Walker Art Center

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Walker Performing Arts Season 2016/2017

Performing Arts Across a Common Time:
Active Engagement and the Co-creation of Meaning


Art can open up the world, deepen how we see and hear and feel what surrounds us. Revolutionary artists Merce Cunningham and his partner and collaborator John Cage radically remade dance and music over six decades, transforming our perception of the world. Cunningham’s art insisted on our active engagement, and he presumed we’d bring our lives and experiences to his work, co-creating its meaning with him.

Many of the artists we present offer a similar openness and sense of invitation. Beyond the stage, Walker performance-going is proactive, with options that include connecting personally with artists in the newly dedicated Walker Lounge after shows, participating in talks about the work, engaging in interactive opportunities leading up to the performances, touring of our galleries and film spaces while visiting, or just grabbing a drink or dinner with friends in our new restaurant.

Central to the season is the exhibition Merce Cunningham: Common Time, the largest survey of his work yet mounted. Cunningham-connected movement and music performances will span our stages, galleries, and public spaces, highlighted by new commissioned works from Beth Gill, Maria Hassabi, and Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener—all of whom, like Cunningham before them, make individualistic forms of rigorously abstract movement art propelling today’s dance forward.

In the fall we celebrate another radical dance master, France’s Jérôme Bel, for whom the Walker has served as a consistent home since 2005. The festival bookends work shown here in the past by presenting his newest large-scale piece, GALA, and a rare remount of his eponymous minimalist meditation on the body, both linked by my Talking Dance conversation with the artist.

Inspired in part by Cunningham and Cage’s forward-thinking ethos and embodying the Walker’s mission to support new creation, this year’s nine national commissions are the most we have ever presented in a single season. They reflect a diversity of expression and risk-taking that audiences have come to expect from us, and they include pieces by performance-choreographers Pavel Zuštiak, Okwui Okpokwasili, Faye Driscoll, and Karen Sherman as well as new music from Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio) and Nick Zammuto (The Books). Global masters include Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin (Batsheva), Pulitzer Prize–winning composer David Lang, and jazz visionary Steve Coleman. We also offer fresh voices such as Italy’s Alessandro Sciarroni, New York’s Andrew Schneider, Kinshasa’s otherworldly Mbongwana Star, and Iraqi American musician and composer Amir ElSaffar, all in their Midwest debuts.

The artists we present adhere to the principles that defined Cunningham: discipline, experimentation, rigor, freedom. I am very confident that Twin Cities audiences—who delight in the unexpected, are open to the idiosyncratic, and fully embrace the future visions of global art-makers—will welcome the pioneering work we have assembled. Cunningham once said he liked to think of the spectator as someone who comes to the theater “to exercise his faculties.” I look forward to sharing this diverse range of live art experiences with you and exercising our faculties together.

Philip Bither
McGuire Director and Senior Curator, Performing Arts

Walker Lounge

Make a night of it! Meet the artists, talk about the show, and enjoy drinks on the upper balcony of the elegant McGuire Theater. The Balcony Bar is open one hour prior to and after most performances.