This ‘Next Wave’ fest finally lives up to its name

This ‘Next Wave’ fest finally lives up to its name
Photo by Li Huimin

The curtain is up at Brooklyn’s most forward-thinking performance art festival — and this year is all about taking risks.

Brooklyn Academy of Music’s “Next Wave Festival” — which showcases avant-garde music, dance and theater — opened on Wednesday, and features provocative storytelling, acclaimed dance choreography big-name passion projects.

“Get out of your apartment — this art will change your life,” said BAM Executive Producer Joseph Melillo.

The lineup focuses on innovation — “new ideas and discoveries” — in order to enthral theatergoers by combining mediums (say, dance and video to tell a Greek tragedy) and the striking use of technology (shifting clouds projected on a tilted stage). Unlike past years, which have centered on multi-cultural themes and collaborative projects, this year is a glimpse into the future of the performance art world.

Behold, for example, “Brooklyn Babylon,” a big band-style jazz opera with projected animation — painted live onstage — that tells the emotionally charged, apocalyptic tale of the tallest tower in the world.

Or consider John Malkovich’s latest endeavour, “The Infernal Comedy,” a radical, creepy-clever musical in which his serial killer character returns from the dead to offer a blunt confession, set to the soundtrack of booming operatic arias.

And then there’s the New York City premiere of brilliant-but-under-the-radar dance company Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, which will perform metaphorically-rich modern dance that explores themes of darkness and light on a white floor, amidst video projection.

It’s all meant to embrace “what has not yet been done” — even as many theaters continue to stage the same classics over and over.

“The vibrancy and resourcefulness of contemporary art needs to be put forward,” Melillo said.

That has long been the spirit of the festival, which has pushed theater status quos for 29 years and has been first to welcome internationally renowned performers, embrace under-appreciated art forms such as puppetry and revived long-forgotten traditional music (with a few modern twists).

Now the festival — which runs through Dec. 18 — will showcase 17 performances from all over the world, including a Dutch theater company’s dramatic reinterpretation of a 1970s Swedish flick, a soulful take on Portugal’s national song and a Greek play adapted into live video and dance.

The shows don’t offer the glossy accessibility of Broadway’s “The Addams Family” or “American Idiot” — but, just like Brooklyn, the festival is a little unorthodox.

“This is why we exist,” Melillo said. “We take chances.”

Next Wave Festival at Brooklyn Academy of Music (30 Lafayette Ave. at St. Felix Street in Fort Greene) and the BAM Harvey (651 Fulton St. at Rockwell Place in Fort Greene), through Dec. 18. For info, visit www.bam.org or call (718) 636-4100.

John Malkovich plays a serial killer in Next Wave’s “Infernal Comedy,” which runs from Nov. 17 through 19.
Photo by Natalie Bauer