If you didn’t know any better, you might think that Elvia Lund’s extraordinary Bobbi Jene was a fiction film. Danish director and cinematographer Lund, editor Adam Nielsen, and composer Uno Helmersson have employed narrative story techniques in crafting a bold and intimate tale about fear and desire, romance and ambition. But Bobbi Jene is actually a deeply personal documentary about a woman turning thirty and taking stock of her life. “I want to get to that place where I have no strength to hide anything,” Iowa native Bobbi Jene Smith says, and that is evident from the brief opening scene of Bobbi dancing naked and alone. When she was twenty-one, Bobbi moved to Israel to become a member of the world-renowned Batsheva Dance Company, led by choreographer Ohad Naharin, developer of the unique Gaga movement language. (I’ve seen her dance several times with Batsheva and have been touched and impressed by her abilities.) Now that she’s nearly thirty, Bobbi has decided to go back to America and create pieces herself, which she tells Naharin, with whom she had a relationship. “I love being in the company. I love dancing for you,” she says during their talk at a busy café. “I just feel it’s time for me to go make my own work.” Naharin carefully responds, “So it’s painful, but it’s probably also what you need.” Bobbi is not only leaving the troupe but her boyfriend, twenty-year-old company dancer Or Schraiber, who loves her but does not want to leave Tel Aviv. We see her struggling with her decision, trying to convince herself that she can both make a career in the States while also maintaining a long-distance relationship with Or. Once back in America, Bobbi concentrates on her durational solo piece A Study on Effort, a raw, intense work that combines power with vulnerability as she explores pleasure and pain. As she prepares to perform the piece at the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem, all the different parts of her life threaten to overwhelm her.
“The film is a dance,” Bobbi says in the press notes, and it’s an exquisite one. Lind, whose previous documentary feature was 2014’s Songs for Alexis, about a pair of teenage lovers, moves her camera like she is photographing an epic performance. The two met through mutual friends, and Lind instantly wanted to make a documentary about Bobbi, “an uncompromising female artist who was not afraid to push boundaries,” as she describes in her director’s note. And there are indeed no boundaries as Lind, who recently gave birth to a child with boyfriend Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, Ex Machina), who plays guitar on one song on the soundtrack, goes beyond being a mere fly on the wall and Bobbi holds nothing back, never flinching away from the camera. Nor does her mother, her friends and colleagues, and Or, who doesn’t seem to know or care that Lind is always right there, even when he flashes his genitals over FaceTime. Bobbi Jene is about not only one woman’s drive to establish her own creativity and identity but also the freedom to be true to who you are and what you desire. You’ll get deeply involved in Bobbi’s situation, but you’ll also take a good look at yourself and wonder about your own sense of commitment to life. The first film at Tribeca to win Best Documentary Feature, Best Cinematography in a Documentary Feature, and Best Editing in a Documentary Feature, Bobbi Jene opens at the Quad on September 22, with Lind and Smith participating in Q&As following the 6:45 shows on September 22 and 23 and after the 2:25 screenings on September 23 and 24 (Smith only) in addition to introducing the 9:00 show together on September 22.
Let your inner — or outer — nerd shine at the eighth annual World Maker Faire New York, a two-day celebration of the playful side of creators on the cutting edge of technological innovation. Held at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the festivities includes lectures, demonstrations, games, workshops, and lots of other activities that support World Maker Faire’s declaration of being the “Greatest Show & Tell on Earth.” In addition to the below select events (some of which happen on both days), there are aerial drone fights, go-cart power racing, moat boat paddle battles, dragons and robots, tons of cool booths, and lots of food trucks as well as the much-loved paella stand.
Saturday, September 23
Mario the Maker Magician, with Mario Marchese, Coke Zero & Mentos stage, 11:00 am
Making a Connection: a Response to the Refugee Crisis, with Sam Bloch, NYSCI Auditorium Center Stage, 11:30
How to Make Props and Costumes with Iron Horse Cinema, NYSCI Auditorium Center Stage, 12 noon
So Lit NYC, with Chance Dickerson and Bernard Hankins, MAKE: Education stage, 1:15
LEGO Boost, with Tim Kirchmann, Marvin Castillo, and Jonathan Juan, MAKE: Show & Tell, 1:30
Making on YouTube, with Bob Clagett, Becky Stern, John Edgar Park, Angus Deveson, and Joel, moderated by Caleb Kraft, NYSCI Auditorium Center Stage, 2:00
How to Build a Better Brain, with Dr. Wendy Suzuki, NYSCI Auditorium Center Stage, 3:45
Coke Zero & Mentos Fountains, with Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe, Coke Zero & Mentos, 5:30
Sunday, September 24
The Time Machine, with Fred Kahl, the Great Fredini, NYSCI Auditorium Center Stage, 11:00 am
Thomas Piper of the Peoples Republic of Sound, Coke Zero & Mentos, 11:45
Allie Weber Kid Inventor aka “Robot Maker Girl,” MAKE: Electronic stage, 1:00
Deep Dive! Exploring the Ocean with Nautilus Live, with Samantha Wishnak, NYSCI Auditorium Center Stage, 1:30
Power of the Plant with Stephen Ritz, NYSCI Auditorium Center Stage, 2:00
Body Talk with Anouk Wipprecht and Tiffany Trenda, NYSCI Auditorium Center Stage, 2:30
What Does it Mean to be a Curious Girl?, with Samantha Razook, MAKE: Show & Tell, 3:00
Coke Zero & Mentos Fountains, with Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe, Coke Zero & Mentos, 5:30
Mumbai-born, London-based artist Anish Kapoor has been creating crowd-pleasing works that alter the perception of viewers’ surrounding space for more than three decades. Such interactive large-scale pieces as Chicago’s “Cloud Gate,” affectionately known as the Bean, and New York City’s “Sky Mirror” draw people into their own reflections with shiny, highly polished colored surfaces, just as his smaller convex and concave sculptures provide warped views of reality, luring us in with mystery and awe. In addition, Kapoor questions the physicality of public spaces, as he did in his 2010 “Memory” exhibition at the Guggenheim, which included a giant bullet-shaped object that blocked one of the gallery entrances in addition to a dark rectangle that might or might not have been a way into the wall and beyond. Many of the ideas behind those works are evident in his latest intervention, “Descension,” a whirlpool twenty-six feet in diameter on view in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 through October 1. Near the center of the water is a beautiful but threatening swirling vortex that has taken on greater meaning in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. But Kapoor, who calls it “a sculpture that’s not a sculpture,” places a fence around the water, preventing visitors from getting close enough to fall in or take pictures of themselves reflected in the pool, the way they do with most of his other works.
“We live in a time when the symbolic object in public space is no longer relevant. We don’t have a triumphant arch or the great hero on the horse or whatever else it is,” Kapoor said in a promotional video about the project, referring to monuments prior to the current raging debate over reevaluating certain honorary statues. “We’ve got to reinvent this thing. What we do have is the earth and the sky. So how does a work sit in that space, hold its scale, and not just become a decorative edifice.” The piece creates an inviting, ever-changing communal area for people to just relax and marvel at the wonders of the planet. “Anish Kapoor reminds us of the contingency of appearances: Our senses inevitably deceive us,” Public Art Fund director and chief curator Nicholas Baume explained in a statement. “With ‘Descension,’ he creates an active object that resonates with changes in our understanding and experience of the world. In this way, Kapoor is interested in what we don’t know rather than in what we do, understanding that the limit of perception is also the threshold of human imagination.” Kapoor might not always be a favorite in the art world itself, at least not since his exclusive acquisition of the rights to the “blackest black,” but he knows how to satisfy his audience, and he has done so again with “Descension.”
French Institute Alliance Française
Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
September 21-23, $35
Festival continues through October 15
Obie-winning, New York–based algorithmic performance artist Annie Dorsen often uses appropriated text in her pieces, drawing meaning out of an endless supply of information, logic, and language, and she’ll be doing so yet again in her latest work, The Great Outdoors, part of FIAF’s 2017 Crossing the Line Festival. She’s asked audiences to take the mic and recite snippets of famous and not-so-famous speeches in Spokaoke (CTL 2013), had actors use Shakespeare’s Hamlet as data in A Piece of Work (BAM Next Wave Festival 2013), and in Magical (Coil 2013) repurposed words and movement by Martha Rosler, Yoko Ono, Marina Abramović, and Carolee Schneeman, with the help of choreographer Anne Juren. In The Great Outdoors, Dorsen, who also cocreated and directed Passing Strange, transforms FIAF’s Florence Gould Hall into an inflatable planetarium, where every star is like a human being currently online, a countless number of seemingly anonymous blips seeking and supplying content and making connections, primarily commenting on reddit. Of course, the title is more than ironic, as so many people experience the great outdoors from the comfort of their computers at home. Kaija Matiss will read text taken live off the internet by programmers Marcel Schwittlick and Miles Thompson; Sébastien Roux does the sound and music, while the video programming is by Ryan Holsopple, who designed the starshow with Dorsen. Dorsen has been building a rather impressive resume; her collaborators have also included DD Dorviller (Pièce Sans Paroles), Questlove (Shuffle Culture), Stew (Passing Strange), Laura Kaplan and Jessye Norman (Ask Your Mama), and ETHEL (Truckstop). The Great Outdoors runs September 21-23; CTL continues through October 15 with such other presentations as Faustin Linyekula / Studios Kabako’s In Search of Dinozord, Nora Chipaumire’s #PUNK, and Alessandro Sciarroni’s UNTITLED_I will be there when you die.
September 25 - October 8
Tickets 2-for-1 with code OBWF2017
Broadway Week just concluded, offering tickets to most Broadway shows available for half price, and now it’s time for Off-Broadway Week to get in on the two-for-one deals as the fall season begins. Three dozen plays and musicals are participating, from the tried and true to the new and untested, with several highly anticipated works by major playwrights. We highly recommend both of Suzan-Lori Parks’s Red Letter Plays at the Signature, In the Blood and Fucking A, which take off from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, as well as Simon Stephens’s exquisite On the Shore of the Wide World at the Atlantic. There are such old mainstays as Stomp, Blue Man Group, Perfect Crime, Avenue Q, and Gazillion Bubble Show as well as such newcomers as A Clockwork Orange at New World Stages, MCC’s Charm at the Lucille Lortel, Brian Friel’s The Home Place at the Irish Rep, Anna Ziegler’s The Last Match at the Roundabout, Amy Herzog’s Mary Jane at New York Theatre Workshop, and Torch Song at Second Stage with Michael Urie.
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch goes back to the very beginning of its long relationship with BAM in its latest Next Wave Festival presentation, a double bill consisting of 1978’s Café Müller and 1975’s The Rite of Spring. The extraordinary works were first shown at BAM in the company’s Brooklyn debut in 1984 (with Bluebeard and 1980) and caused an immediate sensation. The evening opens with Café Müller, an autobiographical piece inspired by Bausch’s memories of the restaurant her parents owned in Germany. Rolf Bozik’s set is cluttered with wooden chairs and small tables, with a pair of large doors on either side and a rear exit leading outside. When Helena Pikon, in a long, off-white slip, her eyes closed, enters the space, it immediately brings to mind Bausch herself, who danced the role for nearly thirty years until shortly before her death in 2009 at the age of sixty-eight; from a distance, Pikon’s build and looks resemble Bausch’s, as if the legendary choreographer’s ghost is haunting the Howard Gilman Opera House. (Pikon alternates in the role with the much younger Breanna O’Mara, the first woman to dance the part who has never met Bausch.) Pikon moves ever-so-slowly, elegantly, as she leans against an unstable wall and lies on the floor. Another woman with eyes closed (Azusa Seyama) then rushes in as a man in a suit and wearing shoes furiously attempts to clear her path, tossing chairs and tables aside so she doesn’t bump into anything. Soon another barefoot man in a suit leads her to another man (Scott Jennings) with whom she forms a volatile relationship. Meanwhile, Nazareth Panadero, in heels and a red wig, meanders through the space, unable to find love. (Various roles are alternated nightly by Scott Jennings / Jonathan Frederickson, Panadero / Blanca Noguerol Ramírez, Michael Strecker / Michael Carter, and Seyama / Ophelia Young, along with Pau Aran Gimeno.) Set to emotive songs by Henry Purcell from The Fairy Queen and Dido and Aeneas, Café Müller is a beautiful lament, featuring repetition that often goes from lovely to frustrating to intoxicating. The magic continues through the intermission, as the audience can watch the stage crew transform the setting from the café to a rectangular mound of dirt for The Rite of Spring, earning its own well-deserved round of applause when they are finished.
Set to Igor Stravinsky’s classic score, Bausch’s The Rite of Spring is a force all its own, one of the most thrilling, heart-wrenching dances you’re ever likely to see. Sixteen bare-chested men in black pants and sixteen women in cream-colored dresses battle it out in groups that move in remarkable unison, at times intermingling, as a red dress, representing first sex, then death, is passed around, left in the middle of the floor by itself, and ultimately worn by Tsai-Chin Yu, who is pursued by Julian Stierle. The music soars as the company gets sweaty, the dirt sticking to their body and costumes, revealing the raw physicality of interaction. (The set and costumes are again by Borzik, Bausch’s partner from 1970 until his death ten years later at the age of thirty-five.) As in Café Müller, there is no talking; many of Bausch’s works feature spoken word, often for humor. But there’s no time for that in The Rite of Spring as the men take over one corner, the women another, then they circle each other, break off into couples, and focus on Yu, who performs a spectacular, convulsive solo of brutally intense emotion. The piece is like Jerome Robbins gone wild; the general setup might be traditional, at least for Bausch, the master of dance theater, but the movement is dazzling, a nonstop fury of arms and legs and bodies thrashing about and joining together. “There are situations, of course, that leave you utterly speechless,” Bausch once said. “All you can do is hint at things. Words, too, can’t do more than just evoke things. That’s where dance comes in.” Café Müller and The Rite of Spring helped establish her reputation, in Brooklyn and around the world, leaving fans and critics virtually speechless at her performances, save for the endless accolades afterward. Several decades later, and eight years after her passing, these works continue to expand her vast legacy.
Who: Ethan Nichtern, Dani Shapiro
What: Book release party for The Dharma of the Princess Bride: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach us about Buddhism and Relationships (North Point Press, September 12, $25), featuring a talk and book signing
Where: Deepak HomeBase, mezzanine, ABC Carpet & Home, 888 Broadway at Seventeenth St.
When: Tuesday, September 19, $30 (includes copy of book), 7:00
Why: “Hello. My name is Ethan Nichtern. The Six-Fingered Man was my father’s best friend. Prepare to read.” So begins author and Buddhist teacher Ethan Nichtern’s fourth book, a unique exploration of one of the most beloved films of the 1980s, Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride. Based on William Goldman’s novel, the cult classic begins with a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading his grandson (Fred Savage) the best bedtime story ever. The romance fantasy adventure stars Cary Elwes as Westley, Robin Wright as Buttercup, Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck, Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, Christopher Guest (a close friend of Nichtern’s father since childhood) as Count Rugen, Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, and André the Giant as Fezzik, along with appearances by Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, and Peter Cook. Although the film is not a Buddhist parable, Nichtern, a husband and new father whose previous books, including The Road Home and One City, combine serious philosophy with humor and pop-culture references, examines the Buddhist nature of life, especially his own, through the lens of his favorite film. In the book’s introduction, “Fairy Tales, the Real World, and True Love,” Nichtern writes, “As for the movie’s relation to Buddhism — it may be correlation rather than causation, but here’s the truth: almost everything I know about relationships, I learned over the past thirty years of doing two things that seem to have very little to do with each other — loving The Princess Bride and practicing Buddhism.” Among the chapters in the hardcover are “Find Your Inner Fezzik: The Practice of Friendship,” “Fred Savage Is a Jerk, and I Am Fred Savage: Gratitude for Your Lineage,” and “Have Fun Storming the Castle.” Nichtern will be at ABC Carpet & Home on September 19 to launch the book, in conversation with writer Dani Shapiro (Family History, Devotion) and signing copies of The Dharma of The Princess Bride.