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Kennedy Center Announces Complete Lineup for DIRECT CURRENT

Kennedy Center Announces Complete Lineup for DIRECT CURRENT

The John F. Kennedy Center announces the full lineup for DIRECT CURRENT, its two-week celebration of contemporary culture, which returns for a second season this spring (March 24-April 7). Showcasing new, topical, and interdisciplinary works by some of today's foremost cultural risk-takers, the 2019 immersion takes place at the Kennedy Center and beyond, extending throughout the District of Columbia in collaboration with key alternative venues.

This year's lineup boasts a strong female contingent, with works by composers Julia Adolphe, Leila Adu, Lera Auerbach, Amanda Feery, Yuka C. Honda, Nathalie Joachim, Laura Kaminsky, Morgan Krauss, Allison Loggins-Hull, Jessie Montgomery, Jessica Meyer, Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova, Paola Prestini, Pulitzer Prize-winners Caroline Shaw, Julia Wolfe, and Du Yun, and members of the Iranian Female Composers Association. Likewise, female headliners range from visionary cellist Amanda Gookin to guitarist-composer Mary Halvorson, Mexican jazz vocalist Magos Herrera, experimental Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq, multi-disciplinary artist collective Liberated Muse, and folk supergroup I'm With Her.

Other featured artists and ensembles include Bon Iver, Bryce Dessner, Daniel Fish, Vijay Iyer, Gabriel Kahane, David Lang, Tyshawn Sorey, Henry Threadgill, Brooklyn Rider, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Chanticleer, Moon Medicin, thePhantom Limb Company, Roomful of Teeth, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, and the National Symphony Orchestra. All told, DIRECT CURRENT's offerings span the artistic spectrum, from the world premiere of a new orchestral commission to Middle Eastern-jazz fusion and bold new experiments in dance. Three of the Kennedy Center's resident artistic leaders-Composer-in-ResidenceMason Bates, Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran, and DEMO series directorDamian Woetzel -contributed to the second season's programming, which includes talks with prominent thought leaders to supplement selected events.

Mainstage events

The DIRECT CURRENT mainstage season kicks off with TU Dance and Bon Iver'sCome Through, a cohesive, cross-genre performance of two artistic powerhouses. This evening-length collaboration features new music from Justin Vernon, of two-time Grammy Award®-winning indie folk band Bon Iver, and new choreography from contemporary dance troupe TU Dance. A diverse nine-member company founded by Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands, TU Dance is known for works combining the language of modern dance and classical ballet with African-based and urban vernacular movements (Concert Hall, March 25). Come Through was commissioned by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music Series.

Next, singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane, "one of the most visible representatives of a generation of Brooklyn musicians who bring individual voices to many genres" (Washington Post), performs his new song cycle 8980: Book of Travelers to his own piano accompaniment. With an evocative video backdrop by Drama Desk Award-winner Jim Findlay, the cycle draws on the conversations and stories Kahane gathered on an 8,980-mile trip just after the 2016 election, when he spent two phone- and internet-free weeks crisscrossing America by train, talking to as many people as possible (Terrace Theater, March 27).

The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company returns to the Kennedy Center for Analogy Trilogy, a series of three evening-length works choreographed by Artistic Director and Kennedy Center Honoree Bill T. Jones, a living legend of the dance world, and Associate Artistic Director Janet Wong. Dancers move, sing, and speak to the accompaniment of live music, videos, and projections in the three-part work. This comprises Dora: Tramontane, which recounts the experiences of Jones's French-Jewish mother-in-law during World War II; Lance: Pretty aka the Escape Artist, which follows his nephew's hardships and emotional struggle in the late-1980s and 1990s club culture and sex trade; and Ambros: The Emigrant, in which he explores the impact of trauma on the psyche through a fictionalized narrative inspired by W. G. Sebald's historical novel The Emigrant (Eisenhower Theater, March 28-30).

Damian Woetzel, the former New York City Ballet principal turned director, choreographer, and thought leader who recently launched his tenure as the seventh president of New York's Juilliard School, curates and hosts the fourth season of his interdisciplinary DEMO series. Each installment of the series invites today's most creative voices in dance, music, and other disciplines to meet and collaborate on unexpected and sometimes surprising cross-genre projects. Previous shows in this series have featured Broadway and NYCB star Tiler Peck, iconic dancer and actress Carmen De Lavallade, and a special DEMO commission choreographed by Bessie Award-winner Pam Tanowitz set to a composition by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw. This season's installment of the series will be highlighted by the world premiere of a new dance commission to be announced (Terrace Theater, March 29 & 30).

The National Symphony Orchestra gives the world premiere performance ofArctica, a new NSO and National Geographic Society co-commission from composer Lera Auerbach, who is known for "music of extraordinary power and intensity" (New Yorker). Created in collaboration with Dr. Enric Sala-National Geographic's Explorer-in-Residence, marine ecologist, and global conservationist-Auerbach's work for orchestra and chorus forms the centerpiece of a major new multimedia project for which she traveled to the Arctic to collect stories, images, and sounds. With Auerbach at the piano, Arctica's first performance will be led by Teddy Abrams, the transformative young Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra (Concert Hall, March 30).

DIRECT CURRENT presents the U.S. premiere of Where We Lost Our Shadows, a piece for orchestra, video, and soloists that recognizes and depicts the timeless struggle of human migration and its many effects, while celebrating the resilient human spirit that instigates and survives it. Incorporating Qawwali raga and texts by Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan, it is the creation of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Du Yun and Palestinian videographer Khaled Jarrar, who discuss their work together in a post-concert talk. Co-commissioned by the Kennedy Center with Carnegie Hall, the American Composers Orchestra, London's Southbank Centre, and Cal Performances, this timely new video oratorio will be performed by vocalistsHelga Davis and Ali Sethi, with Shayna Dunkelman on percussion and Joseph Young leading the Peabody Modern Orchestra. Young also conducts two shorter orchestral works by female composers, opening the program with Starburst byJessie Montgomery and Four Marys by Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Wolfe (Terrace Theater, March 31).

Known for its "searing musicianship and tender vocals" (The Guardian), female folk supergroup I'm With Her makes its DIRECT CURRENT debut with string quartet accompaniment from the Verona Quartet. The trio is made up of Sara Watkins, a founding member of progressive bluegrass outfit Nickel Creek; Sarah Jarosz, a Grammy Award®-winning singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist; and Aoife O'Donovan, the Grammy Award®-winning lead singer of progressive string band Crooked Still (Concert Hall, March 31).

Hailed as "one of the most socially aware artistic events in New York this year" (WQXR), Lovestate is the third installment of "Silent Voices," a multimedia, multi-composer, and multi-season series of concert works conceived, produced, and performed by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, a choir of culturally and socioeconomically diverse young New Yorkers aged 12-18, and the International Contemporary Ensemble. Featuring commissions from composers including Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, Shara Nova, Paola Prestini, Toshi Reagon, Angélica Negrón, Julia Adolphe, Bora Yoon, and Pulitzer Prize-winners David Lang and Caroline Shaw, Lovestate confronts the challenges of division and categorization while envisioning a more inclusive and compassionate future (Concert Hall, April 1).

San Francisco's three-time Grammy Award®-winning male vocal group Chanticleer-"the world's reigning male chorus" (New Yorker)-returns to the Kennedy Center in the immersive KC Jukebox series, with "Sirens," a program of 20th- and 21st-century choral music. Anchored by Sirens, a song cycle by Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence Mason Bates, this performance also features composers ranging from Ned Rorem and Steven Stucky to Freddy Mercury of Queen (Family Theater, April 2).

Harlem-based interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers-"an under-sung artist [who] upends received ideas about race and history" (New Yorker) - is best known for installations, videos, and performances intended to broaden and complicate our read on American history. As creative director and keyboardist, he fronts the multimedia concept band Moon Medicin, which performs original compositions and re-imagined covers against a backdrop of curated sound effects and images of sci-fi, punk, sacred geometry, coded symbology, film noir, minstrels, world politics, and ceremonial dance (Atrium, April 4).

Co-founded by artist, director, and set designer Jessica Grindstaff and composer and puppet-maker Erik Sanko, New York's Phantom Limb Company is known for its work with marionette puppetry and its focus on collaborative, multimedia theatrical production and design. The company makes its Kennedy Center debutwith Falling Out, a response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, co-presented in collaboration with the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University (The Lab*). Produced by Octopus Theatricals and created with butoh dancer Dai Matsuoka, a member of Japan's famed Sankai Juku troupe, the work represents the final installment of Phantom Limb Company's environmental trilogy exploring our changing relationship to nature over time. Falling Out is presented as part of The Lab's CrossCurrents festival, a DC-wide biennial featuring dynamic, socially-engaged performances that catalyze conversations around critical topics like the global refugee crisis, climate change, and the rise of hate and polarization. Using The Lab's signature approach, both performances include post-show talkbacks with a wide range of experts, offering rich insights into the artistic approaches and sociopolitical context of Falling Out (Terrace Theater, April 4 & 5).

One of only three jazz musicians to be recognized with the Pulitzer Prize, Henry Threadgill makes his long-awaited Kennedy Center debut. A mentor of Jason Moran, Kennedy Center's Artistic Director for Jazz, who calls Threadgill his "favorite living composer," the saxophonist/flutist showcases his avant-garde innovations and intense originality in Double Up Plays Double Up Plus. For this set, he will be joined by his own ensemble on piano, saxophone, tuba, cello, and drums (Family Theater, April 5).

MacArthur Award-winning keyboardist-composer Vijay Iyer fronts the Vijay Iyer Sextet, "a dream team of cutting-edge improvisers" (Rolling Stone) that includes Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Released in 2017, the sextet's record Far From Overranked No. 1 in NPR's Fifth Annual Jazz Critics' Poll, was the only jazz release to make Rolling Stone's "50 Best Albums of 2017" list, and was named among the year's best jazz recordings by the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, and Los Angeles Times. As The Guardian notes, the sextet "pushes jazz into the future" (Family Theater, April 6).

Thirty years after the untimely death of photographer and visual artist Robert Mapplethorpe, his work remains emotionally complex, influential, and compelling. In cooperation with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, DIRECT CURRENT is thrilled to present the East-Coast premiere of Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), aKennedy Center co-commission** that pairs his photography with music and poetry in a theater piece exploring the impact of his art on the lives and careers of librettist Korde Arrington Tuttle and composer Bryce Dessner, best known as a member of the band The National. Combining music from the Grammy Award®-winning choral ensemble Roomful of Teeth (including Caroline Shaw), video bySimon Harding, and poetry by Essex Hemphill and Patti Smith with large-scale projections of Mapplethorpe's images, the work is directed by "magical manipulator" (New York Times) Daniel Fish with Ashley Tata, and produced by ArKtype / Thomas O. Kriegsmann (Eisenhower Theater, April 6).

Brooklyn Rider, "a string quartet of boundless imagination" (NPR Music), draws the mainstage season to a close in company with Magos Herrera, who is "without a doubt the best jazz singer out of Mexico" (Jazz Times). Together they celebrate the power of beauty as a political act, exploring the artistry of Violeta Parra, Federico García Lorca, Gilberto Gil, João Gilberto, Octavio Paz, and others who dared to dream under repressive regimes (Terrace Theater, April 7).

Free multi-genre performances on the Millennium Stage

Each evening during DIRECT CURRENT, free live multi-genre performances will be presented on the Millennium Stage to amplify the wealth of mainstage contributions.

These launch with a program of "ethereal euphonies from the Nordic tundra" (The Independent, UK) by Icelandic instrumental two-piece Hugar (March 24). Showing just "how strong and flexible the scene of young musicians in New York's improvised and experimental music world can be" (New York Times), composer and bandleaderAmirtha Kidambi draws on influences ranging from her native South Indian Carnatic music, to free jazz, classical modernism, harsh noise, metal and punk with her quartet Elder Ones (March 25). Washington-area soul and R&B singer Tasheraperforms with her live band (March 26), followed by Liberated Muse, the all-female arts collective led by performing artist Khadijah Ali-Coleman, which engages audiences through an evening of soulful music and spoken word that Sophie's Parlor(WPFW 89.3 FM) calls "inspiring and uplifting" (March 27). Next up is saxophone legend Roscoe Mitchell-"one of the key figures in avant-garde jazz" (Penguin Guide to Jazz)-who performs with experimental music project Moor Mother (March 28). Mexican-American dancer-choreographer Gabriel Mata "holds the stage with expressive movement and witty words" (Star Tribune) with support from San José-based dance company sjDANCEco (March 29). There follows chamber music fromHypercube Ensemble, which presents three new commissions from Iranian female composers in collaboration with the Iranian Female Composers Association(March 30). To conclude the opening week, electronic composer Yuka C. Hondashowcases "mind-melding sound wizardry" (Observer) in Revert to Sea, her new multimedia work featuring guitarist Nels Cline of Wilco, drummer Alex Cline, and harpist Zeena Parkins (March 31).

The DIRECT CURRENT Millennium Stage season continues with the Peabody Opera Theatre Program's Kennedy Center premiere of Laura Kaminsky's As One, the transgender coming-of-age story that Denver Post calls "the hottest title in opera right now" (April 1). Gato Preto, the two-piece dance outfit known for its "feast of rhythm and wild Afro-futuristic garb" (NPR) offers a combination of live percussion and electronic beats that reflects its Ghanaian, Mozambican, and Senegalese roots (April 2). Then, Sister Nancy, the legendary Jamaican DJ and singer dubbed dancehall's "dominating female voice for over two decades" (Washington Post), takes the stage with her live band (April 3). Next up is "Make America Great Again: The People's Perspective," a performance by J. Hoard, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter who features on Chance the Rapper's Grammy®-winning album,Coloring Book (April 4). Experimental Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq gives an example of what Pitchfork calls "her violent, carnal, gesticulating concerts-which feel more like séances than performances" (April 5). Hailed as a "new age deity" (Pitchfork), pioneering new-age multi-instrumentalist Laraaji performs an ambient set (April 6), and nine-piece "Latin funk powerhouse" Brownout (Stereogum) draws the Millennium Stage offerings to a close with its distinctive South Texas take on Latin psychedelic funk (April 7).

Club offerings in the KC Jazz Club

In addition to the nightly Millennium Stage offerings, there will be a series of ticketed events in the KC Jazz Club, three of which will be co-presented as part of the jazz season.

Mary Halvorson-"one of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz-or otherwise" (Wall Street Journal)-draws from her recent album Code Girl (March 28), while composer and multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey, the recipient of a 2017 MacArthur "genius grant" Fellowship, shares his unique brand of avant-garde jazz in two club sets the following night (March 29). Composer, trumpeter, santurplayer, and vocalist Amir ElSaffar, who is "uniquely poised to reconcile jazz and Arabic music" (The Wire), performs with the Two Rivers Ensemble, a sextet that uses the maqam modal system to transform the idioms of jazz (March 30). Next follow appearances by Grammy®-nominated German jazz singer and contemporary composer Theo Bleckmann (April 4) as part of the Renée Fleming VOICES series, and by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, the versatile New York-based musician who is not only the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music but also a member of the Grammy Award®-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth (April 5). To conclude the series, Du Yun-heralded as an "indie pop diva" by the New York Times-takes the stage with OK Miss, her own experimental band, for a set featuring excerpts from her musical, Dim Sum Warriors (April 6).

Beyond the concert hall: Collaborations with key D.C. venues

DIRECT CURRENT takes Kennedy Center artists and programming out into the world beyond the traditional concert hall, reaching new audiences throughout the Washington area by means of innovative ongoing collaborations with key alternative D.C. performance spaces.

In the Phillips Collection, the gallery where more than 4,000 major artworks make their home, there will be a pop-up concert with composer-guitarist Mary Halvorsonand saxophonist María Grand (March 27). Likewise, at the Dupont Underground, an experimental arts space housed in a converted subterranean trolley station,National Sawdust Projects-the producing arm of National Sawdust-presents cellist Amanda Gookin's Forward Music Project. A multimedia work that draws on LGBTQ, harassment, and other issues facing women today, the project features original compositions by Leila Adu, Angélica Negrón, Amanda Feery, Allison Loggins-Hull, Nathalie Joachim, Jessica Meyer, and Morgan Krauss (March 29).

A free pop-up concert inaugurates a new relationship with the National Gallery of Art, one of the largest museums in North America, when Vijay Iyer teams up with pioneering cellist Matt Haimovitz for a program that juxtaposes Iyer?s own compositions with a diverse array of works by Bach, Zakir Hussain, Ravi Shankar, and Billy Strayhorn (April 7).

Photo Credit: Michael Slobodian

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