The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Soluna International Music & Arts Festival moves out of the Arts District on May 12 and heads to Deep Ellum for a one-night music and art and tech extravaganza at the Bomb Factory and Canton Hall.
Soluna is teaming up with Capital One to present Array, which will include art installations and musical performances by international artists paired with local performing arts companies.
Now in its fourth year, Soluna continues to evolve. Gillian Friedman, director of Soluna projects, compares it to Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival because it is always changing. The Soluna festival is three weeks of collaborations by international and local artists. Friedman stresses that the core values of Soluna are to keep it intimate and local. This year, there will be 23 events featuring 73 artists. Several events will have audiences of only 100 people, and more than half of the artists are based in Dallas.
One of the larger events in years past has been a performance featuring the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with high-profile national artists. In 2015, St. Vincent played with the symphony, and in 2016 Pharrell Williams, teamed up with choreographer Jonah Bokaer and artist Daniel Arsham to create a work that premiered at Soluna. This year, Array makes its debut.
"Array is one of four pillars in Soluna," says Sanjiv Yajnik, the Dallas Symphony's chairman of the board of governors and president of Capital One financial services. "Soluna isn’t just about one event; it is an immersive experience, and when you combine the other pillars — Music and the Brain, Passport to the Park and Musician’s View — with Array, you’re taken on a journey that engages all of the senses."
Capital One initially suggested the project to the Soluna team.
"The idea for Array stemmed in 2016 from our participation as presenting sponsor of Techweek, when it was held in Dallas for the first time," Yajnik says. "The mindset behind Array was to engage the tech community to create an immersive STEAM environment. Array allows us to bring art and technology together along with the rich music history of the DSO."
STEAM refers to science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
When Soluna decided to move outside of the Arts District, it chose Deep Ellum because of its rich musical history.
"The sister venues — Bomb Factory and Canton Hall — were uniquely able to house this all-encompassing experience," Friedman says.
Array is a two-part experience. Canton Hall will feature 10 Dallas-based visual artists presenting interactive works. The Bomb Factory show will feature four international musical artists across a variety of genres performing with local ensembles.
Hip-hop artist NAS will perform with members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
"Until everyone is in the Bomb Factory, we don’t know what it will be like," Friedman says of the collaboration. "The NAS show will be a NAS show, him onstage with drummer and producer and also a visual component."
The symphony musicians consist of a four-piece string quartet who will "adapt to NAS and highlight the diversity of NAS’ catalog," Friedman says.
British-Nigerian soul-singer Jacob Banks will perform with the Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts Gospel Choir. Nathan D. Myers, director of the music conservatory at Booker T., describes the concert as "a mixture of hip-hop and soul with an addition of gospel-style harmonies." Twenty-three members of the choir will participate. Myers says Banks' team is responsible for the content for the collaboration but that he has received clips of the songs and "will be personally creating vocal arrangements to complete the collaboration."
Icelandic blues and rock band Kaleo will be paired with the Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet, a company known for being experimental. Emilie Skinner, artistic director of the Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet, expects the performance to be beautiful.
"This is our first time performing with an international artist in such a large venue, and we are super excited," Skinner says. "Array is going to be amazing. I’ve been listening to a lot of Kaleo and watching their music videos to prepare."
Six dancers from the company will participate, and guest choreographer Giovanni Christian will work with the dancers.
"We are starting on choreography, and next up is choosing costumes, one of my favorite parts of putting on performances," Skinner says.
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The Mavs Drumline, known for entertaining the crowd and pumping up fans at Dallas Mavericks basketball games, will team up with Big Gigantic, the electronic music duo of producer and saxophonist Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken. Mavs Drumline spokesman Todd Jackson says he is a big fan of BG and he’s busy writing the drumline parts based on what the duo plans to play. They will put it all together for the first time in a two-hour rehearsal the day before the show.
The visual and interactive element of Array is next door at Canton Hall in an exhibit curated by local artist Erica Felicella. The work of 10 Dallas-based visual artists will allow viewers to touch and listen to art in what is billed as an immersive experience. Works will include a 360-degree virtual reality experience, a sculpture that creates a kaleidoscopic effect and a 3-D relief of a face that will allow viewers to overlay their faces onto it.
"We can only hope that this year will kick-start an event that will be bigger and broader in years to come and will involve organizations of all backgrounds to truly celebrate Dallas as a center of creativity in the arts, sciences and technology," Yajnik says.
Array is part of the growth and evolution of Soluna. Friedman says that Capital One expressed its commitment to see Array continue with the long-term goal of making Soluna into a household name like SXSW. Plans are in the works for 2019.