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Ralph Lemon takes history beyond form

Dance is generally a young person’s game, but a highlight of 2010’s Next Wave Festival will be Ralph Lemon’s new “How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?”

Dance is generally a young person’s game, but a highlight of 2010’s Next Wave Festival will be Ralph Lemon’s new “How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?” Inspired by Lemon’s ongoing creative relationship with a 102-year-old former sharecropper from the Mississippi Delta, it also partakes of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 sci-fi film, “Solaris.”

“I couldn’t take Walter Carter out of his small town,” Lemon says by phone from Urbana, Ill., where “How Can You Stay” opened earlier this year, “for practical but also ethical reasons, so he exists in this proscenium iteration in a recreation of the film. I had him and his wife Edna remake the story of a scientist who goes to a space station near a strange planet which affects the way one remembers.”

Lemon, 58, a veteran mixed-media artist, has won prestigious grants including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the 1999 Alpert Award in the Arts. Born and raised in the Midwest, he’s worked in New York since 1975.

The all-star cast of terrific black performers, also Lemon’s longtime associates, includes Djédjé Djédjé Gervais of Cote d’Ivoire, now in Baltimore; Darrell Jones from Chicago; Gesel Mason from D.C.; Okwui Okpokwasili and Omagbitse Omagbemi, both New Yorkers of Nigerian descent; and David Thomson. Ranging from their mid-30s to 50, Lemon says, “They’re very much adults, moving in a way young bodies are supposed to move, so it’s even more heroic.”

His 90-minute piece has four parts: a “film talk,” a “20-minute blur,” a section about the voice and “then it gets really magical, a moment that creates what I consider grace, that place that holds everything.”

Ralph Lemon
Through Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton St., Brooklyn
$20-$45, 718-636-4100
www.bam.org

 
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