For those who love cutting-edge, global, cerebral, provocative, many-layered art, the Walker’s performing arts season is a main reason to live in the Twin Cities, especially in January.
Announced Wednesday by the Walker and performing arts curator Philip Bither, the 2018-19 lineup includes seven commissions, five world premieres and a U.S. premiere among 20 “experiences,” some with multiple performances. More than 46 events are spread over 41 days from Oct. 4 through May 18. The season starts on the cellular level and ends outdoors in the Sculpture Garden with a free day-long sound and visual art extravaganza.
As we’ve come to expect, the season is bold, experimental, and peppered with big names. Although it tackles dark topics – nature in danger, war, conflict, boundaries and borders – it’s also touched with ecstasy and suffused with hope. Spurred by a Mellon grant, there’s a sharper focus on interdisciplinary art. Which wasn’t a problem. Bither explained, “The Walker is uniquely situated nationally as a home for visual arts, media arts and performing arts where the curators actually talk to each other, like each other and actively collaborate.” The Mellon grant helped support Jason Moran’s current museum exhibition and recent multimedia performance.
The musical offerings honor both new and historically important artists. On Oct. 26 at the Cedar, Hailu Mergia with Yohannes Tona Band will present 71-year-old Ethiopian musician Mergia, who recently released his first new album in two decades. Local Ethiopian American jazz/funk artist Tona will open. Nov. 9-10 at the Walker’s McGuire Theater, Thurston Moore: Moore at 60 will be a two-night 60th birthday party for the Sonic Youth co-founder and friends including John Zorn, Anne Waldman, former Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and others TBA.
On Feb. 15-16, 2019, at the McGuire, Celebrating Henry: A Threadgill Festival will fete the Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz artist and composer with a night of his music performed by 20 or so Minnesota musicians (curated by Michelle Kinney) and a night with Threadgill and his quintet Zooid. On March 22-23 at Summit Center for Arts and Innovation, ModernMedieval: The Living Word will be an evening of works by 11th-century abbess Hildegard von Bingen and contemporary composers Julianna Barwick, Ben Frost and Angélica Negrón, in a co-presentation with the SPCO’s Liquid Music.
On March 30, Wadada Leo Smith: America’s National Parks will give the great jazz trumpeter and composer his very own night in the Walker spotlight. (Smith has performed here before, but as part of other groups.) His concept of our national parks includes Yosemite, Sequoia – and the whole city of New Orleans, which he considers a national culture park. He’ll be here with his Golden Quintet.
Music will merge with theater on Oct. 4-6, the season opener, when a longtime Walker artist will return with a program of adventurous vocal music, movement, light, instrumental music and film. Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble Cellular Songs will explore the relationship between humans and the natural world, between the cell – the basic unit of life – and the universe.
The season closer on May 18 will go all out – to the Cowles Pavilion in the Sculpture Garden. Inspired by the Walker’s New Music Festival, Resonance: A Sound Art Marathon will bring visual artists who use sound together with experimental and avant-garde jazz musicians. On the program so far: a duet between Craig Taborn and Camille Norman and new music by Christine Sun Kim; MacArthur “Genius” grant winner Walter Kitindu; and a trio with Matina Roberts. Tarak Atoui and Haroon Mirza will collaborate on a sonic sculpture that will close out the evening. The free event will run from noon until 10 p.m.
Dance will partner with music on Dec. 6-8 for Morgan Thorson and Alan Sparhawk (Low): Public Love. Thorson and Sparhawk worked together years ago on a work called “Heaven.” This is their second chapter. Dancers will dance and Sparhawk will play in a Walker commission and world premiere. Dance and music will meet again on Feb. 7 at Northrop for Ate9: Calling Glenn, a collaboration between former Batsheva dancer Danielle Agami’s company and Wilco percussionist Glenn Kotche, both live on the big stage in a co-presentation with Northrop.
Dance will combine with poetry, music and video for Claudia Rankine, Will Rawls and John Lucas: What Remains on March 7-9. Drawing from Rankine’s award-winning “Citizen” and “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely,” conceptual dancemaker Rawls and filmmaker Lucas have created a work for four dancers about surveillance and living as an African American woman in America today. Bither is in conversation with Rankine about giving a lecture the night before, but it’s “not quite locked in.”
Dance will go interdisciplinary for the ambitious, multiplatform Meg Stuart: A Refracted Portrait, with an evening of solo works on April 5-6 and a performance-plus-gallery-installation on April 11-13. The Berlin-based Stuart, who recently won the Golden Lion for Dance Lifetime Achievement at the 2018 Venice Biennale, was last at the Walker in 2006. For her solo performance, she’ll present a retrospective drawn from 30 years of original dances. For “Celestial Sorrow,” a Walker commission and U.S. premiere, three dancers and two musicians will perform within a gallery installation of 1,000 lights created by Indonesian visual artist Jompet Kuswidananto.
Dance will hit the ice in a co-presentation with Liquid Music on April 25 and 27. Le Patin Libre: Vertical Influences will bring five championship figure skaters turned dancers from Montreal to ice arenas in Golden Valley and St. Paul. The program will also include a work-in-progress by Minnesota’s Brownbody led by Deneane Richburg.
Dance will be the focus of Sarah Michelson: October2018/\, a Walker commission and world premiere set for Oct. 19-21 in the Cargill Lounge, timed to include the sunset. Michelson, like Monk, has had a long relationship with the Walker. Bither anticipates things will also be happening outside the Cargill, visible from the lounge. Choreographers’ Evening 2018: Curated by Pramila Vasudevan will follow on Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 24. Vasudevan is a 2017 Guggenheim fellow. This will be the 46th year of this important event on the Twin Cities’ dance calendar.
Finally, in January – when many of us really, really need this – the annual Out There festival will bring experimental theater to the McGuire for four blessed weeks. All programs are cross-national and interdisciplinary.
Week 1 (Jan. 11-12) will feature Rabih Mroué: Let’s Fight Till Six, and Then Have a Drink, a world premiere and Walker commission created with Lebanese actor/writer/director Lena Majdalanie and actor/musician Mazen Kerbaj. “Let’s Fight” will be presented in parallel with Mroué’s first U.S.-based gallery installation. A free Out There opening night celebration on Jan. 10 will include Mroué’s “Sand in the Eyes,” a lecture-performance on the image politics of Isis recruiting videos and images shot by drones.
On Jan. 17-19, Week 2 will bring Kaneza Schaal in Collaboration with Cornell Alston and Christopher Myers: Jack &. A work of theatrical imagination by Schaal starring Alston, a former prisoner, with design by children’s author and artist Myers and live music by Rucyl Mills. A Walker commission.
Jan. 19 will be an Out There “bonus music event.” Pekka Kuusisto: Tuning Meditation, a co-presentation with Liquid Music, will find Finnish violinist and SPCO artistic partner Kuusisto in the Walker’s “I Am You, You Are Too” exhibit. Performing music by Pauline Oliveros composed during the Vietnam war, Kuusisto will also engage in live interactive video and audio collaborations with artists who couldn’t be there. Bither said, “He’ll be using technology to go around the notion of who can collaborate in what ways.” Travel bans be damned.
Week 3, Jan. 24-26, will feature the interdisciplinary theater/film project Berlin: Zvizdal (Chernobyl, So Far – So Close). Over a period of five years, the Brussels-based company Berlin got to know and filmed a devoted elderly couple who refused to leave their home in the Ukraine near Chernobyl. As the film shows on two sides of a screen, a theatrical performance in miniature will happen beneath it, in three small models of their homestead.
In the final week of Out There, Jan. 31-Feb. 2, we’ll see Lola Arias: Minefield, a work of documentary theater that sold out multiple runs in London and has toured globally. Arias is a Buenos Aires-based writer, director, visual artist and actor. In this experimental and moving work, six Argentine and British veterans from both sides of the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas war explore the minefields of their own memories.
Tickets to the Walker’s 2018-19 Performing Arts Season are on sale now. FMI.