Arts & Ideas Diary, Day 7: Saturday, June 22

Spent the afternoon at the Shubert, watching a bunch of young male Brazilian dancers, Compagnie Kafig, cavort and spin and headstand and flip and dance divinely amid obstacles such as wooden legs, projection screens, drinking glasses and each other. The troupe wasn't without gimmickry, but these were thought-out, and thoughtful, choreographic works. Exhausting and exhilirating to watch, and just the right length with each of the two pieces clocking at a half-hour each, with a 15-minute intermission in between.

This was a brief three-show weekend booking for Compagnie Kafig, but you can still catch the troupe in New England through June 30 at the Massachusetts-based dance mecca Jacob's Pillow. Details here.

Big backstage doings leading up to the free Kronos Quartet concert on New Haven Green Saturday evening. Special guest musician Wu Man had her priceless Pipa (a lutelike traditional Chinese instrument which she has been instrumental in popularizing in modern times through her work with neoclassical groups such as the Silk Road Ensemble and Kronos) smashed to bits by a clumsy U.S. Airways flight attendant on the second leg of the flight to New Haven on Friday. Wu Man ultimately arrived, but her Pipa was unplayable. The festival scrambled to find a replacement, and located one in Simsbury, where Pipa instructor Yihan Chen, who naturally knew of the great Wu Man, gladly offered up her own Pipa to be played on the Green.

The concert, even without that suspenseful backstory, was spectacular. The mere concept of having a maverick new-music group like Kronos on the Green is a great tribute to the progressive thinking of Arts & Ideas, and to the reputation the festival has built up. That thousands would fill the Green for the show is a tribute to the widespread cultural tastes of New Haveners. And the musical selections represented the breadth and soul of Kronos, which was starting its 40th season as an ensemble with this concert. Selections ranged by a classical piece by Bryce Dessner of the National to “Purple Haze” to a nature-soaked Terry Riley piece.

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