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Abrons Arts Center Announces 2019-2020 Season

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Nehemiah Luckett in “Jazz Singer,” an experimental reinterpretation of the 1927 movie “The Jazz Singer.” Photo Credit: Maria Baranova
Nehemiah Luckett in “Jazz Singer,” an experimental reinterpretation of the 1927 movie “The Jazz Singer.” Photo Credit: Maria Baranova

Abrons Arts Center has announced its new season touting a schedule that includes:

  • 15 Premieres
  • 7 Genre-extending movement-based performances
  • 6 Powerful visual arts exhibitions 
  • 3 Conversation-sparking events and celebrations 
  • 3 Engaging music shows 
  • 2 Family-friendly events
  • 2 Three-day music and art festivals

The lineup offers a wide spectrum of dance, theater, exhibitions, and multi-media, all exploring concepts of “authorship, agency, activism, and collaboration.”

Highlights this fall include:


  • WE ARE HERE is a three-day arts festival exploring Indigenous past, present and future, curated by Abrons Arts Center 2019 AIRspace Curatorial Resident Aru Apaza. The festival will include work by Indigenous visual artists, filmmakers and musicians who utilize their own technologies, ancestral knowledge, and survival tactics to reflect on what it means to live a “balanced” life during the “unbalanced” times of late stage capitalism. (Music/Visual Art, September 5-7, 2019)
  • **U.S. Premiere** SènsaPresented in collaboration with the Performa 19 Biennial, the U.S. premiere of Sènsa is developed by Paul Maheke in collaboration with Mélika Ngombe Kolongo (aka Nkisi), DJ, electronic music producer and co-founder of the music label NON Worldwide. Combining sound, movement and light, the performance draws on research into rhythm and the realm of the invisible, taking its inspiration from the cosmologies of the Bantu-Kongo. The work is accompanied by a lighting score designed by Ariel Efraim Ashbel. (Music/Dance, November 7-9, 2019)
  • AAC SOUND SERIES: Abrons Arts Center presents the second year of AAC Sound Series, curated by Ali Rosa–Salas and Katherine Tom. The digital platform features sound-based work by New York City-based artists, and is released monthly on the AAC Sound Series Soundcloud. Fall 2019 features commissions by artists presenting during our season including Ricky (YATTA), Sporting Life, Nkisi, and more to be announced.


  • **New York City Premiere** Let ‘im Move You is a series of artistic works that reflects a 10-year artistic collaboration between jumatatu m. poe and Jermone “Donte” Beacham. This body of work was initiated by jumatatu’s interest in Jermone’s approach to J-Sette, which is a call-and-response dance form that developed in early 1980’s by women’s majorette teams at historically Black colleges in the United States. Leagues of Black Queer men, prohibited from trying out as majorettes, have since formed competitive J-Sette teams in gay clubs and pride parades across the country. At Abrons Arts Center, jumatatu and Jermone present four components of the Let ‘Move You series: Intervention (October 9); This Is a Formation (October 10-12); Installation (October 10-13); and Queer Slow Jam Party (October 13). (Dance, October 9-13, 2019)
  • **World Premiere** By Association is a chain curatorial platform for artists to collectively experiment with the practice of associative thinking. Across three nights of song, dance, the romantic comedy genre, and poetic performance, Ricky (YATTA), Hazel Katz and Rebecca Nieto address the interior and social worlds of depression and psychosis. (Interdisciplinary, October 17-19, 2019)
  • **World Premiere** What Time Is It? is a multi-disciplinary performance presented by It’s Showtime NYC! (ISNYC!) that invites audiences to learn more about New York City  through the embodiment of our city’s own street dance culture. In this work, ISNYC! dancers collaborate with videographer Kash Gaines and MC Osyris Antham to share the voices and aesthetic innovations of New York City underground dancers in contemporary performance. (Dance, November 14-16, 2019)


  • **World Premiere** Jazz Singer is a theatrical exhumation of the first feature-length “sound film” The Jazz Singer, reinterpreted by Joshua William Gelb and Nehemiah Luckett. Set on the Lower East Side, the 1927 film tells the story of a “jazz crooner” forced to choose between his immigrant Jewish heritage and his aspirations to become a Broadway star. Though the film is historically significant for its integration of synchronized sound, it is also remembered for its controversial use of blackface. Gelb and Luckett’s musical rendering offers a contemporary take on a distinctly U.S. American story, one that interrogates appropriation, assimilation, atonement, and whether escape from the specter of blackface is possible. (Music/Theater, September 24-October 12, 2019)


  • Wellcome to the idiot world: A Shanzhai Lyric – Bringing together for the first time the complete archive of shanzhai (i.e. counterfeit) garments, Wellcome to the idiot world imagines bootleg t-shirt text as an embodied poem to consider models of collective creation and shared authorship. Shanzhai garments, created largely by Chinese manufacturers, feature phrases that offer profound, nonsensical, and humorous reflections on contemporary life. The installation includes an experimental reading apparatus and meeting place, designed in collaboration with neighboring architecture studio common room, where visitors are invited to try on shanzhai shirts and look through related reading materials. Wellcome to the idiot world considers how nonsense and poetic estrangement make space for hybridity, liminality, and illegibility. Curated by Ming Lin and Alexandra Tatarsky. (Visual Art, October 24-November 24, 2019)


  • Emily Johnson’s Kinstillatory Mappings in Light and Dark Matter returns to the Abrons, a ceremonial fire outdoors in the amphitheater at Abrons Arts Center that centers Indigenous protocol and knowledge through performance, story telling, and food. (Performance/Event, September 6, 2019).

The New York Times notes some of the more challenging work being presented here and the full schedule can be found here.

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