Artists collaborate on a sensory exploration of life and the eternal
The Day is a new music/dance work by cellist Maya Beiser, dancer Wendy Whelan, and choreographer Lucinda Childs, with music by David Lang. MIT Music and Theater Arts Assistant Professor Sara Brown and Technical Instructor Joshua Higgason join the collaboration as designers.
The Day is an evening-long sensory exploration of two journeys: life and the eternal, post-mortal voyage of the soul. This bold, highly collaborative work explores universal themes through the shared language of music and dance.
Cellist Maya Beiser, who conceived the piece, is a veteran of the world’s most revered stages and has been described by The Boston Globe as “a force of nature” and by Rolling Stone as a “cello rock star.” Wendy Whelan, widely considered one of the world’s leading dancers, spent 30 years as a principal dancer with New York City Ballet and has originated numerous roles in new works by the world’s most esteemed choreographers. The two will be onstage all evening, embodying the iconic choreography of Lucinda Childs (a Commandeur in France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and a 2018 inductee in the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Dance) to the original music of Pulitzer Prize winner David Lang.
The Day was conceived by Maya Beiser.
The Day was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The Day was co-commissioned by Théâtre de la Ville, Paris; Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Jacob’s Pillow; the Joyce Theater; and the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA; and was supported, in part, by the Inaugural Artist Fellowship at the Joyce Theater Foundation’s Artist Residency Center. Substantial development support was provided by LUMBERYARD Contemporary Performing Arts and Summer Stages Dance @ ICA/Boston, with additional support from Baryshnikov Arts Center.
The Day is part of the 2019–20 MIT Performing series, a prototyping and presenting series curated by Jay Scheib, professor offor Music and Theater Arts, which is presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology and supported in part by the Council for the Arts at MIT. MIT Performing promotes a research-based artistic practice and serves as a new platform for contemporary performance.
Sara Brown is Assistant Professor and Director of Design for MIT Music and Theater Arts. Brown’s designs have been seen at the BAM Next Wave Festival, the Festival d’Automne in Paris, and the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge. Recent designs include Hagoromo at the BAM Next Wave Festival, Appropriate at Trinity Rep in Providence, and MIT Professor Jay Schieb’s adaptation of Carmen for the National YoungArts Foundation.
Brown encourages students to develop designs that go beyond illustration to provide active environments for performance. Students in her classes explore how design is integral to the dramaturgies of 20th- and 21st-century theater practitioners. They develop skills in drawing, painting, and model making as well as digital image manipulation and 3D CAD drawing. She mentors students to realize their own designs for departmental and independent projects.
More at the artist’s website: Sara Brown
Avant-garde cellist and multifaceted artist Maya Beiser defies categories. Passionately forging a career path through uncharted territories, she has captivated audiences worldwide with her virtuosity, eclectic repertoire, and relentless quest to redefine her instrument’s boundaries. Praised by Rolling Stone as a “cello rock star,” she has been hailed by The New York Times for her “stirring emotional power,” while The Boston Globe described her as “a force of nature.”
Raised in the Galilee Mountains in Israel, surrounded by the music and rituals of Jews, Muslims, and Christians while studying classical cello repertoire, Beiser reinvents solo cello performance in the mainstream arena. She is a featured performer on the world’s most prestigious stages, including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Kennedy Center; London’s Southbank Centre, Royal Albert Hall, and Barbican Centre; the Sydney Opera House; the Beijing Festival; Barcelona’s L’Auditori; Paris’s Cité de la Musique; and Stockholm’s Concert Hall. Among the wide range of artists she has collaborated with are Louis Andriessen, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Tan Dun, Steve Reich, Shirin Neshat, Bill Morrison, Robert Woodruff, and Lucinda Childs.
Beiser’s critically acclaimed multimedia productions World To Come, Almost Human, Provenance, Elsewhere: A Cello Opera, and All Vows have consistently been chosen for top critics’ “Best of the Year” lists. Her recent season highlights include featured solo performances at the Barbican’s Sound Unbound and Kings Place’s Cello Unwrapped festivals in London, Cello Biennale in Amsterdam, Festival MANN in Naples, and Strings for Autumn Festival in Prague; two new cello concert premieres, Mohammed Fairouz’s cello concerto with the Detroit Symphony and Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Maya with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra; Bowie Symphonic: Blackstar, a collaboration with Evan Ziporyn that reimagines David Bowie’s complete final album as a cello concerto, with performances in Boston, Barcelona, New York’s Central Park SummerStage, and a 2018 U.S. tour; Spinning, a new collaboration with composer Julia Wolfe and visual artist Laurie Olinder, commissioned and premiered by Peak Performances at Montclair State University; her debut solo performance at the BBC Proms; and premiere performances of a cello concerto by the celebrated Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi at Carnegie Hall and in Tokyo, Japan.
Maya Beiser’s vast discography includes 11 solo albums. Her recent albums TranceClassical (2016) and Maya Beiser: Uncovered (2014) topped the classical music charts. She is the featured soloist on many film soundtracks, including an extensive collaboration with composer James Newton Howard for M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening and After Earth, Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters, Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond, and Rupert Sanders’s Snow White and the Huntsman.
Maya Beiser is a 2015 United States Artists (USA) Distinguished Fellow in Music; the 2016–18 Mellon Distinguished Visiting Artist at the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology; and a Presenting Artist at the inaugural Culture Summit, held in 2017 in Abu Dhabi. Invited to present at the prestigious TED main stage in Long Beach, CA, Beiser’s 2011 TED Talk has been watched by over one million people and translated into 32 languages. Maya Beiser is a graduate of Yale University, and was a founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars.
More at the artist’s website: Maya Beiser
Wendy Whelan began dance lessons at the age of three in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. At the age of 15, she moved to New York to continue her studies full time at the School of American Ballet. In 1984, she became an apprentice with New York City Ballet, joined the corps de ballet a year later, and was promoted to principal dancer in 1991.
Whelan went on to spend 30 years at New York City Ballet, dancing virtually every major Balanchine role and working closely with Jerome Robbins on many of his ballets. She originated roles in over 50 new works, working with such luminary choreographers as William Forsythe, Twyla Tharp, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, Jorma Elo, Ulysses Dove, and Wayne MacGregor. Her most notable choreographic collaboration was with Christopher Wheeldon. She created roles in 13 of his ballets—including Polyphonia, Liturgy, and After the Rain. In 2008, she was nominated for both an Olivier Award and a Critics Circle Award for her performances with his touring group, Morphoses – the Wheeldon Company.
Hailed by The New York Times as, “America’s greatest contemporary ballerina,” Whelan has been a guest artist with the Royal Ballet and the Kirov Ballet, and has performed on every major ballet stage across the globe. She received the Dance Magazine Award in 2007, and in 2009 was given a Doctorate of Arts, honoris causa, from Bellarmine University. In 2011, she received both the Jerome Robbins Award and a Bessie Award for her Sustained Achievement in Performance. In 2018, she was given the Capezio Award.
Since 2013, Whelan has been developing her own independent collaborations. Her inaugural project, Restless Creature, brought together four dancer/choreographers—Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo—for an evening of new duets with her. It was co-produced by Joyce Theater Productions and premiered at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. The show went on to tour across the United States. In 2015, she developed two more projects, Whelan/Watson Other Stories, which was co-produced by the Royal Opera House in London, and the chamber dance/opera Hagoromo, which was commissioned by BAM for the 2015 Next Wave Festival. In 2016–17, she premiered and toured her fourth new program, Some of a Thousand Words, co-produced by Joyce Theater Productions with Brian Brooks and the string quartet Brooklyn Rider.
A documentary film entitled Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan was released in theaters across the country in 2017, and is available on Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon. The film recently won the Chita Rivera Award for Best Dance Documentary.
Lucinda Childs began her career at the Judson Dance Theater in New York in 1963. Since forming her dance company in 1973, she has created over 50 works, both solo and ensemble. In 1976, she was featured in the landmark avant-garde opera Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson, for which she won an Obie Award. She subsequently appeared in a number of Wilson’s productions, which include I Was Sitting on my Patio This Guy Appeared I Thought I Was Hallucinating, Quartett by Heiner Müller, Wilson and Glass’s opera White Raven, Wilson’s video project Video 50, and Maladie de la Mort by Marguerite Duras opposite Michel Piccoli. She also appeared in Wilson’s production of Arvo Pärt’s Adam’s Lament, and collaborated on the movements and spoken text for Letter to a Man, based on Vaslav Nijinsky’s diaries and performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov.
In 1979, Childs choreographed one of her most enduring works, Dance, with music by Philip Glass and film décor by Sol LeWitt, which continues to tour internationally and has been added to the repertory of the Lyon Opera Ballet, where she recently choreographed Beethoven’s Grand Fugue. In 2015, she revived Available Light, created in 1983 with music by John Adams and a split-level set by architect Frank Gehry, which was presented at the Festival d’Automne. In the fall of 2016, the Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery in Pantin presented her choreographic scores in an exhibit titled Nothing Personal in collaboration with the Centre Nationale de la Danse, where she has donated her archive.
Since 1981, Childs has choreographed over 30 works for major ballet companies, which include Paris Opera Ballet and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. In the past 20 years, she has directed and choreographed a number of contemporary and 18th-century operas, which include Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice for the Los Angeles Opera, Mozart’s Zaide for La Monnaie in Brussels, Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol et Oedipe, Vivaldi’s Farnace, Handel’s Alessandro, and John Adams’s Dr. Atomic for l’Opéra du Rhin. Her production of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Atys premiered in Oper Kiel in 2014, and her production of Jean-Marie Leclair’s Scylla et Glaucus premiered there in the spring of 2017.
Childs is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2017 Venice Biennale de la Danse Golden Lion Award and the 2017 Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award. She holds the rank of Commandeur in France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
David Lang is one of the most highly esteemed and performed American composers writing today. His works have been performed around the world in most of the great concert halls. The New Yorker reports, “With his winning of the Pulitzer Prize for the little match girl passion (one of the most original and moving scores of recent years), Lang, once a postminimalist enfant terrible, has solidified his standing as an American master.”
Lang’s simple song #3, written as part of his score for Paolo Sorrentino’s acclaimed film Youth, received many honors in 2016, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and Critics Choice nominations, among others. His the little match girl passion won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music. Commissioned by Carnegie Hall and based on a fable by Hans Christian Andersen and Lang’s own rewriting of the libretto to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, the recording of the piece was awarded a 2010 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Lang has also been the recipient of the Rome Prize, Le Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, and Musical America’s 2013 Composer of the Year. His tenure as Carnegie Hall’s 2013–14 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair saw his critically acclaimed festival collected stories showcase different modes of storytelling in music.
Recent premieres include Lang’s opera the loser, which opened the 2016 Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and for which Lang served as composer, librettist, and stage director; the public domain for 1,000 singers at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival; his chamber opera anatomy theater at Los Angeles Opera and at the Prototype Festival in New York; and the concerto man made for the ensemble Sō Percussion and a consortium of orchestras, including the BBC Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
In addition to his work as a composer, Lang is Artist-in-Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and is a Professor of Composition at the Yale School of Music. Lang is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can. His music is published by Red Poppy Music (ASCAP) and is distributed worldwide by G. Schirmer, Inc.
Joshua Higgason is a video, lighting, scenic, and interactive designer for theater, opera, concerts, and live performances. Recent projects include Hansel und Gretel (projections; Teatro alla Scala); King Arthur (projections; Staatsoper Berlin); Die Dreigroschenoper (projections; Salzburger Festspiele); Nico Muhly’s Control (Five Landscapes for Orchestra) (video, scenic; Utah Symphony); Ira Glass’s Seven Things I’ve Learned Tour (projections); Persona (video and lighting; Dir. Jay Scheib); Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie and Lowell Tour 2015 (video); Radiolab’s Apocalyptical Tour (video, scenic, lighting); Powder her Face (video; NYC Opera; Dir. Jay Scheib); and The Ambassador (video; BAM; Dir. John Tiffany). He has designed and consulted for the Builders Association, Big Dance Theater, MoMA, MASS MoCA, Theatre for One/Christine Jones, the Windmill Factory, and TED. Higgason teaches design at MIT.
More about Joshua Higgason.
Conversation with Wendy Whelan and Maya Beiser, moderated by Sara Brown
April 23, 2020
MIT Building W97
345 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA
Summer Stages Dance @ ICA: Maya Beiser, Wendy Whelan, Lucinda Childs + David Lang, The Day Work-in-Progress Showing
Sunday July 21, 2019 / 3:00pm
25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA
Free with museum admission
Visit the ICA website or call ICA Box Office at 617.478.3103 for more information
The Day is a new music/dance work by cellist Maya Beiser, dancer Wendy Whelan, and choreographer Lucinda Childs, with music by David Lang. A collaboration among legends, The Day is a sensory exploration of two journeys—life and the eternal, post-mortal voyage of the soul. This bold work explores universal themes through the shared language of music and dance. Capping a weeklong residency at the ICA, the company will present a work-in-progress showing, featuring excerpts of the piece followed by a conversation with the audience.
Performers: Wendy Whelan and Maya Beiser
Choreography: Lucinda Childs
Words and music: David Lang
Scenic design: Sara Brown
Sound design: Dave Cook
Projection design: Joshua Higgason
Lighting design: Natasha Katz
Costume design: Karen Young
Creative producer: Maya Beiser
Managing producer: Christina Jensen
Production manager: Emily McGillicuddy
Lighting supervisor: Alejandro Fajardo
“Beiser is a strong but not melodramatic presence who lets Lang’s music sing and cry and speak with clarity and passion. Whelan’s refreshingly unmannered dancing — a clean, disciplined, service-to-the-steps beauty — is as present as ever.”
— The Boston Globe, August 2019
“This momentous melding of multi-genre creative genius, created collaboratively by Beiser and Childs, explores memory, life’s journey, resilience, and survival of the soul through the shared language of music and dance.”
— Jacob’s Pillow, August 2019
The New York Times, “A Lucinda Childs Dance for Wendy Whelan Is Coming to Jacob’s Pillow”
The New York Times, “LUMBERYARD’s First Season Includes New Work by Lucinda Childs”
Joshua Higgason, Technical Instructor, Music and Theater Arts, MIT