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Peak Performances Announces 2019-2020 Season And WNET/ALL ARTS Partnership

Peak Performances announces its 2019-2020 season, considering the vocabularies of the body, genre and form, artistic practices and legacies, cultures, and language itself-how they persevere, disappear, or shift over time with new influences and perspectives. This season, Peak Performances offers its state-of-the-art platform to artists who work with-and sometimes against-these established vocabularies in the creation of exhilarating new performance works and the reinvigoration of preexisting texts, compositions, and choreographies. All performances take place at the Alexander Kasser Theater (1 Normal Ave, Montclair, NJ 07043).

"It's fitting that in a season linked by themes of expression and communication we are announcing a partnership with WNET's ALL ARTS that has the potential to transform how contemporary art is disseminated nationally," says Peak Performances Executive Director Jedediah Wheeler. "Now that MSU has provided the Alexander Kasser Theater with the most cutting-edge technology imaginable, our pilot capture will take place this fall and we look forward to inviting a diverse virtual audience into our artistic home."

WNET President and CEO and Co-Executive in Charge of ALL ARTS Neil Shapiro adds: "WNET has a long history of bringing quality arts programs to audiences, and with our free streaming service and broadcast channel, ALL ARTS, we are uniquely situated to develop and present quality programming to the arts community and audiences looking for new ways to experience arts and culture. Partnerships, like this with Montclair State, are one of the essential ways we're able to continue our legacy as a quality arts provider while reaching the next generation."

The world premiere of FALLING & LOVING (September 24-30) opens the season, a momentous joining of artistic forces in the form of a first-time collaboration between two contemporary avant-garde visionaries: Anne Bogart-founder of the Siti Company and developer of the Viewpoints technique-and choreographer/STREB Extreme Action founder Elizabeth Streb. Bogart and Streb and their respective companies team up for a kinetic adaptation of works by SITI resident playwright Charles Mee, who frequently collages found language and stories together into his own poetic works. A similar exchange between forms and artistic practices is at play in Spring (December 12-15), a collaborative work between Gandini Juggling and choreographer Alexander Whitley that fuses the vocabulary of contemporary juggling and dance in a "joyfully hypnotic show...of simple pleasures and intricate skill" (The Guardian). Peak Performances is pleased to welcome back Gandini Juggling after last year's exhilarating Pina Bausch-tinged Smashed, a New York Times' Critic's Pick about which Alastair Macaulay wrote: "Gandini opens windows in the mind."

Martha Graham's introduction of a new technical vocabulary and understanding of movement pioneered modern dance. The Martha Graham Dance Company will come to Peak Performances November 14-17 with an iconic exemplar of her work-Appalachian Spring (with Pulitzer Prize-winning music by Aaron Copeland and a set by Isamu Noguchi)-in a 75th Anniversary performance. They will perform the Graham classic alongside a new Peak Performances commission, The Auditions, choreographed by Troy Schumacher in conversation with Appalachian Spring, and featuring a score by "true virtuoso composer" (The New Yorker) Augusta Read Thomas. Acclaimed new music group International Contemporary Ensemble, conducted by Vimbayi Kaziboni, will perform both dances' scores.

The Richard Alston Dance Company "has played an important role in British dance" (The New York Times), often taking music as its point of departure in its presentation of "contemporary dance full of classical sensibility...class and craft" (The Guardian). Last year, the beloved company announced it would close in Spring 2020, and its final American engagement will take place at Peak, with three U.S premieres including Shine On, Alston's final work for his company (
with music by Benjamin Britten, performed by pianist Jason Ridgeway and featuring soprano Gelsey Bell).

Visual artist and photographer Lena Herzog's video and audio installation Last Whispers will fill the Alexander Kasser Theater from October 16-20. Described by the artist as "an immersive oratorio of extinct and endangered languages," Last Whispers meditates on linguistic diversity's rapid disappearance: every two weeks, a language goes extinct. The work's mission statement notes, "While we are drowning in the noise of our own voices, uttered within dominant cultures and languages, we are surrounded by an ocean filled with the silence of others and barely hear an echo of the vanishing chorus," impelling, "we must hear it and feel its loss. Last Whispers is an invocation of languages that have gone extinct and an incantation of those that are endangered."

From April 2-5, Peak Performances will present the world premiere performances of Kate Soper's opera The Romance of the Rose, based on the 21,000-line medieval French poem by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, directed by Michael Rau, and performed by Soper and Wet Ink Ensemble. The poem, which allegorizes courtship and sex as a dream about a flower in a walled garden, then suddenly changes stylistic and ideological courses, is a fascinating transfusion of story, language, and perspective from one author to another: Guillaume de Lorris wrote the first part of the poem in the mid-1200s; later in the century it was picked up and vastly extended by Jean de Maun. Now, Soper brings the strange-and, through the ages, exceedingly popular-hybrid poem into her own "playful, thoughtful, befuddling, enchanting...ambitious, ingenious" (The New York Times) compositional and theoretical world. While Soper's work unexpectedly warps the way words are delivered and registered, Berlin-based theater company Familie Flöz have been hailed throughout Europe for their inventive wordless plays, which "[use] masks to formidable effect" (The Guardian). In their U.S. debut, the company brings what they refer to as their "most vicious and mysterious play," the dark-comedic thriller Hotel Paradiso, to Peak Performances (May 7-10).

Peak Performances' 2019-2020 season features dynamic, stirring concerts from ensembles Grand Band, Sphinx Virtuosi, and the Shanghai Quartet. On February 14 and 15, the powerhouse piano sextet Grand Band will perform Gay Guerilla, by the "brazen and brilliant" (The New Yorker) late minimalist composer Julius Eastman-a work deemed by The Quietus "one of the most moving pieces ever to be written for eight hands." Among other works, they'll also perform Missy Mazzoli's Three Fragile Systems, synchronized with Peak Performance commission "Emergent System," an animated film collaboration between Joshua Frankel and choreographer Faye Driscoll. Sphinx Virtuosi, the chamber orchestra comprised of 18 of the nation's top Black and Latinx classical soloists, will make their Peak Performances debut with For Justice and Peace, a program revolving around inextricably linked issues of social justice and climate change (October 6). Shanghai Quartet, the quartet-in-residence at Montclair State University's Cali School of Music, will give performances on October 5 (with guest pianist Simone Dinnerstein) and February 8.

Tickets for all performances are affordably priced at $30 and will be available as of July 1, 2019, at and 973.655.5112. The Alexander Kasser Theater is located at 1 Normal Ave in Montclair, New Jersey.


FALLING & LOVING (World Premiere)
Co-directed by Anne Bogart and Elizabeth Streb
Adapted from the plays of Charles Mee
Created and Performed by Siti Company & STREB Extreme Action
September 24-30

Two titans of avant-garde performance-director Anne Bogart and choreographer Elizabeth Streb-join forces to take on works of Obie Award-winning rebel playwright Charles Mee in an original production commissioned by Peak Performances. In Falling & Loving, six actors from Bogart's company and six of Streb's action heroes storm the stage and launch into the air with the aid of a Guck Machine, an enormous contraption conceived by Streb that features rotating rings and buckets armed to continually release materials into the stratosphere. Artists, ideas, and objects collide in this radical new production.

Elizabeth Streb's exhibition "Extreme: The Pop ActionPerformance Art of Elizabeth Streb" will be on view in the Segal Gallery from Tuesday, August 27-Sunday, September 29. Standard Gallery hours are 11-6 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and 12.30-7.30 on Thursdays (closed on Sundays and Mondays). There will be extended hours the week of the performances to coincide with the schedule at Kasser. For more information visit

Shanghai Quartet

Renowned for its passionate musicality, impressive technique, and distinctive blend of styles, the Shanghai Quartet has become one of the world's foremost chamber ensembles. The "utterly sublime" (The New York Times) ensemble returns for two enchanting engagements.

Simone Dinnerstein, guest pianist
October 5

Bed?ich Smetana
Quartet no. 1 "From My Life"

Amadeus Mozart
Piano Quartet in G Minor

Amadeus Mozart
Piano Quartet in E-flat Major

Antonín Dvo?ák
String Quartet no. 10, op. 51

Caroline Shaw

Shanghai Quartet's second engagement features notable classical compositions alongside a cutting-edge contemporary work. The world-class chamber ensemble performs a mysterious work by Caroline Shaw, a lively piece by Antonín Dvo?ák, and a majestic string quartet by Ludwig van Beethoven.

The Shanghai Quartet is the quartet-in-residence at Montclair State University's Cali School of Music.

For Justice and Peace (Peak Debut)
The Sphinx Virtuosi
October 6

Aldemaro Romero
Fuga con pajarillo (Fugue with little bird)

Béla Bartók
Divertimento for Strings

Jennifer Higdon
Southern Harmony

Michael Abels
Global Warming

Philip Herbert
Elegy: In Memoriam - Stephen Lawrence

Xavier Foley
For Justice and Peace for Violin, Bass, and String Orchestra

Jessie Montgomery
Source Code

Franz Schubert
Death and Maiden, Finale

One of the nation's most dynamic chamber orchestras, the Detroit-based Sphinx Virtuosi makes its Peak Performances debut with a program inspired by urgent issues of social justice. Comprising 18 acclaimed Black and Latinx soloists, the performance includes Philip Herbert's requiem for a life lost to violence; Jessie Montgomery's homage to African-American artists in the Civil Rights era; Michael Abels's ode to the well-being of earth; and more. With "immeasurable power, unwavering command, and soulful beauty" (The Washington Post), these talented young artists address our current moment with a sensitivity and clarity that points toward peace.

Last Whispers (Peak Debut)
Concept/Directed/Produced by Lena Herzog
Composition and sound design by Marco Capalbo and Mark Mangini
October 16-20

an immersive oratorio for vanishing voices, collapsing universes, and a falling tree

Trained in linguistics and philosophy, Lena Herzog is a multimedia artist whose work has been exhibited around the world. Last Whispers, an immersive cinematic experience dedicated to vanishing languages, is the result of Herzog's ongoing interest in indigenous dialects, which are disappearing at an astonishing rate. By 2050, half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken around the world will fall silent. In Herzog's oratorio, the historical recordings of more than 40 endangered or lost languages come alive among the echoes of collapsing stars in a work The New Yorker critic Alex Ross calls "haunting and singular." Multiple panels and open discussions are planned to provide deeper understanding of the languages and what is being done worldwide to protect indigenous voices from fading away.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages

Martha Graham Dance Company
Janet Eilber, Artistic Director
November 14-17

Appalachian Spring (75th-Anniversary Performance)
Music by Aaron Copland
Set by Isamu Noguchi
Choreography by Martha Graham

The Auditions (World Premiere)
Music by Augusta Read Thomas
Choreography by Troy Schumacher
Music performed live by International Contemporary Ensemble Conducted by Vimbayi Kaziboni

Comprising the "most skilled and powerful dancers you can ever hope to see" (The Washington Post), Martha Graham Dance Company performs the iconic dance maker's most celebrated work, Appalachian Spring, in concert with a Peak Performances commission, The Auditions by choreographer Troy Schumacher and composer Augusta Read Thomas. This new work has been designed to resonate with Graham's classic, which turns 75 this year. "America's foremost new-music group" (Alex Ross), the International Contemporary Ensemble joins the Graham Company for these world-class renditions of new music by Read Thomas and the original Pulitzer Prize-winning score for Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland.

Spring (U.S. Premiere)
Gandini Juggling and Alexander Whitley
Director: Sean Gandini
Choreograper: Alexander Whitley
December 12-15

Returning from their Smashed success in the 2018-2019 Season...

The avant-garde virtuosos of Gandini Juggling create breathtaking productions that mesmerize audiences of all ages. Back by popular demand following the success of last year's Smashed, the company collaborates with British choreographer Alexander Whitley in Spring. "Joyous, exhilarating, and transporting" (Culture Whisper), this production interweaves five virtuoso jugglers with four contemporary dancers in a kaleidoscopic dreamscape propelled by an immersive score by Gabriel Prokofiev. Visually arresting, colorful, and bursting with rhythm and pattern, Spring is a refreshing and entertaining production at the vanguard of contemporary circus.

Grand Band (Peak Debut)
Performed by: Erika Dohl, David Friend, Paul Kerekes, Blair McMillen, Lisa Moore and Isabelle O'Connell
February 14, 15

Kate Moore
Sensitive Spot

Julia Wolfe
my lips from speaking

Missy Mazzoli
Three Fragile Systems
with Joshua Frankel's Emergent System, an animated film in collaboration with Faye Driscoll

Julius Eastman
Gay Guerrilla

Grand Band is a unique musical ensemble that includes six pianos arranged in a circle and played by "the finest, busiest pianists active in New York's contemporary-classical scene" (The New York Times). The sextet engulfs the audience in the sonic intensity of four landmark contemporary works: the iconic and massive Gay Guerilla by cult underground figure Julius Eastman; the pulsating Sensitive Spot by Australian sound artist Kate Moore; and my lips from speaking, a riff on Aretha Franklin's Think by Pulitzer-winning composer Julia Wolfe. In a thrilling combination of sight and sound, Missy Mazzoli's Three Fragile Systems is enhanced by the debut of an animated film by Joshua Frankel. In this film, commissioned by Peak Performances, Frankel builds a world of geometry, color and looping patterns of human bodies created collaboratively with choreographer Faye Driscoll, heightening the experience of the music.

Three Fragile Systems by Missy Mazzoli was commissioned by Grand Band with funds from Chamber Music America. Emergent System by Joshua Frankel was commissioned by Peak Performances @ Montclair State University.

Richard Alston Dance Company
February 20-24

Voices and Light Footsteps
Choreography Richard Alston
Music Claudio Monteverdi

Detour (U.S. Premiere)
Choreography Martin Lawrance
Music Michael Gordon from the album Timer Remixed

Shine On (U.S. Premiere)
Choreography Richard Alston
Music Benjamin Britten
Performed live by pianist Jason Ridgway
Featuring soprano Gelsey Bell

Brahms Hungarian (U.S. Premiere)
Choreography Richard Alston

Music Johannes Brahms, Hungarian Dances for solo piano
Performed live by pianist Jason Ridgway

Boasting a "rich, pliant, full-bodied" style that transports audiences "to the heart of dance itself" (The New York Times), Richard Alston Dance Company returns to Peak Performances for its final American engagement before the company closes its doors after a quarter of a century. A selection of recent works highlights the unflagging invention of this beloved group, led by Richard Alston, one of the world's finest choreographers currently celebrating his 50th year of making dances. Performed to live music, Alston's witty Brahms Hungarian is presented alongside Shine On, the last piece the choreographer will create for the company. The fast-paced Detour, created by associate choreographer Martin Lawrance, rounds out a thrilling program including three U.S. premieres and celebrating a troupe still in top form, even as the curtain closes.

The Romance of the Rose (World Premiere)
Book and Music by Kate Soper
From Le Roman de la Rose by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun

Directed by Michael Rau
Performed Wet Ink Ensemble and Kate Soper
April 2-5

The startlingly original vision of composer/performer Kate Soper is on full display with the world premiere of The Romance of the Rose. Performed by six singers and a chamber orchestra, this innovative work mixes medieval and contemporary allegory-along with shrieks, wails, and auto-tuned oration-to dramatize the ways in which love, sex, and music wreak havoc on our sense of self. A new voice in the lineage of iconoclastic performers like Laurie Anderson and Meredith Monk, Soper has been hailed as "one of the great originals of her generation" (The New Yorker).

Hotel Paradiso (U.S. Premiere)
A Play by Familie Flöz
By Sebastian Kautz, Anna Kistel, Thomas Rascher, Frederik Rohn, Hajo Schuler, Michael Vogel, and Nicolas Witte
A Familie Flöz, Theaterhaus Stuttgart, Theater Duisberg Production
Directed by Michael Vogel
May 7-10

Using clowning, acrobatics, magic, and improvisation, Familie Flöz makes its highly anticipated U.S. debut after delighting European audiences for more than 20 years with captivating theatrical experiences. Strange things happen in Hotel Paradiso, a comedic thriller chock full of eccentric characters including a pajama-clad front desk clerk, a kleptomaniacal maid, and a cook who chops up more than just pork. Set in a family-run Alpine resort, this fairy tale full of secrets is created by a Berlin-based troupe known worldwide for works that are "wordless and yet somehow so expressive, full of yearning and yet also filled with joy" (The Guardian).

Programs in this season are made possible by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and the New England Foundation for the Arts-National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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