The weekend highlights in our region include a unique pairing of illustration and dance; a comic opera; a neo-swing music festival; and a whole lot more.
You all know Maira Kalman as an author and illustrator of children’s books and graphic novels, for her distinctive New Yorker covers – especially for the legendary map of New York City called “New Yorkistan” -- for her book jackets, album covers, and her illustrated version of Strunk & White’s classic “Elements of Style.” Kalman has also enjoyed a career as a dance and theater designer; she created sets for the Mark Morris Dance Group production of “Four Saints in Three Acts,” an opera by Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein.
All this work comes together in a unique collaboration with choreographer John Heginbotham called “The Principles of Uncertainty,” based on her book of the same title, which is being staged this weekend, today through Sunday, at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Mass. The evening-length dance-theatre work, within which Kalman herself actually appears, is set to a score composed by Colin Jacobsen and performed live by his ensemble, Brooklyn Rider.
Dance fans might also want to head over to PS21 in Chatham, N.Y., this weekend, where Ephrat Asherie Dance performs its blend of street and social dance as part of the Chatham Dance Festival tonight and Saturday night at 8pm. The company’s work straddles the genres of dance and theater, and is inspired by the New York City club scene of the late-1990s and early oughts. In college, Ephrat Asherie saw Rennie Harris’s hip-hop version of “Romeo and Juliet” and thought, “This is incredible. I have to figure out how to do this.” And so she has.
Berkshire Opera Festival stages a new production of Richard Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos” at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Mass., on Saturday; next Tuesday; and next Friday, at 7:30pm. This hilarious “behind-the-scenes” opera explores what happens when a wealthy patron who has commissioned two very different forms of entertainment for an evening finds that time is too short for both, leaving the artistic forces to combine their efforts. The result is a comedic masterpiece set to the exquisitely lush music of Strauss.
Squirrel Nut Zippers, a major force in the neo-swing revival of the 1990s, headline the Hot Summer Swing Bash at Ski Butternut in Great Barrington, Mass., on Saturday. The daylong event features performances by the Lucky 5, Blue Light Trio, and others, running from 3 to 8pm. Squirrel Nut Zippers play a high-energy fusion of Delta blues, Gypsy jazz, 1930s-era swing, klezmer, and other styles. The band’s influences include Cab Calloway, Johnny Ace, Raymond Scott, Fats Waller, and Django Reinhardt.
Also of interest to swing fans, San Francisco-based Royal Jelly Jive brings its soulful, brassy party music to Club Helsinki Hudson tonight at 9pm. Fronted by the streetwise, soulful vocals of Lauren Bjelde, Royal Jelly Jive plays a fusion of the jumpin’ jive of the 1940s, brass band music of the 1950s and ‘60s, and today’s Gypsy punk as popularized by groups like Beirut, Gogol Bordello, and Slavic Soul Party. Horns, bass, drums, and keyboards surround Bjelde’s vocals that combine the elegance of Nina Simone and the rough grit of Tom Waits. Also, she can sound amazingly like Amy Winehouse.