January 2015 events calendar for New York City

Plan your month with our events calendar of the very best activities, including free things to do and our picks from theater, the arts and music

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Eric Konon
January 3, Sledding in Prospect Park

Our events calendar for the first month of 2015 is the perfect tonic for a holiday hangover. Start the year off with a chilly dip in the ocean at the Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year's Day Swim, enjoy pyrotechnics and chow down on dumplings at the Chinese New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival, or free your legs from the tyranny of trousers at Improv Everywhere's No Pants Subway Ride.

RECOMMENDED: Full events calendar for 2015

Featured events in January 2015

Martin Luther King Day events in NYC

Since it was first observed nationwide in January of 1986, the holiday commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has served as a reminder of his legacy to the causes of civil rights, nonviolent opposition and community service.

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By: Evelyn Derico

41st Annual New Year's Day Marathon Benefit Reading

Critics' pick

What better way to banish that New Year’s Eve hangover than with verse and good food? On the first afternoon of the year, almost 200 of the city’s best poets, artists and performers gather at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery and, one after another, recite their work to a hall full of listeners. Readers this year include Philip Glass, Eileen Myles, Anne Waldman and Adeena Karasick, and local shops will cater the 11-hour affair.

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The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church 01 Jan 2015

Under the Radar 2015

Critics' pick

The Public presents edgy new works from all over the globe in a festival cocurated this year by Mark Russell and Meiyin Wang. Offerings include works by Taylor Mac, Reggie Watts and Marie-Caroline Hominal, as well as Mariano Pensotti's Cineastas, Stan's Cafe's The Cardinals, Ikechukwu Ufomadu's Ike at Night and Daniel Fish's adaptation of David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.

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Public Theater Wed Jan 7 - Sun Jan 18

Royal Danish Ballet: Principals and Soloists

Critics' pick

Under the direction of artistic director Ulrik Birkkjær, principals and soloists perform works by August Bournonville, the 19th-century Royal Danish Ballet choreographer and ballet master. The pieces are A Folktale (pas de sept), The Flower Festival in Genzano (pas de deux), Jockey Dance from Siberia to Moscow, La Sylphide, Act II, Le Conservatoire (pas de trois) and Napoli, Act III.

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Joyce Theater Tue Jan 13 - Sun Jan 18

Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival

Critics' pick

Chow down on swine-centric plates at this honky-tonk bash, featuring live bluegrass and brown-spirits seminars with master distillers. Restaurants—including Tres Carnes, Mexicue and Butcher Bar—will serve pork-y plates like char-siu tacos and bacon mac-and-cheese, alongside a whole-hog roast. Drinkers can slug 20 bourbons—Evan Wiliams, Filibuster Rye, Cabin Fever,—and craft beers (Ommegang, Smuttynose) will be on tap.

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The Tunnel 24 Jan 2015

Free events in January 2015

Holiday Under the Stars

Critics' pick

Take a break from Christmas shopping and check out Time Warner Center’s state-of-the-art holiday light display. The spectacle features a dozen 14-foot LED stars that do a colorful “dance,” flashing more than 16.7 million color mixes in time to classic yuletide tunes. You’ll be so moved, you won’t even care that you maxed out your MasterCard getting Aunt Judy that back massager she’s been wanting.

Read more
Time Warner Center Until Sun Jan 4 Free

"Classical Nudes and the Making of Queer History"

Critics' pick

In an ambitious exhibit that's as sexy as it is educational, Leslie-Lohman traces queer art from antiquity and the Renaissance (think sculptures of Sappho and muscleman drawings by Michelangelo) to the modern era (including work by boundary-pushing artists like Del LaGrace Volcano and Robert Mapplethorpe).

Read more
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art Until Sun Jan 4 Free

Future Islands + Operators + Wing Dam

Critics' pick

Last March, Future Islands ascended from best-kept-secret status to near-viral ubiquitousness with a stunning Letterman performance of new single "Seasons." Fortunately, the eccentric Baltimore synth-pop crew—whose athletic, disarmingly emotive vocalist, Samuel T. Herring, is one of the most transfixing performers on the planet—was well prepared for its close-up: Singles,the band's latest LP and 4AD debut, is a front-to-back delight. These gigs should be a hoot.

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Terminal 5 Thu Jan 8 - Fri Jan 9 Free

No Pants Subway Ride

Critics' pick

If you’re looking to show off those sweet undies you got from Santa to someone besides your significant other or your cat, you’ll get your chance when Improv Everywhere’s annual prank invades the NYC rails. There are meeting spots in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens; from there, the horde takes to the subway in their skivvies.

Read more
Location TBA 11 Jan 2015 Free

Louise Bourgeois, "Suspension"

Critics' pick

The title pretty much tells the story: This show collects works by the renowned sculptor that hang from the ceiling, featuring her signature blend of figurative and abstract forms exploring themes of sex and death.

Read more
Cheim & Read Until Sat Jan 10 Free

Kara Walker, "Afterword"

Critics' pick

This is the artist's first solo show since her blockbuster public-art project at the old Dominos Sugar refinery in Williamsburg. On view are studies for the centerpiece, a massive sphinx, as well as the actual retinue of boys made of molasses that accompanied it. The creature's gigantic front paw is also included, along with drawings made during the Williamsburg installation that reflect upon the massive audience response to the piece. A large watercolor "interpretation" of J.M.W. Turner’s The Slave Ship from 1840 wraps up the proceedings.

Read more
Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Until Sat Jan 17 Free

Sun Xun, "The Time Vivarium"

Critics' pick

Landscape joins with allusions to Chinese art history in paintings marking the Beijing artist's first show with the gallery and first in New York in five years.

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Sean Kelly Gallery Until Sat Jan 24 Free

Chinese New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival

Critics' pick

Unfriendly spooks should steer clear of Sara D. Roosevelt Park on the first day of the New Year, when the Better Chinatown Society lights 500,000 firecrackers to welcome the Year of the Goat and ward off evil spirits. In addition to the pyrotechnics, there will be lion dances and decorations giveaways, plus craft vendors and food booths where you can get your fill of traditional delicacies. (It’s said that the more dumplings you eat at the celebration, the more money you’ll make that year.) 

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Sara D. Roosevelt Park Thursday February 19 2015 Free

Movement Research at the Judson Church

Critics' pick

Judson Mondays are here again. Pop by for a free evening of movement experimentation, curated by Neal Beasley, Bradley Ellis, devynn emory, Malcolm Low and Molly Poerstel.

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Judson Memorial Church Monday February 9 2015 Free

Music events in January 2015

Winter Jazzfest 2015

Critics' pick

WJF, a perennial highlight of NYC's annual jazz calendar, hosts its signature Greenwich Village marathon on Jan 9 and 10, preceded on Jan 8 by two kick-off events: a Jazz Legends for Disability Pride fund-raiser at Friends Meeting House, with big names such as Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Brad Mehldau and Jimmy Cobb; and a showcase for the current Blue Note roster at Le Poisson Rouge.

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Le Poisson Rouge Thu Jan 8 - Sat Jan 10

Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour

Critics' pick

Nearly 60 years old, the Monterey Jazz Festival claims to be the longest-running jazz fest on the entire planet—seems like plenty of cause to celebrate with a week at the Blue Note. Carrying the Monterey torch here is an all-star band featuring trumpeter Terence Blanchard, saxist Ravi Coltrane and pianist Gerald Clayton.

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Blue Note Tue Jan 6 - Sun Jan 11

Future Islands + Operators

Critics' pick

Last March, Future Islands ascended from best-kept-secret status to near-viral ubiquitousness with a stunning Letterman performance of new single "Seasons." Fortunately, the eccentric Baltimore synth-pop crew—whose athletic, disarmingly emotive vocalist, Samuel T. Herring, is one of the most transfixing performers on the planet—was well prepared for its close-up: Singles,the band's latest LP and 4AD debut, is a front-to-back delight. Expect this January show to sell out fast.

Read more
Terminal 5 Thu Jan 8 - Fri Jan 9 Free

Neneh Cherry

Critics' pick

February's Blank Project, the first new solo work from singer-rapper Neneh Cherry in nearly two decades, is a career-reviving, stereotype-defying exercise. Moving beyond the legacy of her 1988 single "Buffalo Stance," Cherry uses the album to experiment with electronic composition and explore the soulful side of her voice, both of which will be on display at this show—amazingly, her first ever in the five boroughs.

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Highline Ballroom 09 Jan 2015

Savages

Critics' pick

Savages first made waves with their scorching debut Silence Yourself. The aptly named postpunk revivalists follow it up with their latest release, Words to the Blind, a Dada-inspired “sonic poem” made with Japanese psych-rockers Bo Ningen. Dig the experiment or not, the band’s got brilliant tunes and a fiery live show—if you can get a ticket, you’ll want to catch this series of small club dates.

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Saint Vitus Wednesday January 28 2015 - Saturday January 31 2015

Sam Smith

Critics' pick

British singer-songwriter Sam Smith first made a name singing on Disclosure's super catchy "Latch," and achieved pop megafame with his lovelorn debut, In the Lonely Hour. Expect more than a few cathartic sing-alongs to tunes like the ubiquitous "Stay With Me" at Smith's sure-to-sell-out MSG show.

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Madison Square Garden 15 Jan 2015

Amen Dunes + Kevin Morby

Critics' pick

Amen Dunes, the tripped-out bedroom-psych vehicle of Damon McMahon, takes the stage in support of a new effort, Love. Also on board is ex-Babies frontman and Woods member Kevin Morby, supporting his latest stripped-down solo album, Still Life.

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Bowery Ballroom 22 Jan 2015

Billy Idol + Bronchos

Critics' pick

The man with the iconic sneer (no, not Elvis), Billy Idol hits town with a new autobiography and his first LP in nearly a decade, Kings and Queens of the Underground. Dig the new material, and expect to dance in a rockin' ’80s fashion to hits like "White Wedding," "Rebel Yell" and "Hot in the City" from the former Generation X frontman.

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Beacon Theatre Wednesday January 28 2015

Jack White

Critics' pick

Jack White's genius is undoubtedly bolstered by an uncompromising workaholism—evidenced by a long series of sharp side projects (The Raconteurs, the Dead Weather), collaborations (Wanda Jackson, Insane Clown Posse) and the prolific output of his Third Man label—as well a recent solo LP, Lazaretto, that handily sums up his patented roots-punk eccentricity. Hear White work his magic at this Madison Square Garden victory lap.

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Madison Square Garden Friday January 30 2015
See more music events in January 2013

Arts events in January 2015

Coil Festival

Critics' pick

P.S. 122, in temporary exile from its home base on First Avenue, schools us all in this sampler of avant-garde subjects, including theater works by Mac Wellman, Tina Satter, Reid Farrington, Okwui Okpokwasili, Phil Soltanoff and Brokentalkers. The shows are spread out at various venues (the Kitchen, the New Ohio, etc.), so check out ps122.org for details and to buy tickets.

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Various locations Fri Jan 2 - Fri Jan 30

Amie Siegel, Provenance

Critics' pick

In the early 1950s, a newly independent India commissioned Le Corbusier to design a city, Chandigarh, as a regional administrative center in the northern part of the country. The institutional buildings he created with other modernist architects were outfitted with functional furniture (designed by his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret), that has become collectible in Europe and the United States. Provenance, Amie Siegel’s slow-paced, engrossing HD video, traces this narrative of objects in reverse. Using long takes, ambient sound and no voiceover, she starts with shots of midcentury chairs, tables, stools, desks and sofas ensconced in tony New York apartments and offices, and on a luxury yacht. The images unfold in time through auction houses, photographers’ and restorers’ studios, warehouses and shipping containers, then back to Chandigarh itself, where the furniture lies broken and discarded or stacked in abandoned rooms in aging Brutalist edifices. Siegel’s work, as we might expect, has more in mind than an anecdote in the history of taste; the artist’s reticent recounting of the saga of Jeanneret’s unlovely furnishings reveals itself over time as a contemplation of the trickle-up mechanics of globalism. Lot 248, a second, shorter video, documents the 2013 auction of a copy of Provenance at Christie’s in London. Bidding occurs fitfully; the hammer falls at a respectable 42,000 pounds. Siegel neatly inserts her own work as a conceptual double into the same circuits that govern the

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art Until Sun Jan 4

Cabaret

Critics' pick

A decade after closing their hit revival of the Kander and Ebb classic, the Roundabout and director Sam Mendes reopen the Weimar-era Kit Kat Klub. Alan Cumming reprises his sinister-slinky turn as the Emcee and Michelle Williams plays nightclub crooner Sally Bowles. Linda Emond, Bill Heck and Danny Burstein costar.

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Studio 54 Until Sunday March 29 2015

"Classical Nudes and the Making of Queer History"

Critics' pick

In an ambitious exhibit that's as sexy as it is educational, Leslie-Lohman traces queer art from antiquity and the Renaissance (think sculptures of Sappho and muscleman drawings by Michelangelo) to the modern era (including work by boundary-pushing artists like Del LaGrace Volcano and Robert Mapplethorpe).

Read more
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art Until Sun Jan 4 Free

American Realness

Critics' pick

The annual performance fest pushes the envelope of dance and contemporary performance. This sixth year’s adventurous lineup includes pieces by Jack Ferver, Keith Hennessy, Miguel Gutierrez, Neal Medlyn, Cynthia Hopkins, Dynasty Handbag, Jeremy Wade, Ivo Dimchev and many more.

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Abrons Arts Center/Henry Street Settlement Thu Jan 8 - Sun Jan 18

Louise Bourgeois, "Suspension"

Critics' pick

The title pretty much tells the story: This show collects works by the renowned sculptor that hang from the ceiling, featuring her signature blend of figurative and abstract forms exploring themes of sex and death.

Read more
Cheim & Read Until Sat Jan 10 Free

Ivo Dimchev

Critics' pick

Ivo Dimchev presents Fest, as part of American Realness 2015. Set at an imaginary festival in Copenhagen, with the characters the performer, the curator, the technician and the critic, the piece explores the interplay of sex and desire in professional relationships.

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Abrons Arts Center/Henry Street Settlement Thu Jan 8 - Sun Jan 11

Grimly Handsome

Critics' pick

It is wrong to tell you too much about Grimly Handsome, Julia Jarcho’s superbly wicked caprice; it would be like warning Little Red Riding Hood about the wolf (save the girl, spoil the story). It’s much better to awaken slowly to the creepiness of Jarcho’s deep, dark woods, to go blithely into her Grimm landscape, which rustles with talking animals, smiling predators and language gone elliptical and awry.

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Jack Sun Jan 11 - Wed Jan 14

Kara Walker, "Afterword"

Critics' pick

This is the artist's first solo show since her blockbuster public-art project at the old Dominos Sugar refinery in Williamsburg. On view are studies for the centerpiece, a massive sphinx, as well as the actual retinue of boys made of molasses that accompanied it. The creature's gigantic front paw is also included, along with drawings made during the Williamsburg installation that reflect upon the massive audience response to the piece. A large watercolor "interpretation" of J.M.W. Turner’s The Slave Ship from 1840 wraps up the proceedings.

Read more
Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Until Sat Jan 17 Free

Sun Xun, "The Time Vivarium"

Critics' pick

Landscape joins with allusions to Chinese art history in paintings marking the Beijing artist's first show with the gallery and first in New York in five years.

Read more
Sean Kelly Gallery Until Sat Jan 24 Free

More events in January 2015

Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year's Day Swim

Critics' pick

Meet at the Boardwalk and Stillwell Ave, Coney Island, Brooklyn. Suggested donation of $20. Would you believe us if we told you a dip in the Atlantic is great for a hangover? Even if you don't buy it, cheering those brave—or crazy—enough to take the plunge will stir you from your stupor. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club's annual New Year's Day Swim welcomes hundreds of swimmers, without the benefit of blubber, underfur or guard hairs, to venture out into the ocean. Warm clothes, a pair of sneakers you don’t mind ruining (or surf boots, if you’ve got them) and the fortitude to actually go through with it are all that’s required to take part in the brisk tradition. Membership is not required for this dip, but if you're planning on taking the plunge, help the organization raise funds for Camp Sunshine, a charity that supports children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

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Coney Island Beach 01 Jan 2015

Holiday Under the Stars

Critics' pick

Take a break from Christmas shopping and check out Time Warner Center’s state-of-the-art holiday light display. The spectacle features a dozen 14-foot LED stars that do a colorful “dance,” flashing more than 16.7 million color mixes in time to classic yuletide tunes. You’ll be so moved, you won’t even care that you maxed out your MasterCard getting Aunt Judy that back massager she’s been wanting.

Read more
Time Warner Center Until Sun Jan 4 Free

Mobile Mondays! 45s

Critics' pick

Start your week with funk, soul, rock, punk, new wave, pop, salsa, calypso, reggae, rhythm & blues, disco and anything else that's danceable, spun (on 45rpm vinyl) by Just Blaze, Misbehaviour, $$$ Mike, Operator EMZ, Joey Carvello, Natasha Diggs and guests. This Monday is Gene Brown's “Super Producer Live Beat Showcase” featuring DJ Scratch, Spinna, Rashad Smith, Statik Selektah, legendary producer Easy Mo Bee and special surprise guests!

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The Bowery Electric Monday February 2 2015 - Tuesday December 29 2015

No Pants Subway Ride

Critics' pick

If you’re looking to show off those sweet undies you got from Santa to someone besides your significant other or your cat, you’ll get your chance when Improv Everywhere’s annual prank invades the NYC rails. There are meeting spots in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens; from there, the horde takes to the subway in their skivvies.

Read more
Location TBA 11 Jan 2015 Free

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