The Kennedy Center

Direct Current

DIRECT CURRENT, the Kennedy Center’s two-week celebration of contemporary culture, returns for a second season. Training its focus on new works, interdisciplinary creations in which artistic worlds collide, and innovative responses to topical concerns, the 2019 spring immersion showcases some of the most provocative, original, and pioneering voices in the arts today. DIRECT CURRENT takes place on March 25–April 7 at the Kennedy Center and beyond, extending throughout the District of Columbia through collaborations with a number of alternative venues, to expand the growing audience for contemporary culture in the nation’s capital.

Programming for the festival spans the artistic spectrum, from the world premiere of a new orchestral commission to Middle Eastern-jazz fusion, and bold new experiments in dance. But DIRECT CURRENT is also about going beyond the stage to explore the issues and ideas at the heart of artists’ works. To support that mission, a number of programs in the festival will include talks with artists and prominent thought leaders, workshops, and supporting education events.

In addition to the festival’s mainstage offerings, DIRECT CURRENT 2019 is introducing a new series of intimate performances with dynamic artists at the KC Jazz Club. Club concerts include composer-guitarist Mary Halvorsen drawing from her recent album Code Girl (March 28), composer/trumpeter/santur player/vocalist Amir ElSaffar performing with Two Rivers Ensemble (March 30), German jazz singer and composer Theo Bleckmann (April 4), “indie pop diva” Du Yun taking the stage with OK Miss for a set featuring excerpts from her musical, Dim Sum Warriors (April 5), and finally a performance by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw and guests (April 6).

Look for more Kennedy Center mainstage and KC Jazz Club performances to be announced in the coming months.

March 25
TU Dance + Bon Iver: Come Through
March 27
Gabriel Kahane: 8980: Book of Travelers
March 28-30
Bill T. Jones: Analogy Trilogy
March 29-30
Damien Woetzel: DEMO
March 30
National Symphony Orchestra: Lera Auerbach’s ARCTICA
March 31
Du Yun: Where We Lost Our Shadows
March 31
I’m With Her
April 1
Brooklyn Youth Chorus: “Silent Voices”: Lovestate
April 2
KC Jukebox: Chanticleer: “Sirens”
April 4
Sanford Biggers and Moon Medicin
April 4-5
Phantom Limb Company: “Falling Out”
April 5
Henry Threadgill: “Double Up Plays Double Up Plus”
April 6
April 6-7
Vijay Iyer Sextet
April 7
Brooklyn Rider and Magos Herrera

DIRECT CURRENT takes Kennedy Center artists and programming out into the world beyond the traditional concert hall, reaching new audiences throughout the Washington area by means of innovative ongoing partnerships with a number of key alternative D.C. performance spaces and cultural groups. This season of DIRECT CURRENT includes a co-commission between the National Symphony Orchestra and National Geographic for Lera Auerbach's ARCTICA, a co-commission between the Kennedy Center and National Sawdust with We Are Fridays, and a collaboration with Georgetown University’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics who will curate post-concert discussions for Phantom Limb Company’s “Falling Out.”

With more to be announced, offsite pop-up performances include Amanda Gookin at the Dupont Underground, presenting the Forward Music Project, for which Gookin commissioned new works encouraging social change and empowerment for women and girls (March 29). At the National Gallery of Art, Vijay Iyer teams up with pioneering cellist Matt Haimovitz for a program that juxtaposes Iyerʼs own compositions with a diverse array of works by Bach, Zakir Hussein, Ravi Shankar, and Billy Strayhorn (April 7).

As a part of DIRECT CURRENT, free live multi-genre performances curated specifically for the festival will be presented on the Millennium Stage and in other Kennedy Center theaters to amplify the wealth of mainstage contributions.

The full schedule will be announced at a later date, but one Millennium Stage festival offering to look forward to is We Are Fridays, a co-commission by National Sawdust and The Kennedy Center. We Are Fridays is for solo cello, played by Jeffrey Zeigler, with improvisations juxtaposed alongside recorded conversations from family members, as well as featuring newly commissioned works by African American composers.

A festival celebrating contemporary culture must showcase new ideas and new art. To that end, DIRECT CURRENT in 2019 is proud to feature a number of notable commissions and premieres. On March 30, the National Symphony Orchestra gives the world premiere performance of ARCTICA: An Artistic Exploration, a new NSO co-commission from composer Lera Auerbach. The orchestral work was created in collaboration with Dr. Enric Sala (National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence, marine ecologist, and global conservationist) and is the centerpiece of Auerbach’s new multimedia project for which she traveled to the Arctic to collect stories, images, and sounds.

On March 31, DIRECT CURRENT hosts the U.S. premiere of Pulitzer-winning composer Du Yun’s video oratorio documenting the experience of refugees in Germany, Where We Lost Our Shadows. Finally on April 6, DIRECT CURRENT will present the East-Coast premiere of Mapplethorpe, which is a Kennedy Center co-commission. Mapplethorpe features music by librettist Robert O’Hara and composer Bryce Dessner, a performance by Roomful of Teeth, poetry by Essex Hemphill and others, with large-scale projections of imagery by the late visual artist and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

Upcoming Events

Bon Iver & TU Dance's Come Through (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Mon, Mar 25, 2019, 7:30 PM

This evening-length performance features new music from Justin Vernon, of indie folk band Bon Iver, and new choreography from TU Dance, known for works that combine modern dance and classical ballet with African-based and urban vernacular movements.

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Gabriel Kahane—Book of Travelers: 8980 (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Wed, Mar 27, 2019, 7:30 PM

The singer-songwriter performs his new song cycle with an evocative video backdrop, drawing on the conversations and stories Kahane gathered on an 8,980-mile trip just after the 2016 election. 

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National Symphony Orchestra: Glass's Itaipu & Auerbach's ARCTICA (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Mar 28 - Mar 30, 2019

In his NSO debut, Teddy Abrams will lead two programs of pieces by Dvořák and Sibelius as well as a work by Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence Mason Bates. The Thursday concert will conclude with Philip Glass’s Itaipu. The Saturday concert will conclude with contemporary Russian-American composer and pianist Lera Auerbach in the world premiere of her piece ARCTICA.

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KC Jazz Club: Mary Halvorson's Code Girl (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Thu, Mar 28

Mary Halvorson is unlike any other guitarist. A brilliant musical dissenter, her dynamic style stands at the interface of jazz, rock, improvisation, and avant-garde. Halvorson’s quintet makes its KC Jazz Club debut with rich and wayward sounds from her cutting-edge and critically acclaimed new album. 

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Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company: Analogy Trilogy (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Mar 28 - Mar 30, 2019

A true pillar of modern dance, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company makes a triumphant return to the Kennedy Center with three separate evening-length works that delve into the voice of the marginalized in our society. 

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KC Jazz Club: Tyshawn Sorey (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Fri, Mar 29

Tyshawn Sorey isn’t just a jazz musician—he’s a conductor, composer, scholar, educator, multi-instrumentalist, and undeniable champion of artistic evolution. A recent winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, Sorey’s revolutionary rhythms flash brightly from behind the dark sunglasses that he wears at every electrifying show.

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DEMO by Damian Woetzel (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Mar 29 - Mar 30, 2019

The former NYCB principal dancer Damian Woetzel curates and hosts an evening of recent commissions and D.C. premieres from some of today’s most creative voices in dance and music.

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KC Jazz Club: Amir ElSaffar and Two Rivers Ensemble (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Sat, Mar 30

The Iraqi American trumpeter Amir ElSaffar weaves together Middle Eastern musical languages with jazz, pushing the boundaries of each tradition. His Two Rivers Ensemble’s unique fusion has won accolades from DownBeat Magazine to rowdy ovations at the Newport Jazz Festival.

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Where We Lost Our Shadows (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Sun, Mar 31, 2019, 5:00 PM

The U.S. premiere of this video oratorio, by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Du Yun and Palestinian videographer Khaled Jarrar, documents the experience of refugees in Germany. This timely new work will be performed by vocalists Helga Davis and Ali Sethi, with Shayna Dunkelman on percussion and Joseph Young leading the Peabody Modern Orchestra. 

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I'm With Her
with Verona Quartet (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Sun, Mar 31, 2019, 8:00 PM

Female folk supergroup I'm With Her is made up of Sara Watkins, a founding member of progressive bluegrass outfit Nickel Creek; Sarah Jarosz, a Grammy®-winning singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist; and Aoife O’Donovan, the Grammy®-winning lead singer of progressive string band Crooked Still. Special guests Verona Quartet will join them for select musical numbers. 

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Brooklyn Youth Chorus: "Silent Voices": Lovestate (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Mon, Apr 1, 2019, 7:30 PM

This choir of diverse young New Yorkers aged 12–18 performs commissions from some of today's most fascinating composers. Lovestate confronts the challenges of division and categorization while envisioning a more inclusive and compassionate future. 

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Mason Bates's KC Jukebox: Chanticleer—"Sirens" (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Tue, Apr 2, 2019, 7:30 PM

San Francisco’s three-time Grammy®-winning male vocal group returns with a program of 20th- and 21st-century choral music. Anchored by Sirens, a song cycle by Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence Mason Bates, the performance also features composers ranging from Ned Rorem to Freddy Mercury. 

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Phantom Limb Company: Falling Out (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Apr 4 - Apr 5, 2019

Known for its marionette puppetry and multimedia theatrical production, New York's Phantom Limb Company has created a response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in collaboration with butoh dancer Dai Matsuoka. The work is the company's final installment in an environmental trilogy exploring our changing relationship to nature over time.

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Renée Fleming VOICES: Theo Bleckmann (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Thu, Apr 4, 2019, 9:00 PM

The Grammy®-nominated Berlin vocalist and contemporary composer Theo Bleckmann fuses jazz, classical, and rock into a sublime set.

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Moon Medicin (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Thu, Apr 4, 2019, 9:00 PM

This multimedia concept band, fronted by Harlem-based interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers, performs original compositions and re-imagined covers against a backdrop of sound effects and images of sci-fi, punk, sacred geometry, coded symbology, film noir, minstrels, world politics, and ceremonial dance. 

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Henry Threadgill: Double Up Plays Double Up Plus (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Fri, Apr 5, 2019, 7:30 PM

The saxophonist/flautist makes his highly anticipated Kennedy Center debut accompanied by his mind-blowing ensemble on piano, saxophone, drums, tuba, and cello. A mentor of Jason Moran, who calls Threadgill his “favorite living composer,” the Pulitzer Prize winner brings his avant-garde musical innovations and intense, unyielding originality to audiences in the spring of 2019.

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Du Yun with OK Miss  (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Fri, Apr 5, 2019, 9:00 PM

Du Yun— heralded as an “indie pop diva” by the New York Times—takes the stage with OK Miss, her own experimental band, for a set featuring excerpts from her musical Dim Sum Warriors.

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Vijay Iyer Sextet (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Sat, Apr 6

"One of the most interesting and vital young pianists in jazz today" (Pitchfork), the pianist and composer catapults his audiences into an exotic realm of sound where American jazz and traditional Indian music seamlessly intersect. 

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Triptych (Eyes of One on Another) (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Sat, Apr 6, 2019, 8:00 PM

Triptych (Eyes of One on Another) is the first theatrical performance granted permission to explore and integrate the work of Robert Mapplethorpe. Reflecting deeply on the continued impact of the late visual artist's photography, the East Coast premiere of this theater piece by librettist Korde Arrington Tuttle and composer Bryce Dessner brings together choral ensemble Roomful of Teeth, and the poetry of Patti Smith and Essex Hemphill, with projections of Mapplethorpe’s breathtaking images.

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Caroline Shaw and Friends (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Sat, Apr 6, 2019, 9:00 PM

Composer Caroline Shaw, the versatile New York-based musician who is not only the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, but also a member of vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, is joined some of her musician friends in our intimate club-like venue. 

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Brooklyn Rider and Magos Herrera (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Sun, Apr 7, 2019, 7:30 PM

The omnivorous string quartet joins forces with the acclaimed jazz singer to reinterpret classics from Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Spain, celebrating such luminaries as Octavio Paz, Federico García Lorca, and Rubén Darío. 

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