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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My year in the arts: 2015

Eva Yaa Asantewaa's List:
Most Memorable 
Arts and Cultural Experiences of 2015

Meredith Monk with Allison Sniffin (left) and Katie Geissinger (right)
Monk shared an inspiring Danspace Project program with poet Anne Waldman.
(photo: Ian Douglas)

Here are "a few" of my favorite things....of 2015. And, as I wrote last year:
Unlike the numerous "10-or-so-Best" lists you've seen in recent weeks, this list is not about sifting out a handful of elite art products. Rather, it's my chance to pay tribute to a bounty of special experiences from my year with the arts. It's personal; your experiences may vary. In fact, I encourage you to make note of your own treasured memories in the comments section below and on InfiniteBody's Facebook page.
I'm especially grateful this year to artists who sacrifice so much as they contribute so much, particularly those who commit themselves to justice.

May you all enjoy an artful, heartful and fabulous 2016. Thanks for your support of InfiniteBody!


Yes. I meant every word I wrote for Time Out New York.
Camille A. Brown and Dancers blew the roof off The Joyce Theater
with Black Girl: Linguistic Play.


Hilarious Ronnie Burkett and his rotating cast of marionette characters
at Baryshnikov Arts Center for the New York premiere of The Daisy Theatre
(photo: Hiroyuki Ito)


Matthew! Cate! The Little Prince! What We Can't Wait to See at the Cannes Film Festival| Cannes International Film Festival, Movie News, Amy Poehler, Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt, Marion Cotillard, Matthew McConaughey, Mindy Kaling, Quentin Tarantino
Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in "Carol," directed by Todd Haynes
and adapted by Phyllis Nagy from Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt
(photo: The Weinstein Company) 


Some members of The Ballez, Katy Pyle's innovative troupe
(photo: Hedia Maron)

@Variations On Virtuosity: A Gala Performance With The Stars Of The Ballez by Katy Pyle and The Ballez, American Realness Festival 2015, Abrons Arts Center, January 1-11

@Michael Ingle and Silas Riener performing Undersweet by Tere O'Connor, American Realness Festival 2015, Abrons Arts Center, January 12-14

@Night Light Bright Light by Jack Ferver; performed by Ferver and Reid Bartelme, American Realness Festival 2015, Abrons Arts Center, January 14-18

@Represent: 200 Years of African American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, January 10-April 5

@Peter Blume: Nature and Metamorphosis, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, November 14, 2014-April 5, 2015

@works by Laura Owens and Mark Grotjahn in The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World at Museum of Modern Art, December 14, 2014-April 5, 2015

@Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, 1909–1949 at Museum of Modern Art, December 13, 2014–April 19, 2015

@Raja Feather Kelly and Tzveta Kassabova in Super WE at Danspace Project. With live musical performance by Aleksei Stevens and lighting design by Tuce Yasak, January 29-31

@Black Lake (video) at Museum of Modern Art's Björk exhibition, March 8-June 7

@Malpaso Dance Company performing Trey McIntyre's Under Fire at The Joyce Theater, March 3-8

@The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky at Metropolitan Museum of Art, March 11 to May 10

@Assemblage by Rebecca Serrell Cyr at JACK, March 19-21

@Glacier by Liz Gerring at The Joyce Theater. Michael J. Schumacher (composer), Robert Wierzel (design), performances by Benjamin Asriel, Brandon Collwes, Tony Neidenbach, Adele Nickel, Brandin Steffensen, Jake Szczypek, Jessica Weiss, Claire Westby. March 31-April 2

I'm conflicted about Park Avenue Armory's production of FLEXN,
but there's no way I can argue with the skill and power of its performers.
(photo: Stephanie Berger)

@ Performers of FLEXN at the Park Avenue Armory (co-direction by Reggie (Regg Croc) Gray and Peter Sellars) including Ace (Franklin Dawes), Android (Martina Lauture), Banks (James Davis), Brixx (Sean Douglas), Cal (Calvin Hunt), Deidra (Deidra Braz), Dre Don (Andre Redman), Droid (Rafael Burgos), Droopz (Jerrod Ulysse), Karnage (Quamaine Daniels), Klassic (Joseph Carella), Nicc Fatal (Nicholas Barbot), Nyte (Ayinde Hart), Pumpkin (Sabrina Rivera), Sam I Am (Sam Estavien), Scorp (Dwight Waugh), Shellz (Shelby Felton), Slicc (Derick Murreld), Tyme (Glendon Charles) Vypa (Khio Duncan), YG (Richard Hudson); lighting sculpture and lighting design: Ben Zamora, March 25-April 4

@leaves from a loose-leaf war diary by Shayla-Vie Jenkins at Movement Research at the Judson Church, April 6

@SHORE in Lenapehoking (NYC) by Emily Johnson, Emily Johnson/Catalyst at various venues (April 19-26), dance installation at New York Live Arts (April 23-25)

@Rhythm in Motion (Program B) by Tony Waag/American Tap Dance Foundation at The Theater at 14th Street Y, works by Chloe Arnold, Felipe Galganni, Susan Hebach, Kazu Kumagai, Michela Marino Lerman, Caleb Teicher and Nicholas Young, April 25-26

@God Help the Child by Toni Morrison (Knopf Doubleday)

Tendayi Kuumba performs in being Here.../this time by Marjani Forté
at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center
(photo: Alex Escalante)

@being Here.../this time by Marjani Forté & Works at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center, entire collaborative team, May 6-9

@9/11 Memorial Museum, architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker

@Building A Better Fishtrap/Part 1 by Paloma McGregor at BAAD!, May 22-24

@HYPERACTIVE by John Scott-Irish Modern Dance Theatre at La MaMa Moves Dance Festival, La MaMa, dancing by Kevin Coquelard, Ryan O'Neill, Marcus Bellamy, Stuart Singer, May 28-31

@Daniel Libeskind, architect, Jüdisches Museum Berlin, opened 2001 (visited June 2015)

@Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends at Metropolitan Museum of Art, June 30-October 4

@POUND by Marga Gomez at HOT! Festival 2015, Dixon Place, July 10-25

Tap star Jason Samuels Smith (left) and the late Kathak guru Pandit Chitresh Das
in Dean Hargrove's documentary film, Tap World.
(photo courtesy of

@Tap World, directed by Dean Hargrove, screened at Village East Cinema, July 12

@The Blues Project, by Michelle Dorrance, Toshi Reagon, Derick K. Grant and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, July 24

@André M. Zachery's Renegade Performance Group (Brian Henry, Andre Cole, Johnnie Mercer, Malcolm McMichael, TJ Jamez and Stephen Galbert) performing in Dapline! at Five on the Black Hand Side/Dapline! at The Performance Project, University Settlement, July 30

@Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau)

@Molly Poerstel in Jeanine Durning's To Being at The Chocolate Factory, September 9-12

@Mmakosi Kgabi in Shades of a Queen, part of Queer New York International Arts Festival at Abrons Arts Center, September 21

@BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, at The Joyce Theater, September 22-27

@Adrienne Truscott's Asking For It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else, written by and starring Adrienne Truscott at The Creek and The Cave, September 23-October 3

@The Daisy Theatre by Ronnie Burkett, Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes at Baryshnikov Arts Center, September 30-October 10

@Dances for Intimate Spaces and Friendly People by Patricia Hoffbauer, Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center, September 30-October 3

@Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 12-January 24, 2016

@Anybody Waitin' by ponydance at Abrons Arts Center, October 7-10

@DraftWork: Maria Bauman and André Zachery at Danspace Project, October 10

@Bethlehem in The Well (work-in-progress by Maria Bauman), DraftWork: Maria Bauman and André Zachery at Danspace Project, October 10

@Kongo: Power and Majesty at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 18-January 3, 2016

@William Kentridge in Conversation with Andrew Hoyem at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 13

@Social Dance 9-12: Encounter by Moriah Evans at Danspace Project, October 15-17

@COWHAND CON MAN by Jon Kinzel at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center, October 21-24, 28-31

@Her(e) Repetitive Blueprint by Colleen Thomas Dance at 92Y Harkness Dance Center, October 23-25

@Refuse the Hour by William Kentridge at Brooklyn Academy of Music, October 22-25

@The Minstrel Show Revisited by Donald Byrd at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, October 28-30

@Inês by Volmir Cordeiro at Danspace Project, November 6-7

Tamisha Guy, dancing in Abraham.In.Motion season at The Joyce Theater, November 10-15

@BodyBusiness by SLMDances at University Settlement, November 12-14

@Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company at BRIC House, November 12-22

@this is an Irish Dance by Jean Butler with Neil Martin at Danspace Project, November 17-21; set design by Frank Conway

Marlis Petersen as Lulu. (Photo by Kristian Schuller/ Metropolitan Opera)
Marlis Petersen as Lulu
in the William Kentridge production of Lulu for The Metropolitan Opera
 (Photo: Kristian Schuller/ Metropolitan Opera)

@Lulu, Metropolitan Opera, production by William Kentridge; Lothar Koenigs, conductor, November 5-December 3

@Marlis Petersen in the William Kentridge production of Lulu, Metropolitan Opera, November 5-December 3

@double nickels on the dime, choreography by Abby Zbikowski, performances by Fiona Lundie and Jennifer Meckley at Vanishing Points, Movement Research Festival 2015, Danspace Project, December 4

@Samantha Speis in Walking with 'Trane by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Samantha Speis for Urban Bush Women at BAM Next Wave Festival, BAM Harvey Theater, December 9-12

@Non-Sequitur by Khadijah Queen, direction by Fiona Templeton, performances by Lenora Champagne, Danielle Davenport, Helga Davis, Dawn Saito, Yon Tande, Zselyke Tarnai and David Thomson at TheaterLab, December 10-20

@Meredith Monk & Anne Waldman, with images by Pat Steir, at Danspace Project, December 17-19

@Macbeth (film), directed by Justin Kurzel, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard

@Carol (film), directed by Todd Haynes, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara

@TV and Comedy via Netflix: This was the year I got into Netflix binge-watching, including catching up on and falling in love with so much that, believe it or not, I'd missed over many years of not watching tv (The Sopranos, 30 Rock) and new discoveries (Luther, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Jane the VirginMaster of None, Grace and Frankie, assorted Margaret Cho stand-up videos). Let me add Netflix's original production, Beasts of No Nation, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and starring Idris Elba and Abraham Attah.

Okay, that's my list! What's on yours?

(photo: D. Feller)

--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Kurt Masur, 88

Kurt Masur Dies at 88; Conductor Transformed New York Philharmonic
by Margalit Fox, The New York Times, December 19, 2015

Closing tomorrow: "Hildegard (vision)" at La MaMa

Multi-talented Marina Celander is the elegance central to Hildegard (vision), a curious interdisciplinary work running now through Sunday at La MaMa. Directed by Gian Marco Lo Forte with writing by Abby Felder and music by John Sully (Pioneers Go East Collective), the hour-long piece aims to offer insight into the physiological and emotional experiences of medieval German composer, scientist and mystic Hildegard von Bingen whose migraines triggered futuristic visions.

The immediacy of setting--a row of audience seats surround performers on three sides of the narrow, rectangular, brick-lined theater--provides the sensation of a dream externalized. Colors and textures feel intimate to viewers; the attractive, live green of the abbess's plants, the gleaming clear or dark amber glass of science beakers and bottles, are particularly striking visual elements. The space contains, all at once, everything it needs, collapsing the separation between one point in history and another era. We watch Hildegard, with assistant and same-sex lover Richardis von Stade, potting and tending the plants as they converse just as we clearly see centuries ahead to the commonplace of men and women side by side in their labs.

"We are vessels. We are women. How can we transcend so many barriers?" Celander asks shortly before von Stade (Nehprii Amenii) pulls out a videocam from out of somewhere and trains it on her abbess's face. The subtle interactions between these two--the dynamics of Celander's faint but detectable withdrawal, her self-containment, and Amenii's confused, quiet discomfort--drew me into the work. Regrettably, the text--in it plainness and in telling us what we likely already know--lacks the poetic vision to soar with Hildegard's celestial artistry.

Hildegard (vision) has two more performances: tonight at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm. Seating is limited. For information and tickets, click here.

La MaMa: First Floor Theatre
74a East 4th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenue), Manhattan

Friday, December 18, 2015

Your weekend must-see: Monk meets Waldman

Meredith Monk (left) and Anne Waldman
present their first collaboration.
(photo: Ian Douglas)

This week, Danspace Project hosts the first collaboration of two mages--Meredith Monk and Anne Waldman. That would be enough even without Pat Steir's paintings gushing fine, vibrant lines of vascular light from the altar wall. The evening--eighty minutes without intermission--is saturated by elemental sound, color, movement, intensity and mastery, crossing artificial barriers between word and body, song and image, human presence and the rest of nature.

Anne Waldman
(photo: Ian Douglas)

Waldman's opening set--Entanglement Variations, an incantation-in-progress--ensnares the listener. The spidery performer--part-rock star, part-downhome preacher, part-esoteric flimflam artist--stalks, distills, distorts and transmutes a motherload of words into fluid, musical sounds, clicking and hooting, gliding and hissing out her sticky, steely net. Monk, joined by ensemble members Katie Geissinger and Allison Sniffin and dancer Ellen Fisher, follows up with a five-song set including a work-in-progress, Cellular Songs, and makes the most of the sanctuary's warmth, dignity and sacred acoustics.

Meredith Monk
with Allison Sniffin (left) and Katie Geissinger (right),
members of Meredith Monk Vocal Ensemble
(photo: Ian Douglas)

Even without Fisher's expressive dancing (in Scared Song), it's possible to perceive the action of nerves, blood and breath inside Monk's vocal music. It feels sufficiently close to one's own internal moves and produces a near-immediate mirroring effect. Monk takes us wherever she likes, and the best of these journeys happens in between song (from impermanence), with its lyrics by Mieke van Hoek, her collaborator and companion, who passed in 2002. If there is anyone who can transport a listener, through sound, to that space "between the clouds and the night...between your hand and my hand...between the seed and the dirt," it is Meredith Monk.

Monk and Waldman
(photo: Ian Douglas)

The concluding set brings Monk and Waldman together in a juxtaposition of works and voices. The first piece--Wa-lie-oh/[Endangered] Living Thread--sounds forced, an unwieldy pattern, alternating Waldman's wilderness drift with Monk's more organized containment. But, once past that tentative beginning, they find a groove to share to the end of the night.

With sound by Ambrose Bye and lighting by Carol Mullins

Meredith Monk & Anne Waldman continues tonight and concludes  with Saturday's benefit performance for Danspace Project and The House Foundation for the Arts. As of last evening, tickets for Saturday were still available. Both evenings start at 8pm. For information, click here.

Danspace Project
St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery
131 East 10th Street (at Second Avenue), Manhattan

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

New spaces to open at Gibney 280: Take the survey!

Gina Gibney (CEO/Artistic Director) and Craig Peterson (Director of Programs and Presentation) hosted a town hall meeting last evening at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center to address the organization's goal of developing an additional 10,000 square feet of raw space at its 280 Broadway location.
The key issues we face are how to raise funds for the renovation, how to create a sustainable operating model, and how to deploy the space to best advantage [for] the NYC dance community.
Preliminary plans show the potential for as much as seven new rental spaces in an area currently rented from Gibney Dance by Pace University on a short-term basis. Gibney and Peterson describe this area as perfect for dance with less column obstruction and beautiful windows providing lots of natural light.

The town hall drew a small attendance, but Gibney Dance hopes to extend its engagement and dialogue with the community via an online survey to determine space needs, priorities and preferences.

You are invited to participate in the survey and to share it widely with your friends and colleagues in the dance community so that more voices can be heard.

Please click here to begin.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Brendan Connelly and Scotty Heron at JACK

In Appalachian Spring Break, composer Brendan Connelly and performance artist Scotty Heron collaborate at JACK for an hour of mayhem triggered--let us not say "inspired"--by the collaboration of Martha Graham and Aaron Copland on Graham's Appalachian Spring. Here, with each artist continually invading the other's territory, the worlds of music and dance collide--let us not say "merge" or "overlap"--again and again.

The sonic assault starts right away. From on high, the pair train clarinets down upon the defenseless audience in a shrill and gurgly fanfare. You might notice that handlettered sheets of cardboard subtly bear the word "fanfare," a nod to Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man as well as a sign of the DIY spirit of the production. Music making employs stand-alone instruments (clarinets, kazoos), a snaggle of increasingly snaggled, endangered electronics and the whimsy of amplified stuff simply hitting or being dragged along the floor. Movement involves, among other things, whippet-thin Heron risking life while, strapped into pointe shoes, he laboriously climbs to the top of a stack of tables, or channeling Graham's iconic Lamentation, tense angles stretching the fabric of what a U Michigan arts blogger once called "The Infamous Giant Sock Thing."

No. Not Scotty Heron this time.
The real Martha Graham performs Lamentation.
(photo: Herta Moselsio)

Heron's centerpiece work as Graham is a thing of mystery and scrupulously contained drama, gorgeous in its own way.

Appalachian Spring Break concludes with two performances tonight: 8pm and 10:30 pm. For information and tickets, click here.

505 1/2 Waverly Avenue (between Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue), Brooklyn

Bryony Brind, 55

Bryony Brind Dies at 55; Nureyev Lifted Ballerina’s Career
by Sam Roberts, The New York Times, December 11, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Your next must-see: Khadijah Queen's "Non-Sequitur"

Congratulations to Khadijah Queen, winner of the 2014-15 Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Performance Writers! Her play, Non- Sequitur, is a delight, and I can see why it won the judges' unanimous approval.

Presented by THE RELATIONSHIP at TheaterLab, now through December 20, and directed by Fiona Templeton, Non-Sequitur unfolds in the compressed, narrow confines of a tiny runway of sorts flanked by audience seating. Over just one hour, the play introduces a cavalcade of characters, each with "voices on multiple registers: the voices in our heads, under our breaths, on our voicemail, hard to have to listen to, hilarious voices, blurted voices, bodily voices." Oh, yes, depictions of such anthropological acuity--each one perfectly captured as if within a flash of lightning--such absurdity and such glee, scarcely leaving us time to breathe, that the nonstop shocks can keep a silly grin plastered on you face from start to finish.

For my dance folks out there, just go see this thing. The well-chosen cast includes a few dancers you know and love who prove to be wonderful actors. Of course! But they would be an asset to Queen's play anyway. The heightened physicality of the characters is as eloquent, stunning and giggle-producing a factor in this work's effectiveness as are the words.

With performances by Lenora Champagne, Stacey Karen Robinson, Helga Davis, Dawn Akemi Saito, Yon Tande, Zselyke Tarnai and David Thomson.

Non-Sequitur continues through December 20. For complete schedule and ticketing information, click here.

Click here to learn more about the late Leslie Scalapino and here to read more about the biennial award named in her honor.  Non-Sequitur, the book, is available here.

357 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor (between 8th and 9th Avenues), Manhattan

Gloria Contreras, 81

Gloria Contreras, a Leading Mexican Choreographer, Dies at 81
by Anna Kisselgoff, The New York Times, December 10, 2015

Mattiwilda Dobbs, 90

Mattiwilda Dobbs, Black Soprano and Principal at Met, Dies at 90
by Margalit Fox, The New York Times, December 10, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dancers are the music: Urban Bush Women at BAM

Members of Urban Bush Women
perform Walking with 'Trane.
(photos: Julieta Cervantes)

In Walking with 'Trane--performed this week at BAM Next Wave by Urban Bush Women and inspired by the genius and spiritual force of John Coltrane--dancers are not simply people dancing to music. Dancers are music, in turbulence and in silence.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Coltrane's masterpiece, A Love Supreme, and the 30th anniversary season of Urban Bush Women, founded by award-winning dancemaker, educator and activist Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. When developing Walking with 'Trane, Zollar and collaborator Samantha Speis conceived the piece as an album of two "sides" divided by an intermission.

Side A--"JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH 'TRANE," with Philip White's electronic score--opens with one supple, wriggling figure suspended in a faint wash of light against darkened space and thrumming sound. Little by little, dancers assemble on the stage, integrated and attuned to one another but each pulsing her or his own instrumental, multidimensional voice. These musical lines are never straight. Flat is not flat; flow, never one way. Destinations only open up more directions of travel.

Looming, dynamic video projections play across a translucent scrim, evoking the smokiness of a music club. Or the keys of a piano. Or a sheet of lines awaiting notes the dancers will live. Or, thrillingly, the sensation of railway tracks receding from a speeding train/'trane transporting everyone--dances and watchers--into new times and places. Speis takes a masterful solo, and Du'Bois A'Keen introduces a flavor of hip hop to his crisp, clear moves, forging an up-to-the-minute connection to Coltrane.

With the side winding down, we hear recorded voices reflecting on Coltrane's music. The final speaker's words set the stage for Side B, "FREED(OM)," a title inspired by the searching, all-embracing nature of Coltrane's spirituality.

He was free. His music was free. 
He was expressing freedom.

Composer-pianist George O. Caldwell's live music for this new section is infused with themes from A Love Supreme and carries the dancers into a space of expansion and transcendence. There's a panoramic photo of the inside of a jam-packed music hall projected against the back of the stage, giving the illusion of the performers dancing their music for this crowd. Indeed, the UBW dancers savor freedom of movement in the open space of the stage, the dancing here feels expansive and celebratory. The quirks and questions of the earlier movement in SIDE A have dispersed which, I must admit, made me value them so much more and miss them.

The dancers of Urban Bush Women are Du'Bois A'Keen, Amanda Castro, Courtney J. Cook, Chanon Judson, Tendayi Kuumba, Stephanie Mas, Love Muwwakkil (understudy) and Samantha Speis.

With dramaturgy by Talvin Wilks, lighting design by Russell Sandifer, costume design by Helen L. Simmons-Collen and video design by Wendall Harrington

Walking with 'Trane continues through Saturday with performances at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton Street, Brooklyn

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Claudia Rankine, at 92Y, on the psyche under racism

Claudia Rankine

Poet Claudia Rankine's multiple award-winning Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) artfully documents the experience of being Black and embattled by racist aggressions, both macro and micro. Some of these aggressions can be so very, very subtle as to make the person on the receiving end wonder if she is imagining things. In a society in deep, purposeful, willful denial about the legacy and continued pervasiveness of racism, Black people walk around with original trauma compounded, on the daily, in numerous ways that can tear at our overall well-being. Rankine brings all of this out in her book, and it was exciting to see this literary hero in person and hear her read passages from Citizen last night in an Unterberg Poetry Center event at 92Y.

Billed as "a conversation on art, trauma and social justice," the evening opened well with Rankine's introductory remarks and reading but took an odd turn as Cleonie White and Sarah Stemp, clinicians from the William Alanson White Institute for Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology, joined the author onstage. That might have seemed a reasonable pairing, given Rankine's concern for the way that racism threatens the health of individuals as well as societies. However, it turned awkward, particularly as Stemp delivered a long, labored statement before the increasingly restive audience.

Rankine betrayed no impatience, but the multigenerational, largely white crowd voiced displeasure several times, yelling "Ask questions!" at Stemp and even criticizing one another when, after something like 75 minutes, the floor was finally opened for their own questions. Even before the outbursts, though, you could sense an unhappy vibe around the hall. It felt less like a dignified literary event and more like a music gig where the crowd realizes it isn't getting what it came for.

At one point, Rankine mentioned the concept of "ethical loneliness"--that undercurrent of isolation--when you live in a society diametrically opposed to your ethics. Her observation was not only intellectual, it had a personal feeling tone that reached me. I got my pen out and made a note just as Rankine took matters further, adding how hard it is, in that situation, "if you don't have people...or you can't pay for people."

That got White's attention. She quickly responded that the Institute accepts sliding scale, a defensive rejoinder that seemed to come from out of nowhere. How had White envisioned this event, then? As a marketing tool?

I turned to the friendly woman on my right and whispered, "This is just not gelling. I don't know what's going on here." She agreed--"It's like they didn't communicate beforehand"--and made an early exit. I hung on but left a little bit into the audience Q&A.

So, what to tell you? Read Citizen: An American Lyric. Just read it.

For information on upcoming events at 92Y, click here.

92nd St Y
Lexington Avenue and 92nd Street, Manhattan

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Movement Research Festival: Gwen Welliver and Abby Zbikowski

Choreographers  Gwen Welliver and Abby Zbikowski shared last evening's program at Danspace Project as part of the 2015 Movement Research Festival (Vanishing Point). The two artists were selected by festival curators Beth Gill and Cori Olinghouse to explore new ways of envisioning abstraction in contemporary dance. If postmodernists stripped "fantasy, metaphor and characters" from dancemaking, would it be possible to reclaim these compelling elements in fresh ways?

Paul Klee's Was für ein Pferd! (What a Horse!), 1929

With What a Horse!--the title alludes to a Paul Klee line drawing--Welliver works on this problem by transferring her own drawing practice to physical bodies on the move. Happily, two of the bodies in question belong to Claire Westby and Stuart Singer, both excellently suited for Welliver's heroic aesthetic here, capable of bold, substantial presence in space, with a launching as noisily assertive as Jake Meginsky's sound score. When Welliver has Westby extend a leg, for instance, it resembles both a puncturing weapon and a decisive act of punctuation. In either case, we quickly get that this is not a figure to tangle with, just as the childlike, spindly lines in the Klee drawing convey the electric dynamism of its horse and rider. Amid the plumped out, sculptural lines of Welliver's abstraction, there is some galloping, cantering, trotting and the introduction of a third figure--dancer Reid Bartelme (sporting a protective vest of what appears to be black leather covering a pale, satiny shirt) who heralds something of smoother, silkier texture in both movement and music.

If, as an abstractionist, Zbikowski takes interest in stripping anything away, it's stripping our sense that the art of dance is about making things look effortless. She foregrounds effort, even discomfort. In her duet, double nickels on a dime, she brings the "outside" influences of punk, hip-hop and martial arts into the formal space of concert dance but not as fetishized artifact but as form, energy and psyche embodied, in a matter-of-factly outrageous way, by wonderful Fiona Lundie and Jennifer Meckley. Like Singer and Westby in What a Horse!, these dancers take the space in great gulps, sneakers making noisy impact, legs striding wide, bodies jutting and wrenching within organized, neat lines of structure. Watch and you feel everything--the concision of the lines, the athletic power, the attitude of being ready for anything. Every now and then, I see a performance that would make an ideal bridge from the often insular world of contemporary dance to the rest of the universe, and this is one.

The 2015 Movement Research Festival concludes tomorrow. For information on remaining events, click here.

Danspace Project
St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery
131 East 10th Street (at Second Avenue), Manhattan

Robert Loggia, 85

Robert Loggia, Rugged but Versatile Character Actor, Dies at 85
by Liam Stack, The New York Times, December 4, 2015

Friday, December 4, 2015

Andrea Miller's "W H A L E" of a company at the Joyce

Members of Andrea Miller's Gallim Dance Company in W H A L E
Daniel Staaf (lower left), Austin Tyson (middle),
Paul Vickers (lower right)
(photo: Yi-Chun Wu)
Daniel Staaf, Georgia Usborne, Austin Tyson,
Matthew Perez, Paul Vickers, Gwyneth Mac
(photo: Yi-Chun Wu)

I'm wondering why contemporary dance is not nearly as popular as science fiction. After all, each time dancers take to a stage or performance space, a new world is created with its own inhabitants, culture(s), rules, language(s), questions and challenges. There really can't be that much of a divide between sci fi nerds and dance nerds, and I know there's some overlap.

Anyway, all that's to say, choreographer Andrea Miller  of Gallim Dance Company creates one helluva world out of her time on the Joyce Theater's stage. She also has a valiant troupe of players--Celine D'hont, Allysen HooksGwyn Mackenzie, Matthew Perez, Daniel StaafAustin Tyson, Georgia Usborne and Paul Vickers--who must love her enough to accept the scary assignments she gives them. Seriously, my heart was in my mouth half the time as I watched the wildly impassioned and danger-courting moves in her new evening-length work, W H A L E.

In a program note, Miller revealed the source of the show's title:
Matteo, our 2 year old son, wakes up in the middle of any given night pointing at the darkness, singing the world whale, as if one of these endangered mammals he loves lives in our apartment. W H A L E is dedicated to love in darkness and in light.
Matteo, it seems, also knows about alternate worlds that are also here on earth right now. What a wonderful thing!

(Top to Bottom) Austin Tyson, Daniel Staaf
(photo: Yi-Chun Wu)

The overall strangeness and emotional impact of W H A L E might benefit from a more condensed structure, eliminating the 20-minute intermission that jettisons viewers out of its world and, temporarily, out of its grip. Hold us in our seats and in that space with the id on the loose in its many manifestations--with all of the vulnerability, the unleashed exuberance, the careless aggression, the awkward, desperate need, the breathing light and breathing dark, the full catastrophe.

With help from Jordan Chiolis's music (performed live) and Nicole Pearce's lighting, waves of psychological weather pass across the stage as they pass through life and relationships. One male dancer's nudity is just one (and the most obvious) example of Miller's refusal to be delicate and of her company's bravery. Gather up your own courage, and go.

W H A L E continues through Sunday, December 6. Click here for your tickets.

The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (corner of 19th Street), Manhattan

Scott Weiland, 48

Scott Weiland, Ex-Singer of Stone Temple Pilots, Dies at 48
by Kenneth Rosen and Caryn Ganz, The New York Times, December 4, 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tere O'Connor opens "The Goodbye Studies" at The Kitchen

Tere O'Connor's The Goodbye Studies
(photos: Yi-Chun Wu) 

Although not created alongside Tere O'Connor's new dance, The Goodbye StudiesJames Baker's original score might be considered its voice. If so, it is a voice containing multitudes strange, beguiling and fleeting. It emerges--bursts free--after a lengthy silence during which O'Connor has toyed with entrances and exits and placement coordinates for individuals and groupings within his 12-member corps. A rhythmic patchwork, the score reflects the texture of the ensemble that will dance this hour. Only dance insiders can fully appreciate the way the sight of each of these dancers--including "downtown" stalwarts like Simon Courchel and Michael Ingle--can make the heart beat a little faster in anticipation, but even newbies would surely read and get the seamless way they have learned to work together. It's visceral. And that coherence within diversity (and vice versa) is the charm of The Goodbye Studies, running at The Kitchen through December 12.

O'Connor creates an immersive ride for his audience. I don't mean the kind of immersive performance where we literally get all up in the performers' action. Here, that happens only in our heads, our shifting awareness--and, frankly, with O'Connor, that is quite enough. We zoom in and out, experience macro- and micro-awareness of the movement, the ensemble as a malleable, stretchable fabric that, at times, could even be rent apart and, in the next breath, flow back into wholeness. Within that fabric, sometimes wriggling hands claim our focus, or we might perceive tangles disentangling or wreathes of bodies unraveling themselves. Arms might issue firmly-shaped signals, graceful scoops and arcs or aimless pawing, requiring observation, discouraging interpretation. Smoothly morphing through its environment, the body of the ensemble becomes hypnotic and a satisfying force. You can be there with that.

Unwisely, I jotted notes but, the next day, wondered things like: "What exactly does 'orbital folk dancing' mean?"  I know I knew in that moment, but that moment is gone. And that seems to me to be where O'Connor lives.

The unshowy costuming--credited to performers Lily Gold, Eleanor Hullihan and Ingle--has a leveling effect, even though each garment is different, and lends a certain vulnerability. Michael O'Connor's lighting rests upon the ensemble without aggression.  The performers, well, they are everything: Courchel, Ingle, Gold, Hullihan, Tess Dworman, Natalie Green, Joey Loto, Oisín Monaghan, Angie Pittman, Mary Read, Laurel Snyder and Lauren Vermilion. They believe, and you believe. How lucky they and O'Connor are to have one another.

The Goodbye Studies continues through December 12 with performances at 8pm (no late seating). For schedule details and ticketing, click here.

Note: This is one of this season's hot tickets. Don't be late. Tickets are released to the wait list at 8pm sharp.

The Kitchen
512 West 19th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues), Manhattan

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Reasons to be thankful!

I have many things to be thankful for--among them, being so often surrounded by gifted, accomplished artists. This season, I had the great pleasure of moderating BRIC Arts Media's post-show Q&A with choreographer Ronald K. Brown (celebrating his troupes's 30th anniversary) and poet Cheryl Boyce-Taylor. For Ronald K. Brown/Evidence's season at BRIC, Brown and Boyce-Taylor presented a revival of Water, their 1999 collaboration. 

The Q&A followed the performance on Friday, November 13 as New Yorkers were just hearing and struggling to process the horrific news from Paris. All through our conversation, I felt the unshakable force of Ron and Cheryl's groundedness and focus. I was happy that they both emphasized how important it is for young, innovating artists to value and tap the experience of arts elders as they move forward in a field--and a world--presenting numerous challenges.

Movers and Shakers: Dance Activists in NYC
a panel at Brooklyn Historical Society
(photo: Tyrone Z. McCants)
L to r: Jason Samuels Smith, Eva Yaa Asantewaa, AntBoogie,
Tamia Santana, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Camille A. Brown
(photo: Tyrone Z. McCants)

I also had the honor of being invited, by Meredith Duncan, Programs and Communication Manager of Brooklyn Historical Society, and Tamia Santana, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Dance Festival, to moderate their panel on dance and activism at BHS. The panelists? Knockouts, all: Camille A. Brown, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, AntBoogie and Jason Samuels Smith, distinguished in their respective genres of dance and deeply engaged with community, education and social justice.

(photo: Tyrone Z. McCants)
(photo: Tyrone Z. McCants)

Despite a late-fall downpour that kept some people home, we had a good gathering and a rich, wide-ranging discussion touching on the power of the arts to shift the way we think and imagine, the fundamental importance of technical discipline, the role of the body in political action, and the perennial challenge posed by mainstream media and conventional tastemakers and gatekeepers. So often, our talk returned to the imperative that progressive artists just go for it, find their own truths, control their own spaces, creating alternatives in an end run around these barriers. I greatly appreciate the example these artists continue to set for us all.

Finally, I want to thank all of you for your nourishing support over the years. InfiniteBody continues to be here for you, and I hope you will continue to enjoy it and send your friends and colleagues my way.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Eva :-)

Cynthia Robinson, 71

Cynthia Robinson, Sly and the Family Stone Trumpet Player, Dies at 71
by William Grimes, The New York Times, November 26, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Congratulations to Carla Peterson!

Last evening, our dear friend and colleague Carla Peterson (along with Charles Ruas) was presented with the insignia of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by Bénédicte de Montlaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in a joyous ceremony.

All photos 
©2015, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Bénédicte de Montlaur,
Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy,
welcomes guests.
Carla Peterson,
Director of the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography,
accepts her insignia from Bénédicte de Montlaur
in recognition of her international work on behalf of dance artists. 
Carla Peterson spoke of her working class upbringing
and how her parents would have been amazed
to see her receive this honor.
Charles Ruas--interviewer,
literary and art critic, and translator--
also became a Chevalier
for his prolific and multifaceted work.
Choreographer Tere O'Connor was one
of a many notable dance community members
 on hand to celebrate this tribute to Peterson.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The political spectacle of Bread and Puppet Theater

Vermont's Bread and Puppet Theater
returns to New York for a December season.
(photos courtesy of Bread and Puppet Theater)

The Bread and Puppet Theater was founded in 1963 by Peter Schumann on New York City’s Lower East Side. Besides rod-puppet and hand puppet shows for children, the concerns of the first productions were rents, rats, police, and other problems of the neighborhood. More complex theater pieces followed, in which sculpture, music, dance and language were equal partners. The puppets grew bigger and bigger.
During the Vietnam War, Bread and puppet staged block-long processions and pageants involving hundreds of people. In 1974 Bread and Puppet moved to a farm in Glover in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.
Read more and connect with Bread and Puppet Theater here. Volunteers are welcome for the theater's upcoming events in New York:

Upcoming shows and art auction 

The Overtakelessness Circus
December 12-13, 19-20 at 3pm

The Seditious Conspiracy Theater Presents: A monument to the Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera
December 16-20 at 8pm

Bread and Puppet Theater Art Auction (live auctioneer and band)
Friday, December 18at 9:30pm

Theater for the New City
155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets), Manhattan

Saeed Jaffrey, 86

Saeed Jaffrey, Actor in ‘Gandhi’ and ‘The Man Who Would Be King,’ Dies at 86
by Nida Najar, The New York Times, November 22, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"this is an Irish dance": Jean Butler at Danspace Project

Neil Martin and Jean Butler
perform this is an Irish dance at Danspace Project.
(photos: Ian Douglas)

Jean Butler might still be best known for Riverdance--the global Irish dance phenomenon she starred in with Michael Flatley--but she has moved on to a new level of inquiry in contemporary dance. this is an Irish dance, her thoughtful and poetic performance with cellist/composer Neil Martin at Danspace Project, helps us hear music not only in the duet of instrument and movement but also in the sensitive aliveness within silence, stillness and near darkness.

To make this work, the two artists collaborated through simultaneous improvisation. We read the living record of those explorations as they perform or even just regard each other across space, or as Butler quietly holds the cello for Martin as he busies himself with pushing a white cube a short distance. The warmth of his cello's voice contrasts with her sculpted serenity. Its heartful earthiness creates a trusty base for her still-very-Irish lightfootedness.

In an essay for this production, Butler writes of the supremely controlled form of Irish dancing as "a gesture of defiance," meant to elevate the Irish stereotyped by the English as "uncivilized, unruly, and of questionable character." I tried to understand this notion of physical self-restraint as a form of defiance. As a Black woman, I know how, under similar racist conditions, self-restraint can be a strategy for survival, if a self-erasing one. But an act of defiance? Nevertheless, Butler's birdlike physicality does reveal the powerful presence and strength within cool control, a self-awareness and a witty, mercurial facility that could as readily be turned to battle as to fanciful play.

Frank Conway's set further complicates things, evoking the aftermath of some unidentified disaster the two performers have survived. Upon first entering the church sanctuary and seeing his arrangement, I flashed back to the time I passed through my wife's art studio and closed its door behind me just as its ceiling collapsed.

Aside from a narrow, plain white table and a few white cubes, Conway has spilled jagged chunks of white foamcore down two sides of the floor--heavy piles near the altar steps tapering down into lighter remains and finally single pieces close to the audience. Although Butler and Martin rarely interact with this wreckage, it's hard to not be aware of its presence as they interact with each other.

Are we not all living with the wreckage of past injury and, quite likely in these times, foreboding? And do we not all, despite our first misgivings, hope to move beyond these things and find ways to connect and to heal?

this is an Irish dance continues through November 21 with performances at 8pm. For information and tickets, click here.

Danspace Project
St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery
131 East 10th Street (at Second Avenue), Manhattan

Sunday, November 15, 2015

In their skin: BAAD! presents works by men of color

Jonathan González
(photo courtesy of the artist)
Benjamin Lundberg
(photo: Jeca Rodríguez-Colón)

In Our Skin--a one-evening show presented at BAAD! with Pepatián for the 2015 BlakTinX Performance Series--offered a rare and important opportunity. The event focused on works by young male choreographers and performance artists of color--Benjamin Lundberg, Gentry George (who showed several short pieces), Alvaro González Dupuy, Eduardo Fajardo and Jonathan González. The run-on format--two hours with no intermission--should be rethought as it became tedious, poorly serving works presented late in the program. Why not distribute the lineup of artists over at least two evenings of reasonable length--say, no more than 90 minutes--allowing breathing room for both these artists and their audiences?

In a program ranging from Lundberg drawing vials of his own blood to mix with dishwashing liquid as a painting medium (Limpieza de Sangre) to queer chatterbox Fajardo charmingly singing and dancing along to a cumbia hit he later questions for its misogyny (CABARET), George's solos and duets stood out for conventional polish--the look of Ailey crossed with contemporary ballet--and the remarkable facility of their performers. In Our Skin certainly could not be faulted for lack of variety in approach to performance.

Chilean, New York-based Alvaro González Dupuy was, for me, the strongest discovery and pleasure of the evening. In Dame la Mano and i give you my elbow--his duet with equally vivid Emily Smith--stream-of-contact, genial roughhousing and audience involvement yielded unexpected freshness. I would welcome the chance to see more from this mind.

Jonathan González's curious deep divine shows him to be a clean, feline mover with an interest in engaging the possibilities of his environment and messing with the way we understand sound, lighting and the body in theater space. Sorry to say, by this point, the lengthy evening found me feeling captive, low in energy and unprepared to give my best attention. But González--recently seen in Patricia Hoffbauer's Dances for Intimate Spaces and Friendly People at Gibney--has some new projects coming up in 2016. Worth getting on your radar.

Closed. For information on remaining BlakTinX Performance Series programs (closing November 21), click here.

2474 Westchester Avenue, Bronx (map/directions)

Friday, November 13, 2015

TONY review: Abraham.In.Motion at The Joyce Theater

Here's the link to my Time Out New York online review of Kyle Abraham's first full season at The Joyce Theater, featuring the New York premiere of Absent Matter.

Our bodies, our business: SLMDances at University Settlement

Candace Thompson of SLMDances
at University Settlement for BodyBusiness
photo ©2015, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

BodyBusiness--the exuberant, inspired new venture from Sydnie L. Mosley's SLMDances--asks "How can dancers be paid a living wage for meaningful work? How can we transform places of lack in our lives into places of abundance?"

While the first question will require something like revolution, the second gets answered and put into practice this very week by BodyBusiness itself, a dance concert hosted by The Performance Project at University Settlement where Mosley has been in residence. But not just a dance concert. BodyBusiness is a dance physically--and spiritually--nested inside a social, marketing and community networking event ("Marketplace").*  The simple fact that I might have something you need and vice versa is its operating principle and a model for how to survive, thrive and get your work done as an artist in New York or really anywhere.

Katherine Bergstrom of SLMDances
at play with audience members
at University Settlement for BodyBusiness
photo ©2015, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Opening night found US's Speyer Hall performance space encircled by reps from from several community service organizations--The Field, Pentacle, OurGoods, PURPOSE Productions, among others--the sound system pumping soul and R&B as an audience gathered. Eventually, dancers from Mosley's troupe appeared, casually engaging a few audience members in movement play in the central space as tabling continued on the sidelines. These interactions provided a transition into the formal performance. With tables cleared away, Damel Dieng's video introduced and, with the help of Mosley's entertaining dancers, cleverly illustrated the complex economic issues faced by freelance dance artists.

Unpaid or underpaid. Up to their eyeballs in debt. Working several jobs to support themselves while pursuing an art they love. Statistics stacked against any hope for healthy balance in life, let alone success in their chosen career.

In the following live performance, we learned more about Mosley and her dancers as individuals, their backstories, struggles and dreams. "My folks wanted me off the couch," said Kayla Hamilton. "My mother, she worked too damned hard for me to be just dancing around," said Kimberly Mhoon. "My mother likens my dance career to an abusive relationship," said Candace Thompson.

Most of the dancers are Black women, and Mosley's choreography for this initial segment shows a wry relationship with classical ballet (as skill, as playacting) that is full of charm and mischief.

There is joy and determination and something I can only call being-one's-selfness in every move, and I love how Mosley keeps things continuously on the move. There are bodies in a range of sizes, and so we bid fond adieu to that "mold" that one dancer, Rachel Russell, said she did not fit. Fuck that mold.

The audience participation that follows--which I will not divulge here--gets to the heart of Mosley's whole project. She has a need to see dancers stand in their power (probably more than just dancers, too...but let's start there), and she offers some tools and bids us all use them well and carry on.

*Tonight's Marketplace--open at 6pm and followed, roughly at 7 or 7:30 by the performance--will feature tabling by health and social services organizations, and tomorrow's will be devoted to small businesses.

For BodyBusiness information and tickets, click here. Note: No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Also, with advance notice, childcare is available--which is very cool.

University Settlement
184 Eldridge Street (near Rivington Street), Manhattan

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

We're doing it again! Not The Master's Tools at Gibney!

I'm so excited that Gibney Dance Center will once again host Not The Master's Tools: Dance Artists Create Alternatives on Monday, December 7. Guess who's presenting and chatting with us this time?

André M. Zachery
Raja Feather Kelly
Jen Abrams
Larissa Velez-Jackson

Remember, hold Monday, December 7 (6-8pm).

These conversations are free and open to all.

Your pre-registration [CLICK HERE] will help us plan for the best space, but walk-ins are certainly welcome. Help us spread the word, and bring your friends and colleagues!

280 Broadway (enter at 53A Chambers Street), Manhattan

Thinking with/talking back to Lemon's "Scaffold Room"

Above: April Matthis
Below: Okwui Okpokwasili
performers in Ralph Lemon's Scaffold Room at The Kitchen

musings...about how B/black artists choose quilting/sampling where materials--visual, verbal, aural; humble or dear--are many and close to hand. moms mabley and kathy acker; ben webster and david bowie (totally pimped out on soul train and wasn't even embarrassed). when you unroll and stretch this fabric out its seams run thick as scars. does cold, unforgiving space crush art? or does it set it off like jewels on velvet in vitrine? what's up with footwear for women here: white nursing clogs? patent leather red spike heels? or none at all, just barefoot? admitting guests to nearly-barren space where most must stand for two hours...or so they think. actually starting the performance first and then interrupting to pass out folding chairs? what...hostility? inhospitality? chaos? how is performance like a scaffold--for exhibition, for execution? what is B/black womanhood? janis sang baby i know just how you feel in little girl blue? did she? know just how you feel, i mean? did amy know? what if beyoncé--whose teeny screen image one must bow to see--is actually not the vortex of every last person's universe? which universe are we talking? subtle pauses and tilts of the head, matter-of-fact okpokwasili artificial, a simulacrum, an impersonation of an impersonation folded in upon herself like nested alternate universes? april matthis singing and mumbling to herself in a distracted, helium-ated voice or screaming in different registers for what seems like ten minutes or six centuries...has she found freedom in the bodymeeting it on its own terms...freedom shockingly beautiful and also dreadful?


Conceptual artist Ralph Lemon opened Scaffold Room (multimedia installation, readings and performances) at The Kitchen on October 30 in collaboration with Kevin Beasley, Jim Findlay, Paul Hamilton, Malcolm Low, April Matthis, Roderick Murray, Naoko Nagata, Okwui Okpokwasili, Omagbitse Omagbemi, Katherine Profeta, Marina Rosenfeld, Mike Taylor and Philip White. Performances and readings concluded yesterday, November 10, but the installation remains open through Saturday, December 5  in the 2nd floor gallery. Hours are Tuesday-Friday 12-6pm, Saturday 11am-6pm. Admission is free.

For information, click here.

The Kitchen
512 West 19th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues), Manhattan

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