As a general rule, the Walker’s annual Performing Arts season is not for the meek or the easily offended. It’s not for people who want guarantees that their money will be well spent. (The lion’s share of events are still under $30.) It’s mostly for grown-ups. Of the 21 events planned for 2019-20, several are labeled “contains mature content” and others lean that way.
But oh, what a season it is. Starting in September, ending in May, it’s an abundance of 21st-century theater, dance and music, with nods to poetry and visual arts. It’s dozens of chances to experience something daring, inspiring and sometimes confounding.
Artists will come to Minnesota from Africa, Australia, Brazil, England, Germany, Ireland and Slovenia. There will be five commissions, three world premieres, nine Midwest premieres and many collaborations: with the Cedar, First Avenue, Graywolf Press, MPR, Northrop, the O’Shaughnessy and the SPCO’s Liquid Music series, which was recently dropped by the SPCO for financial reasons. Performances will take place in several venues.
The artists will be emerging, midcareer, well-established and iconic. Genres will be blurred and labels largely irrelevant. Outrageous things will probably happen, especially in the “Out There” part of the season, which will heat up January with four weeks of provocative, often challenging work.
Philip Bither, the Walker’s senior curator of performing arts, called 2019-20 “a season of this moment in time, this challenged moment we are living in. … A lot of these works balance darkness and tension with a sense of hope and even a sense of joy … We continue to be very committed to two things: the generation of new work, and a commitment to the global. As the country continues to tighten borders, to be more fearful of the other and more narrow in its global sensibility, we’re more and more committed to continue to be open to the world.”
That being said, what looks good? We’ll call out a few events each in music, dance and theater.
April 25, 2020, at the Fitzgerald: Kronos Quartet and Terry Riley. The legendary string quartet could rest on its laurels – 45 years in existence, massively influential, more than 1,000 commissions – but it’s still evolving and growing. Terry Riley is a founding father of minimalism. The all-Riley program will celebrate his 85th birthday.
Oct. 18 at the McGuire: Makaya McCraven: “In These Times.” Like L.A.’s Kamasi Washington, Chicago’s McCraven is broadening and deepening the audience for jazz and improvisation. The Walker has commissioned the young drummer and beat-maker to create a new work, giving him the time and space to do it.
Feb. 8 at the McGuire: Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl and Thumbscrew. Halvorson is one of the most interesting and innovative guitarists on the planet. Code Girl, her latest band of many, includes a vocalist. (“Code Girl” is also the title of her 22nd album as a leader.) Halvorson’s trio Thumbscrew will open.
In dance, dance/theater and dance/music:
Nov. 8-9 at the McGuire: Bruno Beltrão/Grupo de Rua: “Inoah.” In the Brazilian choreographer’s 10-man group of dancers, hip-hop meets contemporary dance, fierce athleticism and speed. It almost looks dangerous.
Oct. 24-27 at the McGuire: Teać Damsa: “Loch na hEala (Swan Lake).” A dark reimagining of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, danced on a set of concrete and steel and performed to a Nordic- and Celtic-infused score performed live by Dublin’s Slow Moving Clouds.
April 7, 2020, at the O’Shaughnessy: Maya Beiser, Wendy Whelan, Lucinda Childs and David Lang: “The Day.” A gathering of giants: cello virtuoso Beiser, minimalist postmodern choreographer Childs, contemporary composer Lang (who was here for Liquid Music in 2016) and dancer Whelan, who was recently named co-artistic director of the New York City Ballet. “The Day” is their collective two-part requiem for 9/11.
Jan. 9-11, 2020: Tina Satter/Half Straddle: “Is This a Room: Reality Winner Verbatim Transcription.” The script is drawn from the transcript of the FBI’s interrogation of Reality Winner, a 25-year-old Air Force linguist who pleaded guilty in 2018 to leaking a top-secret report on Russian hacking and is now serving five years in prison.
Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2020: Back to Back Theatre: “The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes.” Bither calls Back to Back “one of my favorite theater companies in the world.” The artists all have physical and/or intellectual disabilities. Back to Back was here in 2013 with “Ganesh Versus the Third Reich.” In “The Shadow,” a group of activists discuss artificial intelligence and the human mind.
We also want to mention these: KOKOKO!, a Congolese music collective whose instruments are made from typewriters, glass bottles, engine parts and containers. Lonnie Holley, who’s been described as Sun Ra meets Sam Cooke. The 2018 Pulitzer finalist Ted Hearne and “Live Things,” a song cycle using poetry by Dorothea Lasky. The annual Choreographers’ Evening, curated by SuperGroup (Erin Search-Wells, Sam Johnson and Jeffrey Wells). A.I.M. by Kyle Abraham, a performance that includes his first solo set on his own body. (Abraham was here in 2013 with “Live! The Realist MC.”) Annie Dorsen: “Yesterday, Tomorrow,” a multimedia work of algorithmic theater, whatever that is. National Book Award finalist and Graywolf poet Danez Smith with the world premiere of Danez and the Homies, which will include a large group of Smith’s local and national artist friends in poetry, music, dance and performance.
Learn more here. Tickets to most events are available now.
Tonight (Thursday, May 23) at Mia: Improvisational Concert. An evening of music inspired by the exhibition “In Dialogue With the Forest: Barkcloth Paintings From Congo.” Four improvising musicians – vocalists Sarah Greer and Mankwe Ndosi, drummers Fatawu Saybu and Davu Seru – will perform in the gallery against a backdrop of barkcloth paintings by Mbuti women. The designs in the paintings refer to the shapes, motions and sounds of the Congolese rainforest and the language of Mbuti music. Once you know that, the paintings look like graphic music scores. In Gallery 255. 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. Free. (P.S. Mia is open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.)
Tonight through Sunday in the Tek Box at the Cowles: “It’s All Real. It’s All Fake. It’s All DaNCEBUMS.” Performed to live music by Eric Mayson (Lizzo, Caroline Smith, Aby Wolf, Toki Wright), set inside a cardboard TV studio, drawing from reality TV, talk shows and social media, DaNCEBUMS’ latest is billed as “part concept album, part dance concert.” And it doesn’t promise to solve any of our problems. Just make us laugh, groove and feel good. 5:30 and 8 p.m. tonight, 8 p.m. Friday, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($8-20 sliding scale; Thursday’s first show is pay-as-able).
Saturday at Soo Visual Arts Center: Heid E. Erdrich and Rosy Simas “Skew Lines” closing event. Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain band of Ojibwe, is a writer and text-image artist. Simas is a Seneca choreographer and artist. The two friends have been in residence at SooVAC for the month of May, creating work in the gallery. Their final installations will be revealed on Saturday. Both look back at ancestors; Simas will also install films and props from her recent work “Weave.” 6-9 p.m. FMI. Free.
Sunday at Crooners: Ethan Iverson. Pianist and composer Iverson lives in New York City but has family in Wisconsin. Lucky for us, Crooners is close enough that he’s making a habit of playing solo shows here. Since leaving The Bad Plus at the end of 2017, Iverson has performed widely, toured with the Mark Morris Dance Group and “Pepperland,” for which he wrote the score (we’ll see it here in 2020, as part of the Northrop Dance Season), written about jazz for the New Yorker, kept up his award-winning blog Do the Math and debuted major new compositions, both classical and jazz. We asked him what he’ll play Sunday night. He replied, “There are a couple of new originals and perhaps even a pop cover or two. Jon Batiste (pianist on Colbert) invited me to play a solo set at the Newport Jazz Festival this year, so I’m working out some repertoire that is immediately effective. I keep investigating the stride masters like James P. Johnson and Mary Lou Williams and mixing those influences with my own midwestern surrealism.” In the Dunsmore Room. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25).
Monday (May 27) at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: National Theatre Live: “All About Eve.” Gillian Anderson is Margo Channing, Lily James is Eve in this new production of the classic tale of the aging Broadway star and the conniving ingenue. Directed by Ivo van Hove (“Network”), with music by PJ Harvey; broadcast live from London. Also Wednesday, May 29, and Saturday, June 1. FMI including trailer, times and tickets ($20-10; save on Wednesdays). This is the 10th year of NTL, the National Theatre’s project to broadcast world-class live theater to cinemas in the UK and internationally.