It’s that time of year again, the deluge has arrived: the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) Conference and the 1,000+ performances, showcases, and festival productions that will be crammed into a mere five days (January 6-10), give or take a few extra for some of the longer festivals. APAP describes the event as the “Global Performing Arts Marketplace” (emphasis on “market”), but it resembles nothing so much as a protracted American Idol audition for the entire performing arts world, with an invisible judging panel that comes and goes by cover of chartered bus.
I was talking to an artist about it recently—she’s participating in one of myriad showcases that offer choreographers, performers, and companies the privilege of paying large sums to perform their wares for the APAP crowd, often for little more than a few minutes. In her words: “I know I’m being exploited.”
Some of the years best shows inevitably take place during APAP weekend, but there is no way you will see even one eighth of what’s going on. The best you can do is guess, and hope you’re not complicit in the exploitation of the artists you choose to see. So, if you dare, here’s a quick list of highlights from this year’s festivals.
Under the Radar
One of the best things about this festival is that it brings in a good number of international shows that otherwise wouldn’t make it to New York. Two particularly intriguing shows in this category are El pasado es un animal grotesco (The Past is a Grotesque Animal) by Argentinian artist Mariano Pensotti, which promises at the very least to be visually engrossing; and Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech by chelfitsch Theater Company, which combines smart, funny writing with choreography to tell the story of young workers in Japan.
PS122’s fest is a mash-up of contemporary performance across genres. A particularly noteworthy inclusion this year is Rabih Mroué, who is presenting two shows: Looking for a Missing Employee and The Pixelated Revolution. Both draw on true stories that were captured and digested in varying ways by the media—the first about a civil servant who disappears, and the second concerning the revolution in Syria.
This fest at Abrons Art Center is made up primarily of familiar New York names. There are a surprising 19 artists and groups presenting this year, which is a lot, but means you have a good opportunity to see what your favorite artists are up to. Some of the best events on the list are in the Show & Tell series, many of which are free and give you a sense of the artistic process with discussions and work-in-progress showings from artists like Big Dance Theater, DD Dorvillier, and Miguel Gutierrez.
The merger of Bill T. Jones and Dance Theater Workshop has given birth to its own little fest. With seven groups and choreographers showing work, this is the place to focus on strong dance and body-based work, and all are pretty sure bets.
Or you could just skip it all, grab a cheap, strong drink while you see Little Theater at Dixon Place on January 9, and call it a day.
(Photo: Toru Yokota)