Art in the Garden
While the Garden was closed in spring 2020, we shared special performances by artists whose work connects plants, people, and the planet. In a time when we could not gather together, we were grateful to bring the voices and work of these artists to you virtually.
Curatorial partner for dance performances: Pentacle (DanceWorks Inc), a nonprofit management support organization for the performing arts.
Craig Harris “Breathe”
Craig Harris, joined by pianist Peter Drungle, performs a series of compositions, all entitled “Breathe,” that look at the need for us all to breathe in order to survive as a society and as a planet. Since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, followed by the killing of Eric Garner in New York, Harris has felt an urgency to change the world through music. He has been paying particular attention to the concept of breathing.
New context, including COVID-19’s disproportionate effect on the Black community and the police killing of George Floyd, continues to inform this work.
Craig Harris Artist Biography
Craig Harris is a composer-trombonist who has been a major figure in avant-garde jazz since he began working with Sun Ra in the 1970s. Harris’s music invokes the entire history of the jazz trombone—from the growling, gutbucket intensity of early New Orleans music through the refined, articulate improvisation of the modern era set forth by J.J. Johnson into the confrontational expressionism of the ’60s avant-garde.
While he performed with a veritable who’s-who of progressive jazz, including Sam Rivers, Lester Bowie, Makanda Ken McIntyre, Jaki Byard, and Muhal Richard Abrams, his own projects displayed both a unique sense of concept and a total command of the sweeping expanse of African-American musical expression. Those qualities have dominated Harris’s past two decades of activity, bringing him far beyond the confines of the jazz world and into the sphere of multimedia and performance art as composer, performer, conceptualist, curator, and artistic director.
Frank London & Lorin SklambergFrank London & Lorin Sklamberg Artist Biography
Frank London is a New York City–based trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and founding member of globally renowned world music superstars the Klezmatics—the only klezmer band to win a Grammy award. Also a founder of klezmer group Hasidic New Wave, London has performed with John Zorn, LL Cool J, Mel Torme, Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy, LaMonte Young, They Might Be Giants, David Byrne, Jane Siberry, Ben Folds 5, Mark Ribot, and Gal Costa, and is featured on over 100 CDs.
Lorin Sklamberg is a vocalist, accordionist, pianist, guitarist, and founding member of American klezmer band the Klezmatics. He began performing Jewish music at age 15, and moved to New York in the early 1980s. Sklamberg also composes and performs for film, dance, stage, and circus; produces recordings; and teaches and lectures from London and Paris to Kiev and St. Petersburg. By day, he works as the sound archivist for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.
Joined by guitarist Dominic James, Haitian songstress Emeline Michel performs original songs honoring nature and life and bringing forth hope and renewal.
Emeline Michel Artist Biography
Known for her fusion of traditional Haitian rhythms (kompa, rasyn, and twoubadou) with other musical genres (pop, jazz, and blues), Emeline Michel created a sound that appeals to both traditional and contemporary listeners worldwide. With a hypnotic and bluesy voice and remarkable stage presence, she has made her mark as one of the most notable Haitian singers, songwriters, and musicians.
Michel has performed at Carnegie Hall, the United Nations, the Clinton Global Initiative, Montreal International Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz Festival, Fuji Rock Festival, and Teatro del Silencio. Her acclaimed performance at the Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief telethon led New York Times writer Ben Sisario to declare Michel a “diplomat of music” and “dancing ambassador with a voice as serene and warm like the breeze.”
Haleh Liza & Matt KilmerHaleh Liza Artist Biography
Haleh Liza is a vocalist, poet, and translator born in NYC of Iranian descent whose work reflects a love and awe of both her Persian mystical roots and the animist songs of the South American healing traditions she encountered in her travels. She sings in English, Persian, and Spanish, and has toured extensively with producer and percussionist Matt Kilmer for various projects, including Haleh and The Mast. Her poetry has been published by Columbia University Press and Rattapallax and her book of Rumi translations will be published by New York Review Books in April 2021.
Raphael Xavier & Gary DourdanRaphael Xavier & Gary Dourdan Artist Biography
A multitalented artist who has forged an exceptional approach to improvisation, Raphael Xavier is a self-taught hip-hop dancer and has practiced breaking since 1983. His work draws upon B-boy culture and his background as a photographer and musical artist. As a sound designer, his understanding of movement and musicality allows him to structure beats, noises, and sounds into captivating music that draws upon emotion and coincides with his choreography. Xavier started choreographing dance with the Brandywine School of Ballet in 1995 and spent years with the renowned hip-hop dance company Rennie Harris Puremovement; he’s been recognized as a Pew Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, and United States Artist Fellow and his solo and ensemble choreographic dance works have been performed worldwide. Originally from Wilmington, Delaware, Xavier currently lives in Philadelphia and is a guest lecturer in dance at Princeton University.
Born in Philadelphia, Gary Dourdan (Kolâde Kouyaté) evolved in a culturally rich environment: His uncle was a saxophonist who played with Platinum Hook and Sister Sledge, his brother was a DJ on WRTI radio, and his father encouraged his children to explore literature and the arts. A graduate of the prestigious Freedom Theatre Performing Arts training program, Dourdan relocated to New York where he spearheaded two musical projects, the eclectic act Rent Money and rock band New Congregation, and also sang for the Bell Café Band. Dourdan is an actor who has appeared on CSI and in the film Alien Resurrection and has performed at the Emmy Awards with Macy Gray and on stage with hip-hop artist DMC at the Live 8 concert in Ontario, Canada. He works closely with multiple nonprofit organizations including the Heart Fund, aimed at bringing “state-of-the-heart” surgery to children in need in areas such as Haiti, India, and West Africa.
Company SBB: Unnatural ContradictionsStefanie Batten Bland Artist Biography
Jerome Robbins awardee Stefanie Batten Bland is an interdisciplinary global artist who interrogates contemporary and historical culture with work situated at the intersection of dance-theatre and installation. She created her Company SBB in Paris in 2008 and established it in New York City in 2011, when she was in residency at Baryshnikov Arts Center. Known for her unique visual and movement aesthetic and commissioned by numerous global fashion and lifestyle companies, Batten Bland also directs dance cinema films and recently created a virtual global performance for EU Day and a physical performance installation related to climate change, both for the United Nations.
SBB received her MFA in interdisciplinary arts from Goddard College and lives in SoHo with her family. A 2019 fellow for New York University’s Center for the Ballet Arts, in 2019 she was named a choreographer for American Ballet Theatre’s inaugural Women’s Movement initiative and premiered her recent work “Look Who’s Coming To Dinner” at La MaMa for FIAF’s Crossing the Line Festival. Company SBB will celebrate its tenth U.S. anniversary in the 2021–2022 season with historic and new works.
Dance Heginbotham: You Look Like a Fun Guy
You Look Like a Fun Guy is based broadly on avant-garde composer John Cage’s methods of creation and his commitment to mycology. Dancers Courtney Lopes and Mykel Marai Nairne share a series of identical, short movement phrases; the phrases are performed in an order randomly selected for each performer.Dance Heginbotham Company Biography
Dance Heginbotham (DH) is a New York–based contemporary dance company committed to supporting, producing, and sustaining the work of choreographer John Heginbotham. With an emphasis on collaboration, DH enriches national and international communities with its unique blend of inventive, thoughtful, and rigorous dance theater works and a mission to move people through dance.
The company is celebrated for its vibrant athleticism, humor, and theatricality. Well-known for his 14-year tenure as a dancer with Mark Morris Dance Group, artistic director John Heginbotham creates work known for its “tight formal structure and inventive movement, bolstered by a disarming wit and strangeness” (New Yorker). In recognition of his unique artistic vision, Heginbotham received the 2014 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award and a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship.
Development of You Look Like a Fun Guy has been generously supported through creative residencies at the National Center for Choreography at the University of Akron (NCCAkron), where Heginbotham is currently an artist in residence; and White Oak, funded by the Howard Gilman Foundation.
Inspiration for this work: In 1959, John Cage correctly listed the 24 white-spored Agaricus species to win top prize on the Italian game show Lascia o raddoppia. He gave most of the winnings to his artistic and life partner, choreographer Merce Cunningham, specifically for the purchase of a VW bus to transport members of the young Merce Cunningham Dance Company during its early performance tours.
Urban Bush Women: The Artist JournalUrban Bush Women Company Biography
Urban Bush Women (UBW) galvanizes artists, activists, audiences, and communities through performances, artist development, education, and community engagement. With a groundbreaking performance ensemble at its core and ongoing initiatives including the Summer Leadership Institute (SLI), BOLD (Builders, Organizers & Leaders through Dance), and the Choreographic Center, UBW continues to strengthen the overall ecology of the arts by promoting artistic legacies, projecting the voices of the underheard and people of color, bringing attention to and addressing issues of equity in the dance field and throughout the United States, and providing platforms for culturally and socially relevant experimental art makers.