'The Next Wave': a peek into the future of performing arts?
Excitement has been just about nonstop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where an extraordinary series called ''The Next Wave'' recently drew to a close. Anyone wondering where the future is coming from, aesthetically speaking, could find the answer here, in music and dance programs by some of the most adventurous artists now working in any medium.Skip to next paragraph
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And the best news is, another ''wave'' is on its way. Buoyed by the success of the series, BAM is already planning a second edition, with an equally exciting lineup of events.
If next season's ''Next Wave'' comes off as planned, it could establish BAM once and for all as the most consistently important showcase for new music, dance, and related arts in the New York area.
Though the schedule is still tentative, the next ''Next Wave'' may include at least three shows of potentially landmark importance. These are a 10-year retrospective of music by the towering ''minimalist'' composer Steve Reich; a two-evening presentation of Laurie Anderson's long ''U.S.A.'' multimedia piece; and the new production of Euripides' ''Medea'' directed by avant-garde dramaturge Robert Wilson.
In programming and presenting such brave new work (and drawing large, enthusiastic crowds), the BAM secret of success lies in its canny choices of material. Partly because of the ''minimalist'' movement in recent music and dance - reacting against the academic, cerebral quality of much 20th-century art - a great deal of contemporary experimentation is more accessible, and just plain more enjoyable, than audiences have come to expect in the past few decades. Capitalizing on this trend, BAM has stocked its ''next wave'' programs with works that combine radical aesthetics with the kind of exhilaration often associated with ''entertainment'' rather than ''art.''
In this season's ''Next Wave'' lineup, the best examples may have been the offerings by composer Philip Glass and choreographer Laura Dean. In his opera ''Satyagraha,'' given a full-scale performance at BAM, Glass takes the distinctive techniques he has developed in writing for his own ensemble and transfers them to a medium-size orchestra. Thus he combines traditional sonorities with his own attractive brand of structural and rhythmic innovation. Add a charismatic main character (Gandhi, during his years of struggle in South Africa) and you have music drama that's as engaging as it is inventive - two qualities that often mark Glass's work, which will be widely heard during a nationwide tour by his ensemble beginning Feb. 14 in Baltimore and ending March 9 in Los Angeles, previewing his forthcoming CBS Masterworks album ''Glassworks.''
Similarly, the ''Dance,'' presented by the Laura Dean Dancers & Musicians, has a glorious visual harmony based on expanding and contracting circles whirling deliriously across the stage. The effect transcends the experimentalism of the work's choreography and the austerity of its music. If this be ''minimalism,'' one can scarcely imagine what ''maximalism'' might be like.
Almost as impressively, the Lucinda Childs Dance Company gave a perfectly balanced, precisely conceived evening in the ''Next Wave'' series. Credit goes equally to Miss Childs and her collaborators, composer Jon Gibson and director-designer Robert Wilson. Together, they created a work of total theater that surpasses even the splendid 90-minute dance presented two years ago at BAM by Miss Childs in partnership with Glass and Sol Lewitt.