The Walker’s upcoming 19-show season packs an international punch, with a special focus on the work of dance icon Merce Cunningham. Click on the thumbnails above to get a preview of the works in the season.

The Walker Art Center announced its 2011-2012 performing arts season, and this year, things are going global.

“We’re in a very dynamic, at times scary, moment of change on the planet,” says the Walker’s chief curator, Philip Bither. “I  think artists, who I think sometimes are viewed as removed from worldly  concerns, are actually really grappling with questions of leadership or the world at large.”

Case in point: Early in the season, Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula and guitarist Flamme Kapay will stage a dance-music-theater production where dancers writhe to live music and the poems of former political prisoner Antoine Vumilia Muhindo. Performer Staff Benda Bilili and his band will also bring some sounds of the Congo to Minneapolis for a performance at the Cedar Cultural Center.

In tandem with the Walker’s worldly approach, the upcoming season also continues its tradition of featuring a wide variety and inter-mingling of contemporary  dance, multi-media performance, experimental theater and music. The art center’s close relationship with the work of experimental dance icon Merce Cunningham, who performed at and worked with the Walker for 50 years until his death in 2009, will also be a focal point of the season.

“We hope over the next five years to open several exhibitions, this will be just the first one that opens at the time of the Cunningham celebration, and the first one is focused on (Robert) Rauschenberg’s work and collaborations with Merce,” says Bither.

Closer to home, the Walker also announced that this year’s Choreographer’s Evening will curated by “local dance mainstay and bon vivant” Chris Schlicting and includes an evening of music with Tortoise and the Minneapolis Jazz All Stars.

To see the performances for the season, including six new commissioned works, visit the Walker Art Center’s website.