Exacting British choreographer Sarah Michelson, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Henry Threadgill and noise-rocker Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth — all are part of a 2018-19 Walker Art Center performing arts season studded with boundary-pushing veteran artists.
“The world is reflected through the eyes of these brilliant artists,” said senior curator Philip Bither, who announced the schedule, which includes six Walker commissions and five world premieres. “The challenges we face are extensive, but there’s great joy, discovery and creativity woven throughout this very large, global season.”
Even though it bridges genres, the Walker lineup hews to some broad contours. On the music side, things kick off with Meredith Monk, the American composer, singer, choreographer and filmmaker who will focus on voice this time around, joined by her vocal ensemble in a concert of “Cellular Songs” presented with Minnesota Opera (Oct. 4-8).
Ethiopian composer Hailu Mergia, who fuses jazz with Eastern African influences, will perform Oct. 26 at Cedar Cultural Center with his trio, plus an opening set by Minnesota’s own Ethio-jazz-funk purveyors, the Yohannes Tona Band.
The Walker celebrates the path-breaking career of Sonic Youth’s co-founder with a two-night event called “Thurston Moore: Moore at 60” that will enlist a number of collaborators, including John Zorn, Anne Waldman, James Sedwards and Steve Shelley (Nov. 9-10).
Avant-garde jazz saxophonist and flutist Threadgill also gets a festival on the weekend he turns 75. On the first night of “Celebrating Henry,” 20-plus Minnesota musicians led by cellist Michelle Kinney will improvise on Threadgill compositions. Then Threadgill will perform the following evening with his ensemble Zooid, whose recording “In for a Penny, In for a Pound” won the 2016 Pulitzer for music (Feb. 15-16, 2019).
Composer, writer and philosopher Hildegard of Bingen is front and center at “The Living Word,” a concert by female vocal trio Modern Medieval that includes world premieres by composers Ben Frost and Angélica Negrón, and a new work by Julianna Barwick. All three composers will also perform with the trio at a soon-to-be refurbished church in St. Paul in this co-presentation with the Liquid Music series (March 22-23, 2019, at Summit Center for Arts and Innovation).
Celebrated avant-garde trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith and his Golden Quintet will present "America's National Parks," a politically charged tribute to the nation’s sacred spaces as well as neglected cultural zones (March 30, 2019).
The music slate closes with “Resonance,” a free sound-art marathon in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden that features a global roster of artists including Twin Cities-bred keyboardist Craig Taborn, Chicago multi-instrumentalist and composer Matana Roberts, deaf sound artist Christine Sun Kim and MacArthur “genius” sound artist Walter Kitundu (May 18, 2019).
On the dance side, choreographer Michelson premieres “October2018/\,” a Walker commission (Oct. 19-21). Guggenheim fellow Pramila Vasudevan curates the 46th edition of “Choreographers’ Evening” (Nov. 24).
Choreographer Morgan Thorson teams up with Alan Sparhawk, of famed Duluth rock trio Low, for the premiere of “Public Love,” a Walker-commissioned dance concert on intimacy, consent and other themes (Dec. 6-8).
ATE9, the company that grew out of Batsheva Dance, will do “Calling Glenn” with Wilco percussionist Glenn Kotche at Northrop (Feb. 7, 2019).
Poet Claudia Rankine teams with choreographer Will Rawls and filmmaker John Lucas for “What Remains,” a piece inspired by Rankine’s writings about racial violence (March 7-9, 2019).
European-based dancer/choreographer Meg Stuart will present two events during a 15-day residency next spring: “An Evening of Solo Works” (April 5-6, 2019) and “Celestial Sorrow,” a gallery installation and performance with her troupe Damaged Goods and Indonesian visual artist Jompet Kuswidananto (April 11-13, 2019).
The season’s final dance performance will take place on the ice: Montreal-based Le Patin Libre — a quintet of former figure-skating champions — puts a new spin on ice dancing in “Vertical Influences,” to be staged April 25, 2019 at Breck School’s Anderson Ice Arena in Minneapolis and April 27 at Charles M. Schulz Highland Arena in St. Paul.
The Walker’s annual Out There series starts with “Sand in the Eyes,” a lecture-performance by Lebanese multimedia auteur Rabih Mroué on the politics of Islamist recruiting videos. Mroué then joins fellow performers Lena Majdalanie and Mazen Kerbaj for the premiere of “Let’s Fight Till Six, and Then Have a Drink” (Jan. 10-12, 2019). Next up is “Jack &,” a Walker-commissioned premiere by Kaneza Schaal that’s a comedy of errors about re-entry from prison (Jan. 17-19). Antwerp-based filmmakers Berlin present the theater/film piece “Zvizdal [Chernobyl, So Far – So Close],” about a couple in the nuclear wasteland (Jan. 24-26). Then Lola Arias reunites British and Argentinian warriors from the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas conflict in a documentary theater work called “Minefield” (Jan. 31-Feb. 2).
Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto also will perform a free afternoon "Out There bonus" event in the Walker galleries Jan. 19. His solo performance "Tuning Meditation" will employ the Pauline Oliveros composition of the same name, in a series of interactive video and audio collaborations.