In the hustle and bustle of summer, the city becomes a jewel for New Yorkers and tourists alike. And from July 24 to August 12, Lincoln Center contributes to the excitement by hosting its 48th annual Out of Doors, one of the country’s longest-running free outdoor festivals, with three full weeks of multigenre music, dance, family events, multicultural programming, and more.
“Out of Doors is a place of discovery and delight,” says Jill Sternheimer, director of public programming at Lincoln Center. “Most nights are filled with a mixture of new artists and classic favorites. People trust that whatever they are coming to see will be world-class dance, music, or spoken word. Best of all, Out of Doors is free and open to everyone.”
The 2018 edition opens July 24 with a special audiovisual experience from multitalented rapper/producer RZA, founder of New York’s seminal hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan, who triples as a film music composer and filmmaker. RZA: Live from The 36th Chamber of Shaolin finds him live-scoring the classic 1978 martial-arts film The 36th Chamber of Shaolin with songs from Wu-Tang Clan’s distinguished discography.
RZA’s appearance is only the first of this summer’s film-related evenings. On July 27, producer Hal Willner presents the New York premiere of Amarcord Nino Rota, a tribute to the renowned Italian film composer best known for his work on the first two Godfather movies and several enduring collaborations with Italian director Federico Fellini. Then, Sun Ra Arkestra live-scores the ’70s Afrofuturist sci-fi film Space Is the Place on August 8.
One theme at this year’s Out of Doors is reimagination, with today’s leading artists creating reinterpretations of timeless works for new generations. On August 10, the Grammy-nominated Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band celebrates the centennial year of legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein with his take on the groundbreaking West Side Story score, incorporating twists of modern jazz, funk, rock, and traditional Dominican, Brazilian, and Afro-Puerto Rican rhythms into Bernstein’s classic. Ahead of the performance, audiences are invited to West Side Story: A Masterwork Reimagined (August 7), an in-depth conversation between bandleader Sanabria and Jamie Bernstein, writer/broadcaster and daughter of Leonard Bernstein, who discuss the West Side Story re-envisioning project.
Selena for Sanctuary (July 26) celebrates the life and legacy of the late singer-songwriter Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, a.k.a. the queen of Tejano music. The intimate evening will be led by an electrifying roster of genre-defying Latinx musicians breathing new life into Selena’s adored music, including Chilean singer-songwriter Mon Laferte; SoCal pop wunderkind Cuco; vocalist and musician Nina Diaz; alternative R&B artist Omar Apollo; songwriter/creative August Eve; and DJ and cultural activist Riobamba.
Out of Doors furthers Lincoln Center’s rich history of celebrating diversity and cultivating community by hosting unique, often marginalized voices within the arts world. The conversation continues at NPR Music’s Turning the Tables Live: 21st-Century Edition (August 1). Last summer, NPR Music and Lincoln Center collaborated on the publication of the groundbreaking “150 Greatest Albums Made by Women” list and corresponding live Damrosch Park show celebrating those very albums. This summer’s enlightening event updates the dialogue with a new generation of artists and includes a night of music and conversation with Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen, R&B artist and poet Jamila Woods, Americana supergroup I’m With Her, and more.
In addition, Iranian pop takes center stage with a full night featuring renowned singer-songwriter/musician Faramarz Aslani, rock/blues/folk band KIOSK, and Brooklyn-based psychedelic/garage rock girl group Habibi (July 28). OkayAfrica’s Mzansi Heat & Naija Beats host Nigerian Afropop superstar Yemi Alade, multiplatinum Afropop house producer DJ Maphorisa, and New York’s own DJ Tunez (August 2). The two-day La Casita event (August 4 and 5) hosts a community of artist-activists who will highlight the voices of those fighting for LGBTQ, women’s, civil, immigrant, and human rights through poetry, music, and stories. The Caribbean Cultural Center celebrates the legacy of its cofounder Marta Moreno Vega with a night of music and dance inspired by West African Yoruba traditions at Yoruba Remixed! (August 5).
“Lincoln Center’s mission is making sure that the arts are available to everybody,” says Sternheimer of this year’s diverse programming. “The global artists we present make us a deeper and richer institution. And it’s a wonderful dialogue we have with these artists.”
For those looking to cut loose on the dance floor, Grammy-nominated R&B musician and producer Raphael Saadiq headlines at the Damrosch Park Bandshell (July 25) alongside Brooklyn’s award-nominated Mudbound film composer Tamar-kali, who’s presenting her PsychoChamber Ensemble string and voice project. J. Geils Band frontman and songwriter Peter Wolf heads to the Bandshell on August 3.
Dance enthusiasts will enjoy a variety of events throughout August as two of the city’s dance institutions celebrate their 50th anniversaries: Dance Theatre of Harlem (August 4) and the Center for Traditional Music and Dance (August 5). From August 1 to 5, Edinburgh’s Janis Claxton Dance company surprises unsuspecting passersby with intimate POP-UP Duets (fragments of love) performances across the Lincoln Center campus.
For younger Lincoln Center attendees, Out of Doors presents Family Day (July 28), which includes family-friendly music and dance performances, including an all-ages, all-abilities dance class with the celebrated Mark Morris Dance Group; a high-energy performance by the 60-member drumline and dance team Marching Cobras; and a dynamic show by positive music and multimedia duo Soul Science Lab.
Out of Doors culminates with the Annual Roots of American Music Weekend: Americanafest NYC (August 11 and 12). In collaboration with the Americana Music Association for the fifth consecutive year, the series welcomes Lincoln Center favorite Mavis Staples, Grammy-winning producer and singer-songwriter Joe Henry, rising country star Margo Price, and singer-songwriter Lukas Nelson—son of country icon Willie Nelson—and his Promise of the Real band.
Collectively, Out of Doors celebrates the modern-day canon of American music and culture, which is today driven by diversity. The 2018 season also continues Lincoln Center’s dedication to multicultural inclusion in the arts—just as it’s always done.
“Anything American is a cultural gumbo,” reflects Sternheimer. “The canon of American music is going to have rivers of all the things we have this summer at Out of Doors.”
For more information, visit LCOutOfDoors.org.
John Ochoa is a Los Angeles-born, Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor.