ArtPower!’s fall lineup is simply irresistible


By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

ArtPower! — UC San Diego’s stimulating performing arts program — is going into its ninth season, and this year’s mix of music, dance, spoken word and film from around the world looks as eclectic and exciting as ever.

October is the hottest month, with something to tempt every taste. The series runs through May.

Classicists will cheer the return of the Grammy award-winning Pacifica Quartet, which opens ArtPower’s chamber music series with string quartets by Beethoven and Prokofiev.

Dance devotees will welcome the appearance of London’s Russell Maliphant Company, which partners dazzling lighting effects with compelling choreography. They’ll be performing “AfterLight,” based on the life of ballet superstar Vaslav Nijinsky, who was hailed as the “god of the dance” at age 20 and spent the last half of his life lost in a private world of schizophrenia.

Jazz fans will groove to the sounds of Swiss-born, New York-based harmonica whiz Gregoire Maret, who has been compared to Stevie Wonder.

And for lovers of global music, there’s the unusual Staff Benda Bilili, a group of Congolese street musicians, some of them polio survivors, who have been riding the waves of success on their customized tricycles, wowing international audiences with their vibrant vocals and tin-can guitars.

For afficionados of punk rock, poetry, and the New York art scene of the late 1960s and ‘70s, there’s a very special event: an evening of spoken word with legendary Patti Smith, the Godmother of Punk who started her career by portraying herself as a 20th-century version of France’s 19th-century wild-child, poet Arthur Rimbaud.

Smith’s most recent success is more mainstream, as author of the bestselling memoir “Just Kids,” which documents her life with the late, still-provocative, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, a half-century ago.

Smith, who has been called “a Rimbaud with Marshall amps,” is probably the only recipient of the following trifecta of honors: induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, winner of the National Book Award, and Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France’s highest recognition of artistic achievement.

“This season we’re featuring performers who are looking back at the past and on to the future, like Patti Smith and the Russell Maliphant Company,” said Marty Wollesen, ArtPower! artistic director. “We’re bringing back old friends, like the Pacifica Quartet and David Sedaris, who’s coming in January, and introducing new companies, like Staff Binda Bilili. If you really want to have a good time, they’re the ones to go see. They’re just so much fun, an incredibly joyful experience!”

ArtPower! has joyful experiences for film buffs, too, starting with The Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, Oct. 1-2, which includes classy treasures like the Bunuel-Dali surrealist short, “Un Chien Andalou,” and sci-fi classics like, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

And then there are Foovies — movies at The Loft, preceded by a subject-appropriate dinner — like the new father-and-son French chef documentary “Entre Les Bras,” served up with Salade Nicoise, Cornish Hen, and other tasty delights a la francaise on Oct. 4.