participate in it.” For denizens of a visual society, there’s something uniquely accessible about the circus and its focus on the physical body. People are not shut out from understanding the experience.

Yet, “because circus enters our lives so early in our lives as children...we become fixed in our thinking” about the form, as noted by Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo in the Beyond Physical Theater podcast (embedded below). The term itself summons images of elephants, clown cars, and bombastic ringleaders alongside the requisite smells of popcorn and cotton candy. But the circus itself is not codified—it is a non-verbal bodily practice. It’s a vehicle for expression, a delicate marriage of risk and virtuosity. It’s theater, dance, music, sport, and visual art—and the sky is (quite literally) its limit. Circus is an inclusive art in this sense then, too, in that it readily incorporates multiple forms while simultaneously blurring genre boundaries.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Reflecting on DanceAfrica

"DanceAfrica 2002: 25 Years of DanceAfrica: Africa, My Africa" during BAM Spring Series, 2002.
Photo: Richard Termine
As part of DanceAfrica 2017, BAM is partnering with StoryCorps to create a platform for you to share your experiences with the 40-year-old festival.

Please follow these simple instructions to share your story:

1. Download the free StoryCorps mobile app, available on iPhone, Android, and Kindle, and create a free account.

2. Record a conversation with a friend or fellow DanceAfrica fan. Follow the prompts in the app to begin recording, and let the conversation flow!

Here are some questions to get you started:
  • When was the first time you participated in or attended DanceAfrica?
  • What do you remember about the first time you attended or participated in DanceAfrica?
  • Do you have any memories of Baba Chuck that you would like to share?
NOTE: while you can record up to 45 minutes, recordings can also be as short as a minute.

3. Publish and share the interview to StoryCorps’ public online collection at using the keyword DanceAfrica40.

4. Listen! Search for DanceAfrica40 to find more conversations about the memories of 40 years of DanceAfrica at BAM.

Learn more at Need help? Email

Behind the Scenes at BAM–Stacey Dinner, Artist Services Manager

Stacey Dinner (standing, 3rd from left) with friends including DanceAfrica artist directors Abdel Salaam to her left,
and Chuck Davis, seated, at right. Photo courtesy Stacey Dinner.
By David Hsieh

Stacey Dinner is hard to miss, even in a crowd of dancers. Her dark, shoulder-length hair flies in every direction. She keeps in sync with the most complicated African drum rhythms. She is also part of the four-people artist services team at BAM, which takes care of visiting artists' every need. She and her colleagues—Mary Reilly, Britney Polites, and Jeannine Baca—are the "frontline” between BAM and the artists it presents. We ask her what the job is like and her personal connection to DanceAfrica.

Q: Who are you? 

A: My name is Stacey Dinner and I am the BAM artist services manager. My background is in dance and arts administration. I first studied West African dance in college and then studied abroad in Mali, West Africa. I then traveled six more times to Africa, visiting 13 countries in total, and I ended up working at a world dance and music studio in Colorado, where I’m from, and also co-leading a study abroad trip to Senegal. These experiences made a significant impact on my life, and I continue to study West African dance to this day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

In Context: DanceAfrica 2017

Forty years after its inauguration under the artistic direction of the late Chuck Davis, the nation’s largest festival of African dance returns for a special anniversary celebration. 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 #DanceAfrica.

Oh, the Stories You'll See!

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in The Rite of Spring. Photo: Zerrin Aydin Herwegh
By Susan Yung

An abundance of the 31 events comprising the 35th Next Wave Festival tell stories. There will be renditions of historical tales, classics from the cultural canon, and intriguing personal narratives. A number are based on diaries and journals kept by protagonists or observers such as Walt Whitman and Samuel Pepys. A few recount seismic events of geopolitical import. Several cherished companies make return visits, and as always, new talents will be introduced. Here’s a brief overview of the 2017 Next Wave, curated by Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo.

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:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Eat, Drink & Be Literary: Maggie Nelson


On March 23, genre-defying writer and 2016 MacArthur fellow Maggie Nelson came to BAMcafé as part of the second installation of this season’s Eat, Drink & Be Literary series. Nelson works at the nexus of memoir, theory, poetry, and autobiography. She is the author of The New York Times bestselling book The Argonauts, which won the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, and eight other books, including The Art of Cruelty: A ReckoningBluetsThe Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial, and Jane: A Murder. Following a reading from The Argonauts, Nelson spoke with Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, about the book and the process, ethics and considerations that come with writing from lived experience.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Baba Chuck Davis, In Memoriam

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.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Thank You, Alan Fishman

Judith and Alan Fishman address Merce Cunningham and company at a BAM gala in 2009. Photo: Elena Olivo
By Susan Yung

News flash: Brooklyn is riding a wave of popularity as a place to live, work, and play. BAM is central to this evolution both culturally and geographically, as it has been for much of its 156 years of existence. For the entire 21st century, Alan H. Fishman led the institution as chairman of the board until recently ceding the seat to Adam Max. During his tenure, attendance has grown to reach 700,000 visitors annually, and programming has blossomed in variety and reach. The Fisher building opened at 321 Ashland in 2012; its main performance space is named for Alan and Judith Fishman, and has drawn its own fan base for its intimate size and surprising versatility. Under Fishman’s watch, Katy Clark succeeded Karen Brooks Hopkins as president, and the BAM Endowment has grown to nearly $100,000,000.

Fishman was born and raised in Brooklyn. He attended Erasmus Hall in Flatbush, where he was a star and captain of the basketball team. While he has had an impressive career in the financial services industry, he has distinguished himself by supporting an astonishing number of Brooklyn’s philanthropic and cultural endeavors, as well as organizations that encourage growth and reinvestment in the borough and its citizens.

Monday, April 3, 2017

In Context: Sanam Marvi

Pakistani superstar Sanam Marvi presents an evening of folk and Sufi devotional music at its most intensely sublime, singing poetic texts in Urdu, Sindhi, and Saraiki. 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 #SanamMarvi.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

In Context: A Nonesuch Celebration

A stellar lineup of musical luminaries comes together for one night only to pay tribute to Bob Hurwitz, who for the past three decades has served as the visionary architect of Nonesuch Records, affectionately known as “the label without labels.” 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 #NonesuchBAM.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Galaxy of Stars

Caetano Veloso and Bob Hurwitz. Photo courtesy Nonesuch Records.

By Michael Hill

For 32 years, Robert Hurwitz not only served as president of Nonesuch Records, but also reinvented it from the ground up, along with his staff finding and nurturing the remarkably wide range of artists who make up its roster. A Nonesuch Celebration on April 1 at the Howard Gilman Opera House is a tribute to him. At the center of the evening is Twelve Pieces for Bob, a program of world premiere works for piano by Nonesuch artists—John Adams, Laurie Anderson, Timo Andres, Louis Andriessen, Donnacha Dennehy, Philip Glass, Adam Guettel, Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny, Randy Newman, Nico Muhly, and Steve Reich—performed by the composers and others. The evening also will include performances by Kronos Quartet, k.d. lang, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Thile, Caetano Veloso, Dawn Upshaw, Stephin Merritt, and others who have worked closely with Bob. Hurwitz, who has studied piano since childhood, has always kept an upright piano in his office, which he finds time to play each day. This program, then, is as much an acknowledgement of Bob Hurwitz the musician as the music lover, the A&R man, the record business visionary—and, to those on stage, a beloved friend.