Walker Art Center curator Philip Bither tries to give his top-five picks for the Walker’s upcoming performing arts season. This is no easy thing.
For one, he’s getting off and on the subways of New York City during a phone interview Thursday. For another, Bither doesn’t want to risk offending any of the acts from 17 nations representing five continents. Plus, there are so many contemporary dance, theater/performance and music events from which to choose, judging from the 19-page press release [pdf].
When the 2009-2010 season includes four world premieres, “seven major commissions” and nine artists making debut tours in the United States, a curator wants to pick his words carefully.
So, Bither rattles off what he describes as the most “significant, unique kind of international coups to land.”
First on his list is the Walker’s collaboration with the Guthrie Theater, their first joint event in five years. The Minneapolis-based institutions are bringing Ireland’s Druid Theatre to perform “The Walworth Farce” Oct. 21-25 at the Walker. “It’s a really provocative, interesting production,” says Bither, the McGuire senior curator of performing arts.
Next is the “great contemporary dance installation” from Japan’s Saburo Teshigawara/Company KARAS in April, which is co-presented by Northrop Dance.
• Brazil’s Bruno Beltrão/Grupo de Rua de Niteroi, which combines hip-hop and contemporary dance, will make its debut U.S. tour in February.
• Germany’s Rimini Protokoll opens the Out There series in January with a performance installation.
• In September, at the start of the season, Germany’s Raimund Hoghe brings the “Bolero Variations” dance to the U.S. or the first time.
• Closer to home is a “Dave King mini-festival” in March celebrating the local jazz musician’s various ensembles including The Bad Apple, which combines The Bad Plus and Happy Apple.
• Bill Frisell will premiere a commissioned work in jazz and new music, titled “Baghdad/Seattle Suite,” in February.
• Minneapolis dancer Morgan Thorson and Duluth’s Low Dance are presenting “Heaven,” also a Walker commission, in March.
“I know that’s eight,” Bither admits as he pauses for breath.
He says the 12th season — though a little smaller than in the past — is “really on par” with previous seasons “despite one of the toughest years economically we’ve ever faced.”
“We would love to have added a few more events, but we purposefully kept the number of projects at a certain level,” he says. “The other thing is we were strategic about finding partners and funders. We’ve forged strong ongoing relationships (with the Cedar, Northrop and Guthrie), collaborations which are very important for arts organizations during a recession.”