Elizabeth Cooke, Contributing Writer
Each fall, The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) delights its audiences with the Next Wave Festival. Inaugurated in 1983, the annual Festival offers New York City arts-lovers an array of daring presentations from a wide range of art forms including music, dance, opera, theater, film, visual art, and more. As BAM’s Associate Producer Amy Cassello put it, “BAM does not deal in themes beyond the promise of the ‘new’ of Next Wave.”
Although over the past four years I’ve been to more Next Wave presentations than I can count, the performance I most recently attended—alongside a group of Sternies from the Arts & Culture Club—was definitely among the most memorable. Titled Rules of the Game, the headlining piece delivered a mash-up of dance, compelling props, dramatic projections, and a sweeping original score by Pharrell Williams. Created for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the score marked Pharrell’s first composition for dance and theater. Clad in terracotta colored layers, eight beautiful dancers moved around the stage, evoking images of playful competition. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, choreographer Jonah Bokaer said he and his collaborators create art with “a goal of doing things for the stage that have never been done.” Having seen other works of Bokaer’s in the past, I can attest to his unique style that blurs the boundaries between movement and visual art. A long-time artistic partner of visual artist Daniel Arsham, there are few others who have achieved this hybrid style with the deftness that Bokaer and his collaborators have.
As it turns out, I’m not the only one that is frequently impressed by the innovative and challenging works that BAM presents. As Cassello said in a recent email exchange, “often audiences will walk away from a BAM show saying ‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’” Theatergoers at BAM are continually impressed by the “ambition of the set design, the display of technique and craft, the strength of an ensemble [and] the virtuosity of the performance,” she says. “There is no formula for creating a season, only a very deep rooted feeling, backed by lots of curatorial experience, that allows the seemingly disparate to fit together,” she added.
Ending on December 18th, the 2016 Next Wave Festival is winding down. Highlights from its final month include 50 new songs from The Magnetic Fields (December 2-3); and Mark Morris Dance Group’s The Hard Nut, a beloved, comical version of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic, set in 1970s suburbia (December 10-18). For more information on this year’s performances, visit bam.org, and stay tuned for the 2017 Next Wave Festival offerings, to be announced in the spring.