Art in the Garden - Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Art in the Garden

Art in the Garden

While the Garden was closed in spring 2020, we shared special performances by artists whose work connects plants, people, and the planet. In a time when we could not gather together, we were grateful to bring the voices and work of these artists to you virtually.

Curatorial partner for dance performances: Pentacle (DanceWorks Inc), a nonprofit management support organization for the performing arts.


Past Performances

  • Craig Harris “Breathe”

    Recorded in the Osborne Garden in May 2020.

    Craig Harris, joined by pianist Peter Drungle, performs a series of compositions, all entitled “Breathe,” that look at the need for us all to breathe in order to survive as a society and as a planet. Since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, followed by the killing of Eric Garner in New York, Harris has felt an urgency to change the world through music. He has been paying particular attention to the concept of breathing.

    New context, including COVID-19’s disproportionate effect on the Black community and the police killing of George Floyd, continues to inform this work.

    Curatorial Partner:
    Jazzmobile: We keep the music playing!

    Craig Harris Artist Biography

    Craig Harris is a composer-trombonist who has been a major figure in avant-garde jazz since he began working with Sun Ra in the 1970s. Harris’s music invokes the entire history of the jazz trombone—from the growling, gutbucket intensity of early New Orleans music through the refined, articulate improvisation of the modern era set forth by J.J. Johnson into the confrontational expressionism of the ’60s avant-garde.

    While he performed with a veritable who’s-who of progressive jazz, including Sam Rivers, Lester Bowie, Makanda Ken McIntyre, Jaki Byard, and Muhal Richard Abrams, his own projects displayed both a unique sense of concept and a total command of the sweeping expanse of African-American musical expression. Those qualities have dominated Harris’s past two decades of activity, bringing him far beyond the confines of the jazz world and into the sphere of multimedia and performance art as composer, performer, conceptualist, curator, and artistic director.

  • Frank London & Lorin Sklamberg

    Recorded in the Plant Family Collection in May 2020.

    Trumpeter, composer, and Klezmatics founding member Frank London is joined by fellow Klezmatic founder, vocalist, and accordion player Lorin Sklamberg for a mini concert of klezmer music and more.

    Frank London & Lorin Sklamberg Artist Biography

    Frank London is a New York City–based trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and founding member of globally renowned world music superstars the Klezmatics—the only klezmer band to win a Grammy award. Also a founder of klezmer group Hasidic New Wave, London has performed with John Zorn, LL Cool J, Mel Torme, Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy, LaMonte Young, They Might Be Giants, David Byrne, Jane Siberry, Ben Folds 5, Mark Ribot, and Gal Costa, and is featured on over 100 CDs.

    Lorin Sklamberg is a vocalist, accordionist, pianist, guitarist, and founding member of American klezmer band the Klezmatics. He began performing Jewish music at age 15, and moved to New York in the early 1980s. Sklamberg also composes and performs for film, dance, stage, and circus; produces recordings; and teaches and lectures from London and Paris to Kiev and St. Petersburg. By day, he works as the sound archivist for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

  • Emeline Michel

    Recorded in Bluebell Wood in May 2020.

    Joined by guitarist Dominic James, Haitian songstress Emeline Michel performs original songs honoring nature and life and bringing forth hope and renewal.

    Curatorial Partner:
    Haiti Cultural Exchange

    Emeline Michel Artist Biography

    Known for her fusion of traditional Haitian rhythms (kompa, rasyn, and twoubadou) with other musical genres (pop, jazz, and blues), Emeline Michel created a sound that appeals to both traditional and contemporary listeners worldwide. With a hypnotic and bluesy voice and remarkable stage presence, she has made her mark as one of the most notable Haitian singers, songwriters, and musicians.

    Michel has performed at Carnegie Hall, the United Nations, the Clinton Global Initiative, Montreal International Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz Festival, Fuji Rock Festival, and Teatro del Silencio. Her acclaimed performance at the Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief telethon led New York Times writer Ben Sisario to declare Michel a “diplomat of music” and “dancing ambassador with a voice as serene and warm like the breeze.”

  • Raphael Xavier & Gary Dourdan

    Performed in front of the weeping beech near Oak Circle in June 2020.

    In this work, Xavier explores the intuitive concept of listening, assessing, and adapting through improvisational street dance. Acoustic sound and movement drawn from environment and experience intertwine to create an ambient performance that reflects on growth and maturity. Dourdan accompanies on flute, guitar, and beats.

    Raphael Xavier & Gary Dourdan Artist Biography

    A multitalented artist who has forged an exceptional approach to improvisation, Raphael Xavier is a self-taught hip-hop dancer and has practiced breaking since 1983. His work draws upon B-boy culture and his background as a photographer and musical artist. As a sound designer, his understanding of movement and musicality allows him to structure beats, noises, and sounds into captivating music that draws upon emotion and coincides with his choreography. Xavier started choreographing dance with the Brandywine School of Ballet in 1995 and spent years with the renowned hip-hop dance company Rennie Harris Puremovement; he’s been recognized as a Pew Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, and United States Artist Fellow and his solo and ensemble choreographic dance works have been performed worldwide. Originally from Wilmington, Delaware, Xavier currently lives in Philadelphia and is a guest lecturer in dance at Princeton University.

    Born in Philadelphia, Gary Dourdan (Kolâde Kouyaté) evolved in a culturally rich environment: His uncle was a saxophonist who played with Platinum Hook and Sister Sledge, his brother was a DJ on WRTI radio, and his father encouraged his children to explore literature and the arts. A graduate of the prestigious Freedom Theatre Performing Arts training program, Dourdan relocated to New York where he spearheaded two musical projects, the eclectic act Rent Money and rock band New Congregation, and also sang for the Bell Café Band. Dourdan is an actor who has appeared on CSI and in the film Alien Resurrection and has performed at the Emmy Awards with Macy Gray and on stage with hip-hop artist DMC at the Live 8 concert in Ontario, Canada. He works closely with multiple nonprofit organizations including the Heart Fund, aimed at bringing “state-of-the-heart” surgery to children in need in areas such as Haiti, India, and West Africa.

  • Company SBB: Unnatural Contradictions

    Performed in the Osborne and Woodland Gardens in June 2020.

    This film study by Stefanie Batten Bland’s Company SBB offers the point of view of a Garden visitor who happens upon three installation solos by Jennifer Payán, Yeman Brown, and Bland herself paying homage to Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. Costumes by Shane Ballard and music by long-term SBB collaborator Paul Damian Hogan.

    Stefanie Batten Bland Artist Biography

    Jerome Robbins awardee Stefanie Batten Bland is an interdisciplinary global artist who interrogates contemporary and historical culture with work situated at the intersection of dance-theatre and installation. She created her Company SBB in Paris in 2008 and established it in New York City in 2011, when she was in residency at Baryshnikov Arts Center. Known for her unique visual and movement aesthetic and commissioned by numerous global fashion and lifestyle companies, Batten Bland also directs dance cinema films and recently created a virtual global performance for EU Day and a physical performance installation related to climate change, both for the United Nations.

    SBB received her MFA in interdisciplinary arts from Goddard College and lives in SoHo with her family. A 2019 fellow for New York University’s Center for the Ballet Arts, in 2019 she was named a choreographer for American Ballet Theatre’s inaugural Women’s Movement initiative and premiered her recent work “Look Who’s Coming To Dinner” at La MaMa for FIAF’s Crossing the Line Festival. Company SBB will celebrate its tenth U.S. anniversary in the 2021–2022 season with historic and new works.

  • Dance Heginbotham: You Look Like a Fun Guy

    Performed on Cherry Esplanade in June 2020.

    You Look Like a Fun Guy is based broadly on avant-garde composer John Cage’s methods of creation and his commitment to mycology. Dancers Courtney Lopes and Mykel Marai Nairne share a series of identical, short movement phrases; the phrases are performed in an order randomly selected for each performer.

    Leading into the performance is a conversation between the choreographer and the Garden’s foreman of grounds exploring the synthesis of art and nature, and the mutualistic connections formed by both fungi and humans alike. The dance begins at minute 11.

    Dance Heginbotham Company Biography

    Dance Heginbotham (DH) is a New York–based contemporary dance company committed to supporting, producing, and sustaining the work of choreographer John Heginbotham. With an emphasis on collaboration, DH enriches national and international communities with its unique blend of inventive, thoughtful, and rigorous dance theater works and a mission to move people through dance.

    The company is celebrated for its vibrant athleticism, humor, and theatricality. Well-known for his 14-year tenure as a dancer with Mark Morris Dance Group, artistic director John Heginbotham creates work known for its “tight formal structure and inventive movement, bolstered by a disarming wit and strangeness” (New Yorker). In recognition of his unique artistic vision, Heginbotham received the 2014 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award and a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship.

    Development of You Look Like a Fun Guy has been generously supported through creative residencies at the National Center for Choreography at the University of Akron (NCCAkron), where Heginbotham is currently an artist in residence; and White Oak, funded by the Howard Gilman Foundation.

    Inspiration for this work: In 1959, John Cage correctly listed the 24 white-spored Agaricus species to win top prize on the Italian game show Lascia o raddoppia. He gave most of the winnings to his artistic and life partner, choreographer Merce Cunningham, specifically for the purchase of a VW bus to transport members of the young Merce Cunningham Dance Company during its early performance tours.

  • Urban Bush Women: The Artist Journal

    Performed in the Water Garden in June 2020.

    In this sharing of active research, company members Courtney Cook and Love Muwwakkil explore practices for navigating discomfort, healing, and visioning onward that have charted the survival and progression of people of color. Engaging in “Listening, Re-Membering, and Restoring,” the dancers cite their bodies, their environment, and the Garden’s collection as reservoirs rich with experience and memory.

    Urban Bush Women Company Biography

    Urban Bush Women (UBW) galvanizes artists, activists, audiences, and communities through performances, artist development, education, and community engagement. With a groundbreaking performance ensemble at its core and ongoing initiatives including the Summer Leadership Institute (SLI), BOLD (Builders, Organizers & Leaders through Dance), and the Choreographic Center, UBW continues to strengthen the overall ecology of the arts by promoting artistic legacies, projecting the voices of the underheard and people of color, bringing attention to and addressing issues of equity in the dance field and throughout the United States, and providing platforms for culturally and socially relevant experimental art makers.

Support the Garden

If you are able, consider supporting Brooklyn Botanic Garden by becoming a member or making a donation. Members can reserve free tickets, receive exclusive newsletters, and have access to special content. Both kinds of support help ensure the future of the Garden’s collections and programming.

Make a Donation Become a Member

Image, top of page: Sarah Schmidt