“Angola,” the opening track from Jeff Fuller and Friends’ latest release, Shoreline Blues, asserts its fleet Latin rhythms and cheery disposition from the first curl of notes from the piano, the first two hits of the drum, the first notes of the bass moving upward into the rising chord progression that follows. Having swept into the mood quickly, the players — bandleader Jeff Fuller on bass, Darren Litzie on piano, and Ben Bilello on drums — after dancing their way through the head, let the groove breathe through the solos without losing any of the momentum they unleashed when they launched the tune. A quick six minutes later, though, the trio settles back into the melody that started the piece, tagging it with a spark of an ending.
As New Haven Symphony Orchestra (NHSO) Maestro William Boughton drew the first airy strains of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from the symphony, a flick of his fingers catching in the light, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye that he hadn’t seen before when running through the piece.
At center stage, another maestro had appeared, scanning the stage for possible boxes and crates on which to balance before a swelling, giggling audience. Already there had been a contortionist, pretzeling herself high above the stage, a great wheel in which a figure spun and balanced wildly. Perhaps, Boughton and the symphony had thought, that was enough excitement for the evening. But there he stood, arms outstretched, feet sure, as he began a series of balances that had the audience — if not also the musicians — at the edge of its seats.
For the afternoon’s performance of classical music, a gentleman approached the stage under the tent at the south end of the New Haven Green in turquoise socks and casual tan footwear. The opening piece began with the familiar notes from the “Toreador Song” from the famous opera Carmen by Georges Bizet. But the lyrics were not by any means familiar.
“Please keep your bull outside the china shop. No bulls allowed that’s where they stop!” sang Richard Perlmutter. The audience giggled. The young children were enthralled.
In “First Word,” a silent solo that follows Tyondai Braxton‘s “ArpRec1,” acclaimed dancer Wendy Whelan rediscovers her body: Her arms, that have carried so many classical performances, are now unbound. Her long, dextrous torso reaches forward and snaps back. Her legs—how they bend so violently when asked!—delight in new configurations. Even her huge eyes, deeply expressive when they catch the light, convey a profound sort of reeducation. When fellow dancer Brian Brooks joins her onstage for an exercise in impossible synchronicity, it’s all that the audience can do to try to not blink, lest they miss something.
Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks have a message for New Haveners: Reinventing yourself should never stop, and should never feel completely comfortable. For Whelan, who gave her pointe shoes to Brooks sometime after retiring from the New York City Ballet (NYCB) two years ago, that sense of self-renewal is vital — and she wants to share it widely, through movement.
While that phase of her career began long before New Haven, there’s now a chapter of it in the Elm City, where she and Brooks arrived earlier this week to familiarize themselves with and rehearse on the Shubert Theater’s well-loved stage. Thursday and Friday night, they will appear there in the world premiere of Some Of A Thousand Words, a collaboration with the New York-based quartet Brooklyn Rider that takes off where Whelan and Brooks’ 2012 project Restless Creature ended. Where Restless Creature, a series of sketches, was danced to Brooklyn Rider’s take on several 20th-century composers, particularly Phillip Glass, Some Of A Thousand Words includes an original composition from the group’s violinist, who will perform onstage with the duo. The performance takes place as part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas.
Just six or seven minutes into Pied à terre, dancer Yang Hao did something that the audience, bracing for a kinetic performance, may not have expected: He lay down. Prone, pressed right up against the floor as if totally exhausted. As if his body brought with it an immeasurable weight. The room fell into total silence. Everything up to this point had focused in on minute, measured but powerful gestures: the flick and flutter of fingers, clean snapping of wrists, arch of his back against his rolled shoulders. Was this an early admission of defeat, or something else?
“The idea of Bang on a Can is to go somewhere you haven’t been before,” said Julia Wolfe of Bang on a Can. “When there were record stores, and music was sectioned off, we used to fall into the cracks of those sections. There were blurred lines and we were in that blur.”
“We heard New Haven knows how to get down!,” cried Sunny Jain from the top of the New Haven Green, where he and members of Brooklyn-based Red Baraat had taken the Arts & Ideas main stage just twenty minutes earlier. Droplets of sweat had started forming on his neck early into the cool evening; now they ran in rivers, glistening against his damp shirt. “Does New Haven really know how to get down?”
There’s a green box, flattened, framed, and hanging on the wall. Next to it is an enormous wad of crumpled yellow paper, also flattened and framed. Not far away, another flattened box has the word India printed on it.
What is the intention of the artist? How do I, who know little about visual art, begin to approach it?
From an audio speaker nearby, Laurie Anderson’s unlikely 1982 hit “O Superman” starts. And suddenly it’s as though some conceptual and emotional door has opened to Linda Lindroth’s art — whose works these are — and I walk through it.
Percussionist and co-band leader Sammy Diaz, Jr., of the Bridgeport-based Orquesta Afinke, held his bongos in one hand and the microphone in the other.
“The bongos are really pretty much the smartest guys in the band,” Diaz joked.
He was keeping it light for Orquesta Afinke’s family-oriented early afternoon International Arts & Ideas set on Thursday in the tent on the south end of the New Haven Green. The band was warming up for a longer set on the main stage that would begin a few hours later.
But they were serious about their rhythm even then. And they were showing the audience how it was done.