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Alliance Française’s Crossing the Line Festival says “oui” to the avant-garde

Written by
Helen Shaw

Fall brings us a glorious glut of artistic offerings. Where to look? What to do? If only someone with impeccable taste would put together a tasting menu! Zut alors, New York: It’s time for French Alliance Alliance Francaise (FIAF) to throw its yearly Crossing the Line Festival and satisfy that very need. The festival interprets its brief liberally. There are French and Francophone artists, of course, but the programmers (FIAF's Lili Chopra, Dancing in the Street's Simon Dove and Bard College Fisher Center’s Gideon Lester) think outside la boîte as well. Consider it a glorious curatorial march through Europe with a fuzzy attitude towards borders. Napoleon certainly would!

Recommended: The 20 best fall shows to see on Broadway and beyond

First among equals in the offerings this year is Romeo Castellucci's discombobulatingdeconstruction Julius Caesar. Spared Parts. (Sept 30–Oct 2, Federal Hall) This, if you can believe it, is the first time the Italian theatrical titan is being produced in New York. Those of us who love his extraordinary creations (Castellucci's work is as much living sculpture as it is theater) have been gamely trekking out to Montclair State University’s Peak Performances series or to Philadelphia for years to see his works—and we've been getting our minds blown in the process. Now, at long last, our own little burg plays host.

Also in the “don't miss” category on the theatrical side: Dickie Beau brings his lipsynch-drag bouffon Blackouts (Oct 6–Oct 15, Abrons Arts Center), and the influential British troupe Forced Entertainment returns to New York, their first visit since leader Tim Etchells won the Spalding Gray Award. They'll present the poignant comic meditation Tomorrow's Parties (Sept 28–Oct 1, Florence Gould Hall), while Etchell's multichannel film Eyes Looking will take over Times Square video billboards every October night from 11:57pm to midnight. His work will be the film that isn't a dancing M&M.

This year is also something of a celebration for the choreographer Jérôme Bel—synergy among venues means that there's actually a mini Bel festival ringing alongside the larger one. Major pieces appear, including his Bessie Award–winning, silly-sweet The Show Must Go On (Oct 20–Oct 22, The Joyce Theater); a remounting of the 1995 minimalist masterwork Jérôme Bel (Oct 27–Oct 29, The Kitchen); and a screening of his film Veronique Doisneau (Oct 17, Florence Gould Hall.)TheFestival has also commissioned Artist’s Choice: MoMA Dance Company (Oct 27–Oct 31, MoMA Atrium) to be performed by two dozen of the Museum of Modern Art's normally non-dancing staff.

The other dance offerings are also impressive, but we particularly recommend Maria Hassabi's Staged (Oct 4–8, The Kitchen), since it features a solo by the mesmerizing Hristoula Harakas.  Hassabi's piece runs a few weeks, so you've got a good chance at getting in. Elsewhere, though, you'll notice Crossing the Line runs are often shockingly short. To have a chance of finding tickets, you must leap into action, knocking down the other culture nuts in your way. Certainly this is some of the most exciting programming happening this fall. So—vite vite, performance lovers! Allons-y!

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