2016 Cultural Moments: Adventures in Art Making

The Kansas City Star compiled a list of the top cultural moments of 2016 from its staff and freelancers. I selected 15 personal faves from the last 12 months. Read the full list here and I’ve linked to the reviews below.

Without a doubt, this guy’s biggest cultural moment was “Pokémon Go.”

KCSymphony: Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy | Joyce DiDonato and il Pomo d’Oro: In War & Peace | KCBallet: Viktor Plotnikov Vesna (world premiere) | LOKC: The Marriage of Figaro (world premiere new co-production)| Molly Wagner in KCB’s first ever Swan Lake | KCSymphony: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ A London Symphony with Robert Spano | newEar: John Luther Adams’ Four Thousand Holes | KCSymphony Happy Hour: “Boulez/Cage Correspondence” (no review) | Spire Chamber Ensemble: David Lang’s the little match girl passion | No More Nomads at Kansas City Museum | Jessica Lang Dance Thousand Yard Stare | KCBallet: “New Moves” (six world premieres) | KC Dance Fest: Garrett Smith Mine, Me, Mine (world premiere) | KCSymphony: Jonathan Leshnoff Symphony no. 3 (world premiere) | Kansas City Chorale GRAMMY win (no review)

While the list selected one piece or one moment from an event to highlight, it was difficult to weed it down to a few (I was only asked for 10, but I found that impossible) … I could have easily pulled 4 or so singular moments from a single concert. In fact, I had an even longer list, but not enough time to write about each one. Still, I feel it was reasonably representative and balanced for KC arts group.

As I compiled my list I was impressed to see so many world premieres, especially from the dance community. New work is risky but important; experiments are exciting, especially successful ones. I was pleased to see some important works (KC’s first ever Swan Lake) as well as excellent readings of less frequently programmed works, a mix of small groups and leading organizations, international stars and exceptional performers from the region, standard programming formats and more creative presentations, collaborative performances, internationally successful Pulitzer Prize-winning works as well as works by local artists.

It also highlighted the amount I’ve missed: groups I haven’t seen in a year, performances happening simultaneously to what I did see, one night only engagements I missed whether for work or family (nobody gets a day off around here!).

Not fully understanding the eclectic range of the assignment until I read the published list, I was only pulling from concerts I attended, and therefore I neglected to include the KC Chorale’s GRAMMY win (a decently significant moment), which has since been added to the online version.

It was a revealing exercise, compiling my list, and revealing, too, to see it in context with the wider range of “cultural moments.” It’s not every day Bosch, baroque arias and Beyoncé make the same list.

Here’s to a new year of artistic challenge, of exceptional performances, of delight and interpretation, to old favorites and new adventures in art making.

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