The Compassionate Music of Meshell Ndegeocello

Beth Morrison and Kristin Marting have lodged the multidisciplinary Prototype Festival, which they founded in 2013, in New York’s classical scene, on the strength of their unflinching belief in the power of contemporary opera. This year’s lineup explores religious and folk mythologies of womanhood (“Terce: A Practical Breviary” and “Malinxe”) and the human effects of the war on terror and the death of capitalism (“Adoration” and “Chornobyldorf”). “The theme, if there is one,” Marting says, is that of “an outsider trying to find their relationship to the forces of a society that is different from them.” For Morrison, it’s the prerogative of living composers to illuminate such issues with a musical language that listeners hear as their own: “We’re telling the stories of our time in our vernacular.”—Oussama Zahr (Various venues; select dates Jan. 10-21.)


Dance

Soles of Duende.

Photograph by Mike Esperanza

The curator of this year’s American Dance Platform, Melanie George, starts with her own field of expertise—jazz dance—and expands from there. The first of three programs combines the Dormeshia Tap Collective, paying fiery tribute to under-recognized Black female hoofers, with the elegant jazz-vernacular meditations of Josette Wiggan and the second-line strutting of Michelle N. Gibson. Other programs feature Soles of Duende, a trio of aces in tap, flamenco, and kathak who share a gregarious spirit, and Dallas Black Dance Theatre, bringing new work by Chanel DaSilva and Norbert De La Cruz III.—Brian Seibert (Joyce Theatre; Jan. 9-14.)


Movies

In 1981, after seeing dance performances by Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater, Chantal Akerman made a choreographic film of her own, “Toute Une Nuit” (“One Whole Night”), a modernist melodrama about the varieties of romance unfolding on a hot summer night, in several neighborhoods in her home town of Brussels. The movie (scantly released in the U.S. and screening in MOMA’s program “To Save and Project,” which runs Jan. 11-Feb. 4) is built from a crisscrossing series of encounters of lovers, whether longtimers reconnecting or new ones meeting, in cafés and corridors, in taxis, by phone. With a cast of seventy-five, Akerman films the roundelay of mad dashes and timid introductions, ardent embraces and tender dances, in the form of stylized gestures that—as in Bausch’s work—are both banal and sublime.—Richard Brody (MOMA; Jan. 23 and Feb. 4.)


Pick Three

The staff writer Parul Sehgal shares three of her favorite novellas.

1. Lately, I’ve encountered too many lapsed readers. They bemoan how they used to read, and would read, but since the pandemic—or cue any contemporary horror—the active surrender that reading requires (especially fiction) feels too absorbing, too risky, when one must maintain a state of constant alert. Over the holidays, I gifted the lapsed readers in my life three novels—all short, recent (allowing my malingering readers to justify them as a kind of “news,” which, of course, they are), and, most important, irresistible. The first, Ghachar Ghochar,” by Vivek Shanbhag, translated from the Kannada into English by Srinath Perur, is the story of the breakdown of a marriage, and it is a perfect piece of literature—swift and harrowing, constructed out of the simplest language and the most inextricable moral tangles.

2. Small Things Like These,” by the Irish writer Claire Keegan, feels like a cousin to “Ghachar Ghochar,” with its velocity and its plain, radiant prose. A coal merchant discovers a young woman imprisoned in a convent. As with Shanbhag’s novel, we see an entire social order and a history made manifest—or rebuked—in a single moment, in a character’s single choice.

Illustration by Kruttika Susarla

3. Eva Baltasar’s Boulder,” translated from the Catalan by Julia Sanches, is the most recent of the three—a ragged, sensuous story. Read it last. After the two previous books that are very much about misogyny, here you will meet a gorgeously untethered woman wondering just what to do with her freedom. A book about new life for a new year.


P.S. Good stuff on the Internet:

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