January 15, 2019
APAP is coming to town right after the holidays, so don't put away your festive outfits and get ready to meet the artists, presenters, and professionals that populate the world of the performing arts. The conference provides a platform for those working in performing arts to engage in discussions around pressing current cultural, artistic and professional issues. The gathering draws members of the arts community from around the globe, but also offers events open to the public including free live-streaming of plenaries and many free pre-conference sessions.
There are countless performances, demonstrations, talks and networking opportunities. If you haven't caught up on the details, click here: https://www.apap365.org/Conference/Programs-and-Events
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Before the massive APAP/NYC Conference invades the city--in a good way--APAP is offering scores of workshops and professional development seminars free--that's right--FREE to the public. All you need to do is sign up. Here are a few of the categories: Artists Building a Code of Ethics in the Era of #MeToo; Broadway, Dance or Transgender Forums; Agents and Manager Affinity Group and Wavelenghts: APAPA World Music Pre-Conference. Check this out: https://www.apap365.org/Conference/Programs-and-Events/Pre-Conference
Friday, January 4 -- Jane Chu celebrates the leadership role the arts play in our world. Bringing her unique perspective as an artist, former arts presenter, recent head of the National Endowment for the Arts, and now adviser to PBS, Chu has seen first-hand how the arts are a positive force that brings people together across the U.S. and across differences.
Saturday, January 5 -- Plenary Session: 5 Provocations for Rethinking the Industry: Leading into the Future In the face of a chaotic present and a wildly uncertain future, artists and arts leaders don’t have the luxury of “business as usual”. The leaders of today and tomorrow must take charge of making and remaking the future of our art.
Sunday January 6--Plenary Session: APAP|NYC Town Hall: The Power of WE:Make your voice heard as we forge the future of the field together! This year we will host a true Town Hall to tackle tough questions facing our field about the roles, rules and realities of the evolving performing arts industry. Are the tried and true approaches still working?
Monday, January 7--Annual Awards Ceremony and Luncheon: This special event honors achievement, service, excellence and advocacy in the performing arts field. Tickets are required and must be purchased in advance when you register or at the APAP|NYC registration desk at the conference.
Tuesday, January 8 -- Closing Keynote: Year after year, the closing keynote is one of the most popular events of the APAP|NYC conference. Guaranteed to entertain and inspire, our soon-to-be-announced celebrity speaker will deliver the perfect send-off to APAP|NYC attendees!
UNDER THE RADAR: FRANKENSTEIN, MINOR CHARACTER, THE EVOLUTION OF A SONERO
January 11, 2019
It was a dreary night when Mary Shelly accompanied her husband and fellow poet Percey Shelley to the home of writer Lord Byron. Storms kept a congenial group of friends in the house, and that’s where Ms. Shelley penned Frankenstein. Already depressed because of the loss of her baby girl, Shelley imagined a story of a monumental misfit who had a tender heart but uncontrollable, laboratory constructed strength.
The sketched out story of Shelley’s life and the writing of this monstrously popular story is told through the use of shadow puppets, puppets, projections and videos by the talented Manual Cieman Company. Presented during the annual APAP festival, Under-the Radar Festival draws arts professionals from around the world. This sets-up an opportunity for the artists to attract multiple presenters and organize a fruitful touring schedule.
Frankenstein, an incredibly intricate production is a marvel of visual elements. Created by Manual Cinema and adapted from the novel by Mary Shelly, members of the company collaborated on its realization with the primary concept by Drew Dir. Live actors zoomed from one end of the darkened stage to the other, feverishly moving stick figures and light fixtures. Characters danced across the white walls like Kara Walker’s panoramic cut-paper silhouettes to the atmospheric music by Kyle Vegter and Ben Kauffman.
Despite the two-dimensional aspect of the images, the audience felt Shelley’s sadness--her despair and manic desire to write a story that captured her colleagues’ praise. Running over close to two hours, no intermission, the production is enviable but the story unspools on a single, theatrical note. Much of the energy went into the actual depiction of the storytelling rather than development of dramatic arc. That said, they deserve an award for the production’s visual elements.
For some reason, Chekhov’s 19th century Russian play Uncle Vanya never ceases to fascinate contemporary theater professionals. And so, New Saloon pays witty tribute to Chekhov in their “mash-up” of English translations featuring characters portrayed by multiple actors, sometimes speaking simultaneously. Settled on an aging estate in the Russian countryside, the quiet, hard working family members are disrupted when their sophisticated, urban relatives descended on the premises. Suddenly, mundane lives are pitched into emotional extremes not experienced in years.
The potency of the concept was most evident in the beginning when the tall blonde actor, Madeline Wise, began a deadpan delivery as the tree-hugging doctor who is a regular visitor to the estate. What was particularly exhilarating was the way she spoke just a few words punctuated by repeated minimal gestures—a hand opening and closing, eyes focusing on one person, turning away and back again. That unleashed a thrill because the words and gestures formed a provocatively syncopated rhythm that supplied the emotion. Soon the rest of the play’s outsized characters entered.
Gender roles switched constantly adding a sense of whimsy to this rendition of dysfunctional family dynamics. If a viewer is not familiar with “Uncle Vanya” there might be some confusion over the characters in Minor Character. However, everyone understood there was an old crotchety professor (played by the singular David Greenspan—the only single actor/role) married to a young beauty salivated over by all the adult men in the house. At times, Morgan Green’s direction pitted the actors into a genial contra dance: characters met up, and split apart bisected by the huge dining room table. But nothing else in the play reached the heights of Ms. Wise’s opening monologue.
One of the most upbeat productions of the Under the Radar Festival was The Evolution of a Sonero. Primarily a bio-musical, the theater piece is written and performed by Flaco Navaja who grabs the audience in the very first minutes and doesn’t let go until the calls for encore! Directed by Jorge B. Merced, the pace cooks with the help of the on-stage band The Razor Blades. Slim and dressed in a three-piece suit, Navajo wove together stories about life growing up in the Bronx. Shaped by his extended Puerto Rican family and an unforgiving urban decay, he struggled to shed skinny, geeky looks and in the process was tripped up by a fierce tango with drugs and alcohol.
What differentiated this from most solo performances was the introduction to Puerto Rican music: how it rose from the African diaspora, and how the clave formed the heartbeat of the Afro-Caribbean social music genres. Produced by the venerable Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, much of the program’s success is centered on Navajo’s charismatic presence, soaring voice and nimble dance body. In the end, it’s the music that solidified cultural identity, the spirit of perserverance and hope.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis
AMERICAN DANCE PLATFORM: GRAHAM AND PETRONIO
January 6, 2019
When APAP comes to town, NYC, already the center of cultural activity turn into a tsunami of artistic events. That’s because the conference draws performers, presenters, producers and professionals from all corners of the performing arts community to NYC for about one week of non-stop cultural activity. Disciplines across the performing arts spectrum organize platforms to introduce the all-powerful presenters to the available productions.
In this vein, the Joyce Theater presents the American Dance Platform series curated a by a different presenter every year. Generally, the companies present a tasting of their repertoire to tantalize the presenters and producers into wanting to learn more and help press the touring button on.
Opening night of the Platform was stellar. Stephen Petronio and the Martha Graham Dance Company shared a bill. And like Janet Eilber suggested in an introductory talk, the Graham Company was eager to share the spotlight with such a cool, and nervy dance company. In truth, both proved their offerings were perfectly capable of standing the test of dance time.
Petronio presented the full length “Hardness 10” with music by Nico Muhly choreographed in 2018. Clear and precise, the movement architecture was pristine. Dancers moved in strong formations, generally 4 bodies in counterpoint to 3. Straight arms shoot out from the shoulder, legs snap into long lines, and torsos frequently face in relief. There’s geometric satisfaction in this work in the Baroque sense, which means it’s mathematically satisfying and emotionally gratifying: a wonderful mix of soul and structure.
To start the performance, the audience was treated to what might be one of this decade’s finest reconstructions of a male solo,” Goldberg “Variations.” Originally created performed by Steve Paxton in 1981, the godfather of contact improvisation, the solo is a wonder of muscle control and an internal rhythmic high.
When Petronio Company member Nick Sciscione performed an “iteration” of the piece in 2017, I asked Yvonne Rainer --Paxton’s colleague and founding member of the Judson Dance Theater--what she thought about the solo: “Celia, I wept when I saw it.” And that was because Sciscione channels Paxton’s idiosyncratic, intuitive movement sensibility encased in liquid matter and cosmic imagination.
On the heels of this postmodern setting, the Martha Graham Dance Company arrives. First there was “Woodland” by Pontus Lidberg to music by Irving Fine for the Graham Company in 2016. Very Flemish or possibly Tudoresque (Antony) in the vein of Graham -- a community of dancers outfitted in simple dresses or pants and shirts -- circle one woman in black and white. Soon, the outer dance circle dons wolf masks underscoring the single female’s “outsider” status until she becomes one of them.
The company executed the steps with finesse, easily moving between the softer lines of contemporary modern dance and Grahams sharper edged dips and contractions. But again, the real heart of the Graham program arrived with the performance of two excerpts from Martha Graham’s “Chronicle"
created in 1936 in response to the disturbing actions of Hitler in Germany and actually chronicles the 1914 -1936 era.
Two sections from this larger production were performed including “Steps in The Street” and “Prelude to Action.” A perfect antidote to today’s political folly, the women dressed in black marched out in determination. With fists clenched, knees rose up and slammed into the floor as ramrod straight torsos thrust fiercely into the future. Simple steps arranged in dynamic patterns unfurled defiant images of females in deep diagonals and in the end circles of determination.
In truth, Stephen Petronio and Janet Eilber (Direct of the Graham Company) should not be surprised if presenters ask to tour this exact program.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Celia Ipiotis