Australia’s Circa Ensemble returns to Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival for the first time in five years with the death-defying, awe-inspiring En Masse, continuing at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater through October 25. Incorporating acrobatics and gymnastics into contemporary dance with flashes of balletic structures, the Brisbane-based troupe, which presented How Like an Angel at the Union Theological Seminary in 2014, has nothing less than the end of the world on its mind — and what happens after. Created by director and stage designer Yaron Lifschitz with the company, the evening-length work is divided into two related parts. In the first half, the ten extremely talented and brave dancers — Caroline Baillon, Marty Evans, Piri Lee Goodman, Keaton Hentoff-Killian, Cecilia Martin, Hamish McCourty, Daniel O’Brien, Kimberley O’Brien, Jarrod Takle, and Sandy Tugwood — break apart and come together to alternating music by Franz Schubert, Lieders from Schwanengesang (“Ständchen,” “In der Ferne,” “Der Doppelgänger”) and Winterreise (“Der Leiermann,” “Gute Nacht,” “Die Nebensonnen,” “Frühlingstraum”), and electronic music and noise from twenty-six-year-old Swedish composer Klara Lewis (“Msuic I,” “Want,” “Too,” “Beaming”).
The Schubert songs are marvelously sung by tenor Robert Murray, dressed like a vagabond with ratty clothing and carrying a tall, twisted walking stick (the costumes are by associate director Libby McDonnell), accompanied by Tamara-Anna Cislowska on a grand piano. The barefoot performers, wearing jeans and gray T-shirts, move in front of and behind a plastic curtain that comes down and raises again to reveal set changes. A woman crawls across the front of the stage, contorting her lower body into seemingly impossible positions. All ten dancers are trapped in a transparent inflated cube. A parade of solos, duets, and trios marches in the front. Three dancers build a precarious human pyramid, climbing on top of one another. The six men and four women run, jump, slide, get thrown, and threaten to fall against the hard floor — at one treacherous point the audience gasped loudly in unison as a man, fifteen feet in the air, falls, face forward. But Lifschitz has built in various fail safes to try to prevent any potential tragedies, unobtrusively using spotters, and the dancers, who have years of highly specialized circus and acrobatic training, are well-practiced at rolling into somersaults and other moves in case a lift, toss, or carry doesn’t go perfectly.
After intermission, the mood changes. Now that we’re familiar with Circa’s movement vocabulary and impressive skills, we’re not as worried about the safety of the performers, who have formed a kind of postapocalyptic community. All ten dancers are onstage for most of the second half, which is set to Igor Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps (“The Rite of Spring”), aggressively played by Cislowska and Michael Harvey on pianos that face each other at the back of the stage, and features dazzling lighting by Lifschitz and Richard Clarke. The situation is not quite as dire as the performers expand their repertoire, creating breathtaking formations, moving in unison, banding together to face the future. It’s no mere pie-in-the-sky hopefulness but a deep-seated belief in the innate instinct of humanity to forge ahead, to do whatever is necessary to survive and thrive. The first act is introduced by a quote from Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born,” while the second starts with a dictum from German philosopher Walter Benjamin: “There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” En Masse is a document showing that something new can indeed be born, even in times of crisis and barbarism.
The Griffin Theater in the Bloomberg Building
545 West 30th St. at Eleventh Ave.
Through October 25, $42-$92
In May 2018, William Forsythe presented a site-specific work as part of “A Prelude to the Shed,” a preview of what New Yorkers could expect from the new arts center at Hudson Yards. The free collaboration, Tino Sehgal: This variation and William Forsythe: Pas de Deux Cent Douze, put visitors right in the middle of the action as near-total darkness evolved into a cappella singing and an energetic duet as the walls of a temporary facility opened to the street. Choreographer and visual artist Forsythe, the former head of Ballet Frankfurt who has worked independently after ending the Forsythe Company in 2015, is back at Hudson Yards with A Quiet Evening of Dance, a lovely evening-length piece continuing through October 25 at the Shed’s Griffin Theater. Consisting of new and reimagined repertory works, the hundred-minute performance is divided into two main sections, taking place on an empty stage at floor level, putting the ten dancers on equal footing with the audience.
The first half consists of four parts, focusing primarily on duets that are almost like a primer for Forsythe’s choreographic language, which relies heavily on the deconstruction of classical ballet, emphasizing the movement of the arms and hands and upper body. “Prologue,” featuring Parvaneh Scharafali and Ander Zabala, and “Catalogue,” with Jill Johnson and Brit Rodemund, are set in near silence, the only sounds coming from bird tweeting and the dancers’ breathing — some breathe significantly harder than others, like different sounds that emerge from tennis players in the midst of a match, though not as forceful and urgent — and their feet, which glide across the black floor in sneakers covered in wooly socks whose colors sometimes are similar to the wrist-to-biceps gloves they wear that give yet more weight to their arm movement. (The playful costumes are by Dorothee Merg.) Johnson and Rodemund’s duet also has them exploring their entire bodies in a thrilling kind of anatomy lesson. “Epilogue” follows, a series of duets in which Scharafali, Zabala, Johnson, Rodemund, Brigel Gjoka, Riley Watts, Rauf “RubberLegz” Yasit, Jake Tribus, and Roderick George (whom I saw perform a sizzling solo last year when his Pas de Deux Cent Douze partner was unable to dance with him) rotate onstage to Morton Feldman’s soft “Nature Pieces from Piano No. 1,” each dancer establishing their unique personalities: Scharafali with her casual elegance (with her hands at times in her pockets), Johnson with her stoic presence, Watts with his emotional facial gestures, Yasit with his body-twisting (though repetitive) contortions. Gjoka and Watts, moving in rare unison, conclude with “Dialogue (DUO2015)” before intermission.
A co-commission with Sadler’s Wells, where it debuted in October 2018, A Quiet Evening of Dance continues after intermission with “Seventeen / Twenty One,” which is not quite as quiet though just as winning as the dancers, now on a white floor, use the language they explored earlier in a more complexly structured work, set to Jean-Phillippe Rameau’s Baroque “Hippolyte et Aricle: Ritrounelle” from Une Symphonie Imaginaire. The title links the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries — Rameau was born in 1683 — as all ten dancers whirl about the stage, ranging from solos to duets to trios and then everyone coming together for a grand finale.
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Peter Jay Sharp Building, 230 Lafayette Ave.
BAM Fisher, Fishman Space, 321 Ashland Pl.
October 15 - December 15
Like myriad loyal BAMgoers, I look forward every year to the announcement of the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which has been presenting cutting-edge, experimental, and innovative dance, music, film, theater, opera, and hard-to-categorize multidisciplinary performances from around the world for nearly forty years. We eagerly scour the schedule to see when our longtime BAM favorites will be returning, scanning for such beloved names and companies as Robert Wilson, Sasha Waltz, Grupo Corpo, Batsheva, Philip Glass, Sankai Juku, Ivo van Hove, Mark Morris, Théâtre de la Ville, William Kentridge, Laurie Anderson, and the incomparable Pina Bausch, programmed by masterful executive producer Joe Melillo since 1999.
But this year’s lineup features nary a single familiar name, including that of Melillo, who retired after the Winter/Spring season. For his debut Next Wave Festival, new artistic director David Binder has opted to include a roster of performers all making their BAM debuts as well. But don’t be scared off by the lack of recognition. There was a time when no one in New York had ever seen Pina Bausch, Sankai Juku, Batsheva, Sasha Waltz, et al. And by its very nature, the Next Wave is all about the future of performance, delivered to an eager and intrepid audience open to anything and everything.
“In programming my first season at BAM, I was inspired by the genesis of Next Wave and the groundbreaking work of my predecessors, Harvey Lichtenstein and Joe Melillo,” Binder said in a statement. “Next Wave is a place to see, share, and celebrate the most exciting new ideas in theater, music, dance, and, especially, the unclassifiable adventures. We’ve invited a slate of artists who have never performed at BAM. Each and every one of them is making a BAM debut, with artistic work that’s surprising and resonant. I’m excited to launch this season and to build BAM’s next chapter
The 2019 Next Wave roster is an impressive one, kicking off October 15-20 with Michael Keegan-Dolan and Teaċ Daṁsa’s Swan Lake / Loch na hEala, about a young girl sexually assaulted by a priest. In The Second Woman, Alia Shawkat performs the same scene from John Cassavetes’s Opening Night one hundred times with one hundred different men over the course of twenty-four consecutive hours. Christiane Jatahy’s What if they went to Moscow? explores film and theater in a retelling of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters that takes place concurrently onstage at the BAM Fisher and onscreen at BAM Rose Cinemas, the audiences switching places as the performance repeats. In Dante or Die’s User Not Found, audience members sit in a café at the Greene Grape Annex on Fulton St., following the exploits of a man a few tables away. Dimitris Papaioannou breaks boundaries as he explores human existence in The Great Tamer. And Glenn Kaino’s When a Pot Finds Its Purpose will be the inaugural free exhibition at the new Rudin Family Gallery at BAM Strong.
The 2019 Next Wave Festival also includes Bruno Beltrão/Grupo de Rua’s Inoah, Dumbworld’s free outdoor art piece He Did What?, Selina Thompson’s free interactive installation Race Cards, Dead Centre’s Hamnet, Marlene Monteiro Freitas’s Bacchae: Prelude to a Purge, Untitled Projects/Unicorn Theatre, UK’s The End of Eddy, Peeping Tom’s 32 rue Vandenbranden, Fuel/National Theatre/Leeds Playhouse’s Barber Shop Chronicles, Kyle Marshall Choreography’s A.D. & Colored, Kate McIntosh’s In Many Hands, and Meow Meow’s A Very Meow Meow Holiday Show. Still worried about unfamiliarity? If you’ve been to BAM before, you should be ready, willing, and able to be surprised, and if you’ve never been to BAM, you should be preparing to make your debut.
Brooklyn Cultural District
The Plaza at 300 Ashland and other locations
October 4-6, free - $115
Downtown Brooklyn is the place to be this weekend for the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Festival, taking place around the Plaza at 300 Ashland from Friday to Saturday. There will be an African drum circle, live music and dance, talks and discussions, theater, glass-making demonstrations, film screenings, classes, treasure hunts, art exhibitions, and more; while many events are free, others require ticketing at BAM, Theatre for a New Audience, the Mark Morris Dance Center, and the New York Transit Museum, among others. Below are some of the highlights.
Friday, October 4
Kickoff with live performance by Soul Tigers Marching Band and dance party with Soul Summit, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 5:00 - 8:00
Free Demonstration Night: The Two-Part Mold, with Kellie Krouse and Jeffrey Close, UrbanGlass, free, 6:00 - 9:00
Peter Brook\NY, with Paul Auster, Marie-Hélène Estienne, and Jeffrey Horowitz, Center for Fiction, $10 (includes $10 off at bookstore), 7:00
Pop-Up: An Artistic Treasure Hunt, by Strike Anywhere and the Tours Soundpainting Orchestra, Fort Greene, free, 7:00
Saturday, October 5
African Drum Circle with Mr. Fitz, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 11:00
NYTM Train Operators Workshop, New York Transit Museum, free with museum admission, 11:30 & 3:30
Dance: Pas de Deux, with Brooklyn Ballet, set to Jean-Phillippe Rameau’s “Gavotte et Six Doubles,” the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 2:00
Rhys Chatham: The Sun Too Close to the Earth / Jonathan Kane and Zeena Parkins: Oh, Suzanne, ISSUE Project Room, $20-$25, 8:00
Sunday, October 6
Dance: Tribal Truth, in collaboration with Jamel Gaines Creative Outlet, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 12:00
MC Oddissee, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 1:00
Brooklyn Navy Yard: Past, Present & Future Tour, $15-$30, 2:00
Pop-Up: Nkiru Books, with DJ set by Talib Kweli, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 2:00 - 5:00
Crossing the Line Festival
French Institute Alliance Française and other venues
September 12 - October 12
FIAF’s thirteenth annual Crossing the Line Festival, one of the city’s best multidisciplinary events, opens appropriately enough with the US premiere of French director Cyril Teste’s Opening Night, a multimedia adaptation of John Cassavetes’s 1977 film. The seventy-five-minute presentation, running September 12-14, stars the legendary Isabelle Adjani, along with Morgan Lloyd Sicard and Frédéric Pierrot; the actors will receive new stage directions at each performance, so anything can happen. (In conjunction with Opening Night, FIAF will be hosting the CinéSalon series “Magnetic Gaze: Isabelle Adjani on Screen,” consisting of ten films starring Adjani, including The Story of Adele H, Queen Margot, and Possession, on Tuesdays through October 29.) Also on September 12, Paris-born, New York–based visual artist Pierre Huyghe will unveil his free video installation The Host and the Cloud, a two-hour film exploring the nature of human ritual, set in a former ethnographic museum; the 2009-10 film will be shown on a loop in the FIAF Gallery Monday to Saturday through the end of the festival, October 12. Another major highlight of CTL 2019 is the US premiere of Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne’s Why? Running September 21 through October 6 at Theatre for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, the seventy-five-minute show delves into the very existence of theater itself. The festival also features dance, music, and other live performances by an impressive range of creators; below is the full schedule. Numerous shows will be followed by Q&As with the writers, directors, and/or performers.
Thursday, September 12
Saturday, September 14
Opening Night, directed by Cyril Teste, starring Isabelle Adjani, Morgan Lloyd Sicard, and Frédéric Pierrot, FIAF Florence Gould Hall, $45-$55, 7:30
Thursday, September 12
Saturday, October 12
The Host and the Cloud, directed by Pierre Huyghe, FIAF Gallery, free
Friday, September 13
Sunday, September 15
Manmade Earth, by 600 HIGHWAYMEN, the Invisible Dog Art Center, $15 suggested donation
Tuesday, September 17
Wednesday, September 18
The Disorder of Discourse, Fanny de Chaillé’s restaging of a lecture by Michel Foucault, with Guillaume Bailliart, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, free with RSVP, 8:00
Saturday, September 21
Sunday, October 6
Why?, by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne, Polonsky Shakespeare Center, Theatre for a New Audience, $90-$115
Wednesday, September 25
Isadora Duncan, by Jérôme Bel, CTL commission, with Catherine Gallant, FIAF Florence Gould Hall, $35, 7:30
Thursday, September 26
Saturday, September 28
Somewhere at the Beginning, created and performed by Mikaël Serre, choreographed by Germaine Acogny, set to music by Fabrice Bouillon, La MaMa, $25, 7:00
Wednesday, October 2
Radio Live, with Aurélie Charon, Caroline Gillet, and Amélie Bonnin, based on narratives by young change makers from around the world, FIAF Florence Gould Hall, $15-$35
Thursday, October 3
Sunday, October 6
Look Who’s Coming to Dinner, world premiere choreographed by Stefanie Batten Bland, with music by Paul Damien Hogan, inspired by 1967 Stanley Kramer film, La MaMa, $21-$26
Friday, October 4
Saturday, October 5
The Sun Too Close to the Earth, world premiere by Rhys Chatham for nine-piece ensemble, inspired by climate change, along with Le Possédé bass flute solo and On, Suzanne featuring harpist Zeena Parkins and drummer Jonathan Kane, ISSUE Project Room, $25, 8:00
Thursday, October 10
When Birds Refused to Fly, conceived, directed, and choreographed by Olivier Tarpaga, featuring Salamata Kobré, Jean Robert Kiki Koudogbo, Stéphane Michael Nana, and Abdoul Aziz Zoundi, with music by Super Volta and others, FIAF Florence Gould Hall, $15-$35, 7:30
Friday, October 11
Saturday, October 12
Дyми Moï — Dumy Moyi, solo performance by François Chaignaud, the Invisible Dog Art Center, free with RSVP
NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 La Guardia Pl.
September 6 - December 9
NYU Skirball’s mission is to “present work that inspires yet frustrates, confirms yet confounds, entertains yet upends.” They are staying true to their goals with an extremely impressive and daring fall season of music, theater, dance, literature, and talks. The season gets under way September 6-8 ($40) with the New York City premiere of former New York Shakespeare Festival head and five-time Obie winner Joanne Akalaitis’s Bad News! I Was There . . . , a site-specific performance in English, Greek, French, and German that takes four groups through the lobby, dressing room, and backstage area of the theater, mixing in sung and spoken excerpts from classic Greek tragedy. “‘I was there’ is a refrain heard every day on the news, often followed by ‘How can this happen? What’s wrong here? What should we do?’” Akailitis says about the show.
Philippe Quesne’s The Moles, set in a world without humans and words, consists of four presentation September 12-14: “Parade of the Moles,” a free tour of Greenwich Village on Thursday at 2:00; “Night of the Moles” on Friday and Saturday night ($30, 7:30), taking place in a burrow; and the family-friendly “Afternoon of the Moles” on Saturday afternoon ($20, 7:30), as the Moles form a punk band. If you missed Sam Mendes’s brilliant production of The Lehman Trilogy at the Park Avenue Armory, you can catch one of two “National Theatre Live” screenings at the Skirball on September 15 ($25, 2:00 & 7:00) On September 16, “NYU Writes: A Celebration of Writers and Writing at NYU” brings together Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Safran Foer, Terrance Hayes, Yusef Komunyakaa, Nick Laird, Sharon Olds, and Zadie Smith, hosted by Deborah Landau (free with advance RSVP, 7:00).
Tony nominee Daniel Fish follows up his controversial reimagining of Oklahoma! with White Noise, a seventy-minute multimedia show “freely inspired” by Don DeLillo’s 1985 National Book Award-winning novel. Zoe Coombs Marr, Ursula Martinez, and Adrienne Truscott take on critics in Wild Bore September 27-28 ($35-$45, 7:30). And that just takes us through September; below are some of the highlights from October to December:
Sunday, October 6
National Theatre Live: Fleabag, $25, 7:00
Friday, October 11
Saturday, October 12
John Kelly: Underneath the Skin, $35-$45, 7:30
Friday, October 18
Saturday, October 19
ICE: George Lewis’s Soundlines — A Dreaming Track, $35-$45, 7:30
Friday, October 25
Saturday, October 26
Mette Ingvartsen: to come (extended), US premiere, $35-$45, 7:30
Friday, November 8
Saturday, November 9
Big Dance Theater: The Road Awaits Us, Ballet, Cage Shuffle: Redux, $35-$45, 7:30
Friday, December 7
Saturday, December 8
The Builders Association: Elements of Oz, $20-$25, 7:30