New Kid On The Block

Management for downtown dance-theater/performance artists (we really may need to just make up a term that covers this; suggestions? I guess Na’vi is already taken…) is not a simple thing. It’s obscure, there is very little money in it, and in a financial climate that threatens both artist funding and the capital that goes into keeping New York’s handful of downtown venues in operation, the future just doesn’t seem very bright, or steady.

But one man is about to take up the torch of what often feels as much like a social cause as it does an artistic industry. Ben Pryor (full discloser: we’re kind of BFFs…), who has been working to represent artists with Pentacle for the past two years, has decided to strike out and start up his own management endeavor, tbspMGMT. Yay!

Pryor’s first act/action as an independent rep. is AMERICAN REALNESS, a curated festival of contemporary dance artists (Gelflings?) that is being held at Abrons Arts Center (a venue that now can be counted on to present New York City’s edgiest artists), which coincides with APAP and The Public Theater’s Under the Radar (UTR) festival, a festival that has built a solid reputation for presenting excellent emerging theater work, but one that has also drawn criticism for under representing NYC’s dance community.

For AMERICAN REALNESS, Pryor has managed to assemble what The New York Times’ Claudia La Rocco might term “the cool kids” of downtown dance (Uruk Hai?), including Jeremy Wade, Miguel Gutierrez, Jack Ferver, and our very own Ann Liv Young. Specifically, though, these artists all seem to share an outlook that engages the body in performance in ways that are gritty, explicit, passionate (or its opposite, dispassionate), and generally queer.

I emailed Pryor about American Realness and his decision to go it alone as an artist representative, and these are some of the things he had to say…

Counter Critic (C.C.): What the fuck are you doing?

Ben Pryor (tbsp):

Re Defining American Contemporary Performance

trying to sell the work of these artists who are pushing, reshaping and erasing the boundaries of dance and theater.

Starting my own management entity with a bang.

Showing some amazing work, and maybe some tits and ass.

C.C.: How are you doing it?

tbsp:

By the seat of my pants.

Blood sweat and tears

C.C.: Need more info about AMERICAN REALNESS.

tbsp:

I love under the radar, which has been the best platform for contemporary work during APAP, but it doesn’t show dance.  It became a dream of mine to create an “under the radar fordance”, if you will.

I am marketing the whole thing as a festival because it is a better way to put the work out there than a showcase. The goal is selling the work, but I am also trying to reshape international perception of american work. somehow they don’t really know the contemporary stuff is happening, not in a big way. I am trying to give attention to that. I am also trying to challenge american presenters (outside the 10 that do present contemporary work) to get with it and show some good shit!

This is also sorta the launch of tbspMGMT. I haven’t clearly established relationships with everyone, but I am trying to make it an organic progression.

Why these artists?

Cause these artists give me chills when I see what they do.

I love the way they think.

That they are reshaping contemporary work and it is not being seen outside new york and that is CRAZY.

Cause who doesn’t like calling out a whole industry of your peers for being lame and old fashioned.

Cause I like making a splash and so do these artists.

American Realness begins Friday, January 8 @ Abrons Arts Center and runs through January 11. Tickets to shows and a full festival schedule can be found here.

Calling: An Opera of Forgiveness

For the New York Press:

LOWER MANHATTAN LIBRETTO

Terrorist attacks get the theatrical treatment in Calling

By Ryan Tracy

During a particularly difficult passage of music, eight-year-old Madison Papas, a student at P.S. 89 in lower Manhattan, stopped the rehearsal to ask a question: “This part…because it sounds scary…is it supposed to be a bad dream?”

The director explained, in a very straightforward, New York manner, that this is where the parents come to pick the kids up from school after the planes have hit the towers.

Satisfied with the answer, in that half-interested, half-bored way natural to children, the young performer turned back to her music and began to sing, “What are we waiting for? Why are teachers crying? What’s going on?”

Madison is too young to remember the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Yet, even for those of us who do, it is tempting to look back at what happened as a horrible fiction of our subconscious. But writer-director Wickham Boyle and composer Doug Geers are not content to let the terror and disbelief keep hold over our memories of that day. Instead, they have created Calling: An Opera of Forgiveness, which will receive its first fully staged production this month in an attempt to reconcile those anxieties.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

BAM Next Wave Festival @ 25

bambillcover.jpgCloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan in Review, Next Wave Art, and Between the Lines

Bouncing Off Clouds…

On Tuesday night, BAM opened its 25th Next Wave Festival (an event that has been totally snubbed by The New York Times–unless I missed something) to a modest audience in the Howard Gilman Opera House with Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan’s Wild Cursive. If there is any message to be drawn from the selection, it is that BAM’s role as a presenter of international arts is as strong as ever, even though this reality does cause friction among some New York artists who may see every production of foreign artists as a missed chance to promote the thousands of those who struggle to create work in New York. But to balance out the season opening, Wednesday night, home town favorite, Kronos Quartet, took over BAM’s Harvey Theater, presenting collaborations with Fins Kimmo Pohjonen and Samuli Kosminen, and local theater artists and composer, Erik Sanko. [We will only review Wild Cursive.] Continue reading

Chamber who?

Looks like LCF is taking more risks. George Benjamin’s “Into the Little Hill,” a 40 minute chamber opera for two singers based on the tale of the Pied Piper, sounds pretty hot.

But you know with Lincoln Center, what sounds like a good idea can turn terribly wrong faster than you can say Midsummer Night Swing.

In this NY Times preview, there’s no mention of what the music actually sounds like. (We don’t know Mr. Benjamin’s work.) But the article mentions influences like Webern, Berg, Debussy and Messiaen, but then is quick to lampoon any suspicion that the music will sound serial. (Are we still afraid of serialism?)

Well, we listened to an sample of Viola, Viola from the Lincoln Center Festival website, and the music sounds pretty hot, actually. And you all know how picky we can be.

Bam Bam

Here’s a fun little profile on Brooklyn based beat keepers, So Percussion.  We kind of like their philosophy regarding the employment of unusual objects in the creation of music:

So Percussion is not aiming at genre-busting, [ensemble member Jason] Treuting explained, since “all the genres were busted a long time ago.” The group is focused now on getting more comfortable in its own skin. “We were flashy, but I don’t feel the need to be flashy all the time now,” he said. “We play David Lang because it’s an amazing experience and Xenakis for the same reason.”

“And then we play a cactus for 20 minutes for a different reason,” he added. “Not because the audience will say, ‘Wow, that’s the best cactus player I’ve ever heard,’ but because the sound is beautiful.”

Three cheers for subjectivity!

Critics Award of the Day (CAD): Jay Nordlinger

thering-kirov.jpgThe NY Sun has been surprising us with its  contempo-casual classical music writers. This is the second CAD we’ve given to them (the first going to Fred Kirshnit). Here’s our favorite part of Jay Nordlinger’s preview of the Opera Marinsky Theatre‘s upcoming Ring Cycle at Lincoln Center Festival:

One, brief note about the music (or at least a few minutes of the 15 hours): No one should answer the question, “What is the most beautiful piece of music ever written?” But if someone has a gun to your head, threatening to splatter your brains on the pavement, you could do worse than to answer, “‘Wotan’s Farewell’ from ‘Die Walküre.'”

That does sound vaguely like our grad school experience.

Y Tu Teatro Tambien

Preview: Four Spanish Language Plays at the Lincoln Center Festival

In the debate over immigration, the arguments tend to reduce the immigrant reality to numbers and jobs. This myopia dehumanizes the millions of immigrants who, as people, offer more to culture than simply a body and an ability to work as a labor force. What most often gets lost in this fray is the creative and intellectual contributions immigrants make to culture. This is something curator Olga Garay hopes to bring to light with Lincoln Center Festival’s upcoming series, Four Spanish Language Plays, a showcase of theater works from four different Spanish-speaking countries that is set to start tonight at various venues around the Lincoln Center area. What distinguishes these productions is that every one will be performed in Spanish with English supertitles. (Seriously, this preview is hot shit, so read it!) Continue reading

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