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A scene from Merce Cunningham’s “Fabrications,” danced by Ballet de Lorraine. (Photo: Bernard Prudhomme)

MCA announces 2016-2017 season of music, dance, puppetry

SHARE MCA announces 2016-2017 season of music, dance, puppetry
SHARE MCA announces 2016-2017 season of music, dance, puppetry

The sounds of jazz, soul and hip hop, as well as those of 20th century modernism. A taste of the work of tap master Michelle Dorrance, a recent recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. A rare Chicago visit by theater guru Peter Brook’s company. And, in tandem with the multifaceted MCA exhibition, “Merce Cunningham: Common Time” (organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis), an homage to one of the most innovative choreographers of the 20th century, who forged new connections with composers and artists.

This is just some of what will be on offer during the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s 2016-17 MCA Stage season. The season bears the final imprint of Peter Taub, the longtime curator of multidisciplinary performance at the museum, who just completed his long tenure with the museum, and whose duties are now being overseen by Yolanda Cesta Cursach, Interim Director of Performance Programs.

Tickets for MCA Stage, located at 220 E. Chicago, will be available beginning June 15. Call (312) 397-4010 or http://www.mcachicago.org. Those who wish may create their own package by purchasing tickets to three or more performances at a 20% discount.

Here’s the full lineup:

+ Burnt Sugar Arkestra: Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (Sept. 17): The soul-jazz-hip hop of Burnt Sugar Arkestra is inspired by the first “post-modernists” of American music—Duke Ellington, Sun Ra, Parliament Funkadelic, and The Art Ensemble of Chicago. The sprawling band creates their own music and reanimates the songbooks of others. In their MCA Stage debut, they perform the soundtrack to “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song”, the film odyssey by actor/director/composer Melvin Van Peebles. Shot in 1971, the film grew to be one of the top-grossing releases of the year, kickstarting the 1970s genre known as Blaxploitation. The soundtrack, recorded by the then-unknown Earth, Wind & Fire, and composed by Van Peebles, alternates hymn-based vocals and jazz rhythms, creating a sound that prefigured sampling in hip hop.

Burnt Sugar Arkestra. (Photo: Petra Richterova)

Burnt Sugar Arkestra. (Photo: Petra Richterova)

+ Dorrance Dance: ETM Double Down (Nov. 4-6, 2016): Co-presented with the Chicago Human Rhythm Project and Chicago Humanities Festival ETM (electronic tap music), is a nod to electronic dance music, and in this project, three musicians, the B–girl Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie, and eight tap dancers of Dorrance Dance perform on an electronic tap floor.

+ ONEOFUS Julie Atlas Muz and Mat Fraser: Beauty and the Beast (Dec. 1-11): Cabaret and performance stars Julie Atlas Muz and Mat Fraser (partners in life and theater), reinvent the 18th century classic fairy tale, “Beauty and the Beast.” Fraser, who was born with the physical deformity phocomelia, has spent his life aware that he looks different. This explicit adult-themed work repositions the Beast as a natural-born freak to the beauty queen, who grows to love him. Muz and Fraser’s innocent yet raunchy coupling challenges conventional notions of beauty and sexuality. It is directed by Phelim McDermott, the co-founder of London’s Improbable Theater.

“Beauty and the Beast.” (Photo: Bronwen Sharp)

“Beauty and the Beast.” (Photo: Bronwen Sharp)

+ Tatsu Aoki: Reduction and Tsukasa Taiko Legacy 13 (Dec. 16-18): Co-presented with Asian Improv aRts Midwest, Taiko drums link two contrasting programs directed by Tatsu Aoki, a multi-instrumentalist and media artist. “Taiko Legacy 13” features three generations of Tsukasa Taiko drummers representing its vibrant pan-Asian heritage. “Reduction features” Sennosuke Wakatsuki, a young Kabuki artist from Tokyo who is revolutionizing the art form. Artists include grand master Shunojo Fujima performing kimono dance, and contemporary dancer Ayako Kato. They appear in inventive combinations accompanied by jazz musicians Hamid Drake, Michael Zerang, Nicole Mitchell, Douglas R Ewart, electronics composer Jonathan Chen, and classical musicians Chizuru Kineya and Hyakkyo Fukuhara.

+ Silencio Blanco: Chiflón, El Silencio del Carbón (Silence of the Coal) (Jan. 19-22, 2017): Presented in association with the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, “Chiflón, El Silencio del Carbón” follows a young miner to Chiflón de Diablo, known as one of the most dangerous mines in Chile. It is based in part on the story of “ElChiflón del Diablo,” by Chilean author Baldomero Lillo, and was created after the artists took extended visits to the mining town of Lota. The emotional and dramatic puppetry confronts Chile’s dark mining history and is played out in silence using simple white marionettes.

“Silenccio Blanco El Chiflon (Silence of the Coal).” (Photo:Lorenzo Mella)

“Silenccio Blanco El Chiflon (Silence of the Coal).” (Photo:Lorenzo Mella)

+ MCA Cunningham Event (Feb. 11-12, 2017): To celebrate the opening weekend of the exhibition “Merce Cunningham: Common Time,” former dancers of the company, Dylan Crossman, Silas Riener, Jamie Scott, and Melissa Toogood perform Cunningham’s signature approach to dance in non-conventional spaces. The Event features key works drawn from six decades of original choreography, each lasting about 30 minutes, and is performed twice daily during gallery hours.

+ Ballet de Lorraine: Works by Merce Cunningham and Others(Feb. 18-19, 2017): Presented by MCA with the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, this project features seminal works by Merce Cunningham—his beloved “Sounddance,” as well the dramatic “Fabrications,” based on 64 short dance phrases. They are balanced with “Untitled Partner #3,” a work by Ballet de Lorraine’s artistic leaders Petter Jacobsson and rehearsal director Thomas Caley, who danced for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. This program marks the Chicago debut of Ballet de Lorraine, one of the most important European companies performing contemporary works.

+ Music for Merce (Feb. 25-26, 2017): This two-evening festival gathers an all-star group of key composers and musicians who collaborated with Merce Cunningham across different periods of his career. The group—Joan La Barbara, David Behrman, John King, George Lewis, Ikue Mori, Gordon Mumma, Zeena Perkins, Phil Selway, and Christian Wolff—includes major innovators in electronic and improvised music, as well as jazz and rock. The two different programs will present significant historical works from the varied composers’ collaborations with Cunningham and John Cage, as well as new compositions, improvisations, and musical events involving the full group.

+ Spektral Quartet, Morton Feldman: String Quartet No. 2 (March 11, 2017): This project marks the Chicago debut of Morton Feldman’s monumental six-hour-long project. Recognized for acclaimed works he composed for Cunningham, Feldman wrote his “String Quartet No. 2″as a durational piece to explore the limits of physical and non-narrative music. Rarely heard, the music creates a trance-like focus.

+ Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener + Charles Atlas (March 23-25, 2017): This new dance and video work is presented in two sections. The first section is by Charles Atlas and is a 3D video of dances choreographed for the camera by Mitchell + Riener; the second is live dance with projected video. Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener danced together in the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and since 2009 have created site-specific installations, improvisational dances, traditional proscenium pieces, and highly crafted immersive experiences. Charles Atlas was filmmaker-in-residence with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for 10 years.

+ Peter Brook, Marie-Hélène Estienne: Battlefield (April 5-8, 2017): Thirty years after Peter Brook staged his now legendary production of “The Mahabharata,” he now gives us “Battlefield,”a play by Jean-Claude Carrière based on the same book. The language of this timeless story focuses on the past but also reflects the harsh conflicts of today, and while the original staging was a nine-hour production, “Battlefield” is a refined telling that runs just over an hour.

+ Matthew Duvall: Whisper(s) (April 23, 2017): Co-presented with Contempo / UChicago Presents, “Whisper(s}” is an experiential concert exploring sound and volume, and is led by percussionist Matthew Duvall of Eighth Blackbird. The program begins with a seated program in the MCA Edlis Neeson Theater, with works by Cunningham collaborator Morton Feldman and John Luther Adams. The audience then moves to the fourth floor of the MCA, where Duvall and 99 other percussionists perform “Voice of the Winds,” a new ambient soundscape by composer-percussionist Marta Ptaszynska. Influenced by John Cage’s fascination with silence, this project explores the sound of 100 of the loudest instruments at their most ethereal levels.

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