This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

PLATFORM 2021: THE DREAM OF THE AUDIENCE

Reggie Wilson, Eiko Otake, Joan Jonas, Ishmael Houston-Jones, and Okwui Okpokwasili have made new films for Danspace Project’s online Platform 2021

Who: Ishmael Houston-Jones, Eiko Otake, Joan Jonas, Okwui Okpokwasili, Reggie Wilson, Judy Hussie-Taylor, Lydia Bell, Kristin Juarez, more
What: Annual Platform presentation
Where: Danspace Project Zoom
When: May 15 - June 18, free (live events require advance RSVP)
Why: Danspace Project’s annual Platform series, in which specially chosen curators put together programs of dance, literature, conversation, and more, was cut short last year because of the pandemic lockdown. The 2021 edition, curated by Judy Hussie-Taylor and aptly titled “The Dream of the Audience,” is fully digital, with new short films made during residencies at Danspace Project, live discussions, looks back at previous Platforms, and archival footage. It takes as its inspiration Teresa Hak Kyung Cha’s 1977 poem “Audience Distant Relative”: “you are the audience / you are my distant audience / i address you / as i would a distant relative / as if a distant relative / seen only heard only through someone else’s / description.” Platform 2021 kicks off May 15 at 7:00 with a live Zoom launch featuring Ishmael Houston-Jones, Eiko Otake, Joan Jonas, Okwui Okpokwasili, and Reggie Wilson, moderated by Hussie-Taylor, all of whom have previously curated an edition of Platform. Below is the full schedule; live Zoom events require advance RSVP.

Saturday, May 15
Platform Launch with Ishmael Houston-Jones, Eiko Otake, Joan Jonas, Okwui Okpokwasili, and Reggie Wilson, moderated by Judy Hussie-Taylor, RSVP required, 7:00

Monday, May 17
On the Online Journal: Archival footage of Ishmael Houston-Jones and Miguel Gutierrez, Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd

Friday, May 21
Film Premiere: Ishmael Houston-Jones, Try, in collaboration with Keith Hennessy, josé e. abad, Kevin O’Connor, and Snowflake Calvert, RSVP required, 5:00

Monday, May 31
On the Online Journal: Archival footage of Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born, Sitting on a Man’s Head

Friday, June 4
Film Premiere: Okwui Okpokwasili, RSVP required, 5:00

Monday, June 7
On the Online Journal: Archival footage of Eiko Otake’s A Body in Places and Joan Jonas’s Moving off the Land, with new written works by writer-in-residence Maura Nguyen Donohue

Conversations without Walls: Revisiting Eiko Otake’s A Body in Places and Ishmael Houston-Jones and Will Rawls’s Lost & Found Platforms, with Lydia Bell and Kristin Juarez, RSVP required, 5:00

Friday, June 11
Film Premiere: Eiko Otake & Joan Jonas, filmed at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, RSVP required, 5:00

Monday, June 14
On the Online Journal: Archival footage of Reggie Wilson’s . . . they stood shaking while others began to shout, with new written works by writer-in-residence Maura Nguyen Donohue

Conversations without Walls: Revisiting Reggie Wilson’s “Dancing Platform, Praying Ground: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance” and Owkui Okpokwasili’s “Utterances from the Chorus,” with Lydia Bell and Kristin Juarez, RSVP required, 5:00

Friday, June 18
Film Premiere: Reggie Wilson, collaboration with members of Fist & Heel Performance Group, RSVP required, 5:00

STEPHEN PETRONIO COMPANY: 2021 JOYCE THEATER DIGITAL SEASON

Who: Stephen Petronio Company
What: Digital Joyce season
Where: Joyce Theater online
When: May 13, 8:00 – May 26, 11:59 pm, $25
Why: When Manhattan-based Stephen Petronio Company had to cancel its May 2020 season at the Joyce because of the pandemic lockdown and went virtual instead, few anticipated that the May 2021 season would have to be online as well. But SPC is back with a new JoyceStream program, available on demand May 13-26, highlighting how busy Petronio has been in the last year, creating works at the Petronio Residency Center and Hudson Hall in upstate New York during the coronavirus crisis. Petronio, who hosted his intimate sixty-fifth birthday party over Zoom in March, will be presenting five works conceived or reimagined over the last year in bubble residencies. Two versions of the new duet Are You Lonesome Tonight, with Ryan Pliss and Mac Twining, will be shown, part of a new suite of dances set to the music of Elvis Presley; one was filmed onstage by Petronio and John Fitzgerald, the other outdoors by Petronio and Blake Martin. Petronio’s 1993 solo to another Presley tune, Love Me Tender, has been updated for online viewing, performed by Nicholas Sciscione and filmed by Fitzgerald.

Petronio’s seven-year Bloodlines series, in which he reinterprets classic works by major choreographers, continues with an adaptation of Trisha Brown’s 1973 autobiographical Group Primary Accumulation; for the first time, one of the four dancers is male. And the troupe will debut the full-company piece New Prayer for Now Part 1, with music by Monstah Black that was inspired by Harry Thacker Burleigh’s spiritual “Balm in Gilead” and Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Two versions of Are You Lonesome Tonight are part of Stephen Petronio Company online Joyce season

The evening will also include Dancing Camera’s short film Pandemic Portraits, which delves into company members’ individual responses to the health crisis and lockdown, and a look at Petronio’s In Absentia, a limited-edition illustrated book, made in collaboration with Sarah Silver and Rafael Weil, that explores Petronio’s thoughts since March 2020. You can watch a Joyce talkback with Petronio, Carolyn Lucas of Trisha Brown Dance Company, and Dante Puleio of Limón Dance Company here as the three artistic directors discuss their online Joyce seasons with moderator Aaron Mattocks; Trisha Brown continues through May 12 and Limón through May 19.

TWI-NY AT TWENTY: ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

Who: Works by and/or featuring Moko Fukuyama, Joshua William Gelb, Gabrielle Hamilton, Jace, Elmore James, Jamal Josef, Katie Rose McLaughlin, Sara Mearns, Zaire Michel, Zalman Mlotek, Alicia Hall Moran, Patrick Page, Barbara Pollack, Seth David Radwell, Jamar Roberts, Tracy Sallows, Xavier F. Salomon, Janae Snyder-Stewart, Mfoniso Udofia, Anne Verhallen
What: This Week in New York twentieth anniversary celebration
Where: This Week in New York YouTube
When: Saturday, May 22, free with RSVP, 7:00 (available on demand through June 12)
Why: In April 2001, I found myself suddenly jobless when a relatively new Silicon Alley company that had made big promises took an unexpected hit. I took my meager two weeks’ severance pay and spent fourteen days wandering through New York City, going to museums, film festivals, parks, and tourist attractions. I compiled my experiences into an email I sent to about fifty friends, rating each of the things I had done. My sister’s husband enthusiastically demanded that I keep doing this, and This Week in New York was born.

Affectionately known as twi-ny (twhy-nee), it became a website in 2005 and soon was being read by tens of thousands of people around the globe. I covered a vast array of events – some fifteen thousand over the years – that required people to leave their homes and apartments and take advantage of everything the greatest city in the world had to offer. From the very start, I ventured into nooks and crannies to find the real New York, not just frequenting well-known venues but seeking out the weird and wild, the unusual and the strange.

For my tenth anniversary, we packed Fontana’s, a now-defunct club on the Lower East Side, and had live music, book readings, and a comics presentation. I had been considering something bigger for twenty when the pandemic lockdown hit and lasted longer than we all thought possible.

At first, I didn’t know what twi-ny’s future would be, with nowhere for anyone to go. But the arts community reacted quickly, as incredible dance, music, art, theater, opera, film, and hybrid offerings began appearing on numerous platforms; the innovation and ingenuity blew me away. The winners of twi-ny’s Pandemic Awards give you a good idea of the wide range of things I covered; you can check out part one here and part two here.

I devoured everything I could, from experimental dance-theater in a closet and interactive shows over the phone and through the mail to all-star Zoom reunion readings and an immersive, multisensory play that arrived at my door in a box. Many of them dealt with the fear, isolation, and loneliness that have been so pervasive during the Covid-19 crisis while also celebrating hope, beauty, and resilience. I’ve watched, reviewed, and previewed more than a thousand events created since March 2020, viewing them from the same computer where I work at my full-time job in children’s publishing.

Just as companies are deciding the future hybrid nature of employment, the arts community is wrestling with in-person and online presentations. As the lockdown ends and performance venues open their doors, some online productions will go away, but others are likely to continue, benefiting from a reach that now goes beyond their local area and stretches across the continents.

On May 22 at 7:00, “twi-ny at twenty,” produced and edited by Michael D. Drucker of Delusions International and coproduced by Ellen Scordato, twi-ny’s business manager and muse, honors some of the best events of the past fourteen months, including dance, theater, opera, art, music, and literature, all of which can be enjoyed for free from the friendly confines of your couch. There is no registration fee, and the party will be available online for several weeks. You can find more information here.

Please let me know what you think in the live chat, which I will be hosting throughout the premiere, and be sure to say hello to other twi-ny fans and share your own favorite virtual shows.

Thanks for coming along on this unpredictable twenty-year adventure; I can’t wait to see you all online and, soon, in real life. Here’s to the next twenty!

SYMPHONY SPACE 2021 GALA CONCERT

Who: Kate Baldwin, Roz Chast, Britney Coleman, Jane Curtin, Nikki Renée Daniels, Santino Fontana, Jason Gotay, Melora Hardin, Jane Kaczmarek, Jeff Kready, Colum McCann, Patricia Marx, Laura Osnes, George Saunders, Rashidra Scott, Nathaniel Stampley, Sally Wilfert, Meg Wolitzer, Tony Yazbeck, more
What: Virtual gala fundraiser
Where: Symphony Space Zoom
When: Thursday, May 13, $35, 7:00
Why: On January 7, 1978, conductor Allan Miller and playwright and director Isaiah Sheffer staged the free twelve-hour concert “Wall to Wall Bach” at an Upper West Side building on Broadway that was formerly the Astor Market, the Crystal Palace Skating Rink, and the Symphony Theatre. The event was such a success that they decided to start Symphony Space, an arts venue that for more than forty years has hosted music, storytelling, film, theater, readings, lectures, dance, and much more. The pandemic lockdown had closed the institution’s doors, but they will reopen for the 2021 annual gala fundraiser on May 13 in a hybrid livestream featuring an all-star lineup performing onstage at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater and sharing memories from home over Zoom. “When I got a text that the first rehearsal for the dance piece in the space had happened and gone well, it was thrilling — we had arrived at that long-awaited moment when artists were once again gracing our stages,” executive director Kathy Landau said in a statement. “Before the pandemic, every corner of our building pulsated with art and ideas, with people meeting in the hallways and the wings. The theater itself is almost its own character in the life of Symphony Space — and what makes it come alive is the community we have built in and around it. And while we had so much engaging virtual programming, the theater had been sitting almost entirely empty. For the gala, there was a lightbulb moment where we realized, ‘Wait, there’s a way to safely and responsibly and comfortably bring this energy back,’ for this event to be our first step before bringing audiences in. It had to be quintessential Symphony Space: to be multidisciplinary, to have that unique-to-this-one-evening, in-the-moment immediacy, to have that magical alchemy that occurs when artists come together at Symphony Space to create, collaborate, and celebrate.”

The evening of cocktails, concert, and conversation, produced and directed by Annette Jolles and Joel Fram, will feature performances by Kate Baldwin, Britney Coleman, Nikki Renée Daniels, Jason Gotay, Jeff Kready, Laura Osnes, Rashidra Scott, Nathaniel Stampley, Sally Wilfert, and Tony Yazbeck in addition to a new dance piece by Sara Brians (performed by Saki Masuda, Michelle Mercedes, and Devin L. Roberts) as well as appearances by Roz Chast, Jane Curtin, Nikki Renée Daniels, Santino Fontana, Melora Hardin, Jane Kaczmarek, Patricia Marx, Colum McCann, George Saunders, Meg Wolitzer, and others. The house band consists of conductor Fred Lassen on piano, John Romeri on flute, Keve Wilson on oboe, Nuno Antunes on clarinet, Eric Reed on horns, Nanci Belmont on bassoon, Laura Bontrager on cello, George Farmer on bass, and Clayton Craddock on drums. Tickets for the concert are $35 and go up to $1,000 to $40,000 for special breakout rooms and tables with guest artists and a Party in a Box.

La MaMa MOVES! DANCE FESTIVAL

Mei Yamanaka will be part of Tiffany Mills Company presentation at 2021 La Mama Moves! Dance Festival

Who: Tiffany Mills Company; Hadar Ahuvia and Tatyana Tenenbaum; J. Bouey; Morgan Bullock, Gerald Casel, Daudi Fayar, BamBam Frost, and John Scott; Ricarrdo Valentine/Brother(hood) Dance!; Jasmine Hearn; Sugar Vendil; more
What: Digital and in-person dance festival
Where: La MaMa online and at Downtown Art/Alpha Omega
When: May 12–23, free - $25 (pay-what-you-can)
Why: The 2021 edition of La MaMa Moves! will be a hybrid dance festival, consisting of workshops, discussions, and performances streamed live from the Ellen Stewart Theatre and the Downstairs Theatre at its home at 66 East Fourth St. as well as held in front of a limited audience at Downtown Art/Alpha Omega at 19 East Third St. “Performing artists have always proven to be resilient and resourceful even during the most challenging times,” La MaMa Moves! curator Nicky Paraiso said in a statement. “Since the pandemic began last March, dance practitioners have been both taking time to reflect and going ahead in doing the creative work they are always doing. This past year has certainly been painful and frustrating, both mentally exhausting and physically debilitating. Dance artists have, however, continued to make work, and I believe that the artists participating in this season’s La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival are making work that is essential and true to this pivotal moment in time.”

The sixteenth annual festival kicks off May 12 with an intergenerational discussion in recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Yoshiko Chuma, Sophia Gutchinov, Potri Ranka Manis, Paz Tanjuaquio, and Sugar Vendil, moderated by choreographer and writer Maura Nguyen Donohue. Tiffany Mills Company will offer a Zoom workshop for kids on May 13, Hadar Ahuvia and Tatyana Tenenbaum will perform Prayer of the Morning on May 13 and 15, J. Bouey will present untitled: an exploration of grief on May 14 and 16, and Morgan Bullock, Gerald Casel, Daudi Fayar, BamBam Frost, and John Scott will participate in a Virtual International Showcase on May 18. Tiffany Mills Company will give a sneak peek at the excerpts-in-process Home Project on May 20 and 22 (with Mills, Jordan Morley, Nikolas Owens, Emily Pope, and Mei Yamanaka), Ricarrdo Valentine/Brother(hood) Dance! shares All About Love about Black healing on May 21 and 23, and, on May 22 and 23 at 4:00, La MaMa moves to the nearby Downtown Art/Alpha Omega for outdoor performances of Jasmine Hearn’s Songs from Pleasure Memory and Vendil’s Test Sites. All events require advance RSVP and are either free or pay-what-you-can ($5-$25).

CRY 50th ANNIVERSARY

Who: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
What: Fiftieth anniversary performance of Cry
Where: Ailey All Access
When: Sunday, May 9, free, 3:00
Why: On May 4, 1971, at New York City Center, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater premiered the sixteen-minute solo Cry, which Ailey choreographed on Judith Jamison as a birthday present for his mother, Lula Cooper. The piece, set to Alice Coltrane’s “Something about John Coltrane,” Laura Nyro’s “Been on a Train,” and the Voices of East Harlem’s “Right On Be Free,” has now been recorded for online viewing, featuring Jacqueline Green, and will make its debut as a Mother’s Day Matinee on May 9 at 3:00. “Exactly where the woman is going through the ballet’s three sections was never explained to me by Alvin,” Jamison writes in her autobiography, Dancing Spirit. “In my interpretation, she represented those women before her who came from the hardships of slavery, through the pain of losing loved ones, through overcoming extraordinary depressions and tribulations. Coming out of a world of pain and trouble, she has found her way — and triumphed.” The piece will be followed by a discussion between Green and Ailey dancer Constance Stamatiou about the work, which Ailey dedicated to “all Black women everywhere — especially our mothers.” The next day, AAADT will present the livestreamed panel “Celebrating Judith Jamison” on Jamison’s seventy-eighth birthday, with Jamison, Sarita Allen, Linda Denise Fisher Harrell, Renee Robinson, Linda Celeste Sims, Dwana Smallwood, Nasha Thomas, and Lisa Johnson-Willingham.

BLESSED UNREST: TOUCH

Touch takes place on the sidewalk, with Madison Square Park in the background (photo by Maria Baranova)

TOUCH
Blessed Unrest; NYC Open Culture Program
Saturday, May 8, 7:00, and Sunday, May 9, 3:00 & 5:00
Admission: free with RSVP (suggested donation $25)
East 26th Street (between 5th and Madison Avenue, NYC)
www.blessedunrest.org
www1.nyc.gov

The Manhattan-based Blessed Unrest company explores our deep-seated need for physical and emotional connection in Touch, a dance-theater piece performed guerrilla-style just outside Madison Square Park. Part of the city’s Open Culture Program, the forty-five-minute work takes place on the sidewalk near the southwest corner of East Twenty-Sixth St. and Broadway, the park right behind them. Wearing masks, Michael Gene Jacobs, Tatyana Kot, Ariel Polanco, and Anna Wulfekuhle nimbly move across a long bench and interact with a lamppost, a circular bike rack, and a low railing around a tree as overlapping stories are broadcast from two small, portable speakers. The narratives, based on personal stories of isolation shared by the performers and edited and expanded by Keith Hamilton Cobb (American Moor) and Teddy Jefferson (One Inch Leather, The Insomniac), involve Oedipus, a horse, and a mysterious neighbor. The socially distanced audience, also wearing masks, stand or sit in the street, which is blocked off to vehicular traffic but not to pedestrians and bicyclists, who sometimes walk or pedal right through the performance, lending an unpredictable quality to the proceedings.

Performers make use of a bench, a bike rack, a lamppost, and more in site-specific Touch (photo by Maria Baranova)

“When we finished working on our 2015 show Body: Anatomies of Being, which was also built around personal testimonials from the performers, we felt strongly that the idea of touch hadn’t been explored fully in the final work,” director Jessica Burr (The Snow Queen, Eurydice’s Dream), who founded the company in 1999, said in a statement. “It seemed particularly fitting to revisit this subject now, as the months of detachment and related touch deprivation began to take a toll on all of us. When workshopping this piece remotely, each in our own isolated bubble, we spoke about research on mirror neurons and the emotional brain. That research suggests that our witnessing of the authentic corporeal experiences of others can stimulate the very same visceral response in our own brains, as though the experience were ours. It’s the forging of literal compassion through neural growth in our audiences.”

Touch, which features music composition, arrangement, and sound design by Adrian Bridges and costumes by Sohn Plenefisch, continues May 8 and 9; admission is free with RSVP. (There is a suggested donation of $25.) Be sure to also take a walk through Madison Square Park, where Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest, consisting of forty-nine bare trees representing impending environmental calamity, is on view through mid-November.