Dec. 21 marks the start of a whole new season.
It's the beginning of winter for the northern hemisphere, of course, but at the Ringling Museum of Art it's also the beginning of a bold new three-month program of performances.
A few weeks back, Ringling officials announced a new series called "nowHERE," which runs from solstice to equinox -- Dec. 21 to March 22 -- and features 17 live performances and more than 100 contemporary artists.
Some of the events are rather nontraditional, so the Ringling people are referring to them as "encounters."
"It's pretty ambitious," said Dwight Currie, the museum's curator of performance. "You can use all the dumb words, you can call it multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary -- I don't know what the difference is --- but it's really about engagement, about becoming engaged with the artist."
"NowHERE" is pronounced "now, here," to emphasize that all these encounters are unique to their time and place. Obviously, a reference "nowhere" is intended by the title, apparently signifying that these pieces also transport their artists and audiences to transcendent and indefinable realms.
It all gets going at 7 p.m. Saturday when the Ringling hosts a winter solstice celebration titled "Greet the Light."
It's bound to be artsy, but it's essentially a party in the museum, with music by DJ Imminent, and food and drinks available for purchase. Tickets are $15.
There are some lectures and other "nowHERE" events in the following weeks, but the first major performance is next month. Meklit Hadero is a cabaret singer know for her blend of jazz, soul and folk music. You may have seen her perform at the Ringling International Arts Festival in 2011. Her shows are at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23-25 in the Historic Asolo Theater.
Starting Jan. 31, is a gallery exhibition by new media artist R. Luke DuBois, who integrates fimmaking, computer data and original music into his art.
During the run of the gallery show, DuBois will collaborate with other contemporary artists for a series of performances.
The first, on Feb. 27, features Lesley Flanigan in a piece titled "Bioluminescence," with Flanigan's voice remixed by DuBois in visual and audio presentation. Violinist Todd Reynolds joins DuBois on April 17 for "Moments of Inertia," written for amplified violin and video.
Composer Bora Yoon and DuBois will present "Phonation" on May 1. "Phonation" features a multi-instrumental performance by Yoon combined with camera-based projections by DuBois.
Lostwax Multimedia Dance's "Particular," at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6-8 in the Historic Asolo Theater blends ballet, hip-hop, jazz and modern dance with computer graphic projections.
Robert Mirabal was inspired by the Pueblo traditions that surrounded him in his hometown of Taos, N.M., to write "Music of the Sun," a collaboration with the string quartet Ethel. The program includes original compositions by Mirabal and arrangements of ancient Native American music performed by the quartet and accompanied by Native American flute and percussion. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20-22 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 22 in the Historical Asolo Theater.To create "No Hero," director Alex Ketley filmed a series of discussions with people in rural communities in the western United States about their relationship to dance. The performance includes a video presentation of Ketley's journey combined with a live dance performance from a group called the That's set for 7:30 p.m. March 6-8 in the Historic Asolo Theater.
"nowHERE" concludes with John Luther Adams' "Inuksuit," a musical work for up to 99 percussionists playing on instruments including drums, maracas, gongs, sirens, air horns and conch shells.
The audience and the 99 performers all intermingles in the outdoor space, so each audience member ends up with a different sonic and visual experience.
One intent of "nowHERE," Currie said, is to offer works that transcend genre and categorization.
Since genre and categorization have always been fundamental to the museum tradition, some people may see the series as risky, even inappropriate, for a museum that built its reputation on traditional visual art.
Currie, though, sees it as a natural extension of the museum's mission to present a well-rounded art experience.
"The great thing about doing this as a museum is that we don't have to lose anything," he said. "If a performing arts company takes a new direction, they have to stop doing what they had been doing. For us this is just an enhancement."
For tickets and other information about any of the "nowHERE" events, go to www.ringling.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.