Now in its 37th season, Great Performances at Vanderbilt steadfastly maintains its position as Nashville's foremost presenter of emerging and/or alternative dance, theater and music events. The 2011-12 lineup features nine amazingly diverse programs with a global reach that seems much larger — both in latitude and longitude — than in recent years.
"Our mainstage series encompasses folkloric forms and contemporary forms," says program director Bridgette Kohnhorst, "and it's important for us to maintain balance between international and domestic selections."
Yet Kohnhorst admits that her programming has become more attuned to the growing demographic shifts not only on the Vanderbilt campus but in Nashville in general. That helps to explain the strong multicultural focus on offerings that reflect artistry from Spain, Cuba, Ecuador, Taiwan, Uganda, India (by way of New Zealand) and Israel (by way of New York).
"It's a season to be excited about," says Kohnhorst, "and our ticket prices remain affordable — less expensive than the national average for similar programs, and less expensive than TPAC or the [Nashville] Symphony."
Events kick off Sept. 22 with Compañia Flamenco José Porcel, an ensemble that blends traditional flamenco with contemporary visuals and musical accompaniment heavy with castanets and guitars. Company founder Porcel has been hailed as "the greatest dancer in all of Spain. "
Next up, on Oct. 5, is Jose Torres-Tama's Aliens, Immigrants & Other Evildoers, the first of two entries in a new Great Performances subseries called "On the Side" that Kohnhorst characterizes as "bootstrappy, smaller boutique-level events from the theatrical fringe." Torres-Tama, born in Ecuador but a resident of New Orleans, is a performance artist whose work edgily confronts the ironies and fallacies of the U.S. immigration situation, including labor exploitation of Latinos. He also explores hate crimes against undocumented immigrants and attempts to break down monolithic cultural stereotypes in what he calls his "sci-fi Latino noir multimedia solo." Kohnhorst refers to Aliens' general genre as "theater embodying a civic dialogue."
Hispanic Heritage Month — celebrated Sept. 15-Oct. 15 — continues Oct. 14 with an appearance by 25-year-old classically trained Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez. His jittery jazz piano stylings have been championed by Quincy Jones, who discovered him at the 2006 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and produced the prodigy's debut album Sounds of Space. Rodriguez performs with his trio, featuring Peter Slavov on bass and Francisco Mela on drums, and his Nashville visit includes a master class at the W.O. Smith School of Music.
New York City-based Gallim Dance, under artistic director Andrea Miller (formerly of Israel's Batsheva company), comes to town Oct. 28 with a piece called Blush. High theatricality is the hallmark of this five-year-old ensemble's work, dubbed "delicious strangeness" by one critic and characterized by the Gaga movement, which features frenetic and unpredictably exaggerated choreography.
A potential sleeper of the season arrives Nov. 2, when 15-year-old New Zealand-based Indian Ink Theatre Company performs Guru of Chai. This second "On the Side" entry is part of the company's debut American tour with their comedic tale of a tea seller (chaiwallah) in modern-day India. Co-writer Jacob Rajan portrays more than a dozen characters, accompanied onstage by composer David Ward. Expect some audience-interactive whimsy with this one.
The series continues into the new year Feb. 4 with Cloud Gate 2, a Taiwanese contemporary dance company making its very first stop on a North American tour. Artistic director Lin Hwai-min oversees what Kohnhorst summarizes as "an Asian version of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre." Here, sinuous physicality merges with the spirituality of the Chi Kung philosophy and practice.
Expect a virtuosic tumult of drumming and call-and-response vocals at the Feb. 25 appearance of Spirit of Uganda. The sounds of East Africa are produced by 22 performers, ages 8-18, who represent the Empower African Children's professional training program but also serve as proxies for 2.4 million orphans, striving to raise consciousness as well as funds to support their homeland. This program is presented in association with Vandy's Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center.
The Acting Company, founded in 1972 by the late John Houseman to keep alive the tradition of classical acting, has earned critical acclaim for its 135 productions and received numerous awards, including the Tony. The New York Times dubbed it "the major touring classical theater in the United States," and its alumni include Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone and Rainn Wilson. In affiliation with Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater, an Acting Company touring ensemble arrives to perform the Bard's Julius Caesar on Feb. 29, a scant month after the Nashville Shakespeare Festival concludes its own run of the same work. As Kohnhorst says, "This gives Nashville audiences a chance to compare and contrast the two different versions." The Great Performances booking is definitely closer to the Ides of March, at any rate, and promises to be "a dish fit for the gods" (Act II, Scene I).
The season concludes April 13 with a performance by Red Baraat, a Brooklyn-born nine-piece party band with a vivacious Mardi Gras-like stage dynamic, led by dhol drummer Sunny Jain and featuring loads of variety percussion and five horns. Their sound fuses the infectious North Indian music known as bhangra with funk, go-go, Latin and jazz.
All events are in Langford Auditorium on the Vanderbilt campus, except Jose Torres-Tama, Indian Ink Theatre Co. and Red Baraat, which take place in the Student Life Center Ballroom. For further information about program details, artist-residency activities, dance master classes or tickets, phone 322-2471.
"Has decided 'likes to clean' counts as a personality." Yes. So much yes.
The stoned Scarlett theory makes complete sense.
If they stop filming in Nashville, I stop watching.
Juliette Barnes decides to run for President – and wins! Can the first…
yeah I'm glad there is a season two only so I can read your recaps.