Season Preview: FIAF’s Crossing the Line (with Bastille Day Notes)

Bastille Day 2012 at the French Institute: Alliance Francaise’s le Skyroom

Why it was that Sunday the fifteenth was the day New York celebrated Bastille Day, I don’t know, but on a painfully muggy Sunday morning I roused myself from the comfort of my air conditioned bedroom to take a train or two up to 60th St., where FIAF was hosting Manhattan’s biggest Bastille Day party.

Several streets were closed down for the outdoor festival, but I made my way first to FIAF’s Skyroom pad for a tasting party. A variety of local businesses and major French exports sponsored the event. I had a wee bit of the chacuterie provided by Trois Petits Cochons but mainly sampled the drinks (it was nominally past noon after all). After a bottle of Colomba, a Corsican white beer (normally not a fan of such things, but it was perfect for the weather), I switched to wine. Beaujolais wines were a sponsor, so the region was heavily–if not exclusively–favored. I’m not much of an oenophile, but I’ve always found Beaujoais wine to be a bit on the sweet, fruity side, but on a hot afternoon, the Chateau do Chatelard Moulin-a-Vent was a welcome drink. I had a couple while chatting with people from FIAF about the upcoming Crossing the Line Festival.

Crossing the Line is probably the single best performance festival New York has to offer annually. It’s intelligently curated (this year Gideon Lester, of Bard College, joins curators Simon Dove and Lili Chopra) and well-funded enough for curators to express a vision through their festival choices. Last year, I was blown away by the lecture performance series, featuring the likes of Jos Houben and Xavier Le Roy, and this year promises to be just as fascinating.

The festival kicks off with a concert from Bill Frisell, hosted by our friends at the Invisible Dog Arts Center on Sept. 14. Frisell is one of the contemporary jazz guitarists that really get me going (thanks to my old jazz guitar teacher, Andrew Boscardin, for the introduction). Frisell is actually doing a trio of concerts: after the opening shindig, he’s playing an early morning solo set on Sept. 15 at Christ Church in Cobble Hill, followed by a second set that evening at Invisible Dog, for an exploration of his process, rather than just a presentation of his work, along with other musicians and artists.

Otherwise, a variety of artists that I’m excited about will be presenting. Faustin Linyekula, whose work I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never seen, will be presenting a new solo, Le Cargo (Sept. 18 at the Museum for African Art). He’ll also be doing a talk on the power of art as an agent of social change on Sept. 17 with legendary director Peter Sellars. Our good friend Brian Rogers of the Chocolate Factory will be presenting his newest performance installation, Hot Box, from Sept. 17-22 (previews start Sept. 15). I caught a WIP showing of Hot Box a few months ago and was wowed by the intensity of Rogers’ presence-based work.

Another friend of ours, director/artist David Levine, is presenting one of the most provocative pieces of the festival, with Habit (Sept 21-30). Habit is an installation performance in which Levine recreates a typical American suburban home (ranch house style! Like where I grew up…) where performers present a 90-minute performance on loop. They spend the time living in and inhabiting the space, such that although they keep repeating the same performance, the staging is dependent on what they’re actually doing when you see it. I spoke with Levine a month or two ago and know something of how challenging this was. A must-see.

Another pair of interesting dance pieces at the festival are courtesy of DD Dorvillier and Sarah Michelson. Dorvillier will be presenting Danza Permanente, with movement inspired by Beethoven’s compositions, at the Kitchen from Sept. 26-30. And Sarah Michelson, following a series of acclaimed works, deconstructs lecture performance with Not a Lecture/Performance, in which she neither lectures nor performs an exploration of her own work, on Oct. 4.

And then there’s Raimund Hoghe, with Pas de Deux at the Baryshnikov Center on Oct. 12. Hoghe is surely done with being known as Pina Bausch’s long-time dramaturg, and indeed, his own body of work is impressive in its own right. I’m particularly excited to see Hoghe’s work, which is sadly appearing for, apparently, one night only.

Anyway, so yes–for a while I drank Beaujolais and talked about all this stuff, then headed out into the streets. After taking part in the Upper East Side fun for a while, I retreated to Brooklyn where Boerum Hill was throwing its own party. Much Ricard was drank, and fun was had, and merguez sausage was eaten, but that’s another story for another day.

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