brigid baker wholeproject goes ‘All the Way’ in March program
Amy Trieger and Isaiah Gonzalez in brigid baker wholeproject’s “All the Way.” (Photo courtesy of Oui Collective)
Eight-foot, fluorescent tentacles stretch from the floor. A gold-lacquered ballgown hovers in the corner among gold chainlinks the size of an arm. Every corner of brigid baker wholeproject’s Little Havana studio suggests an alternate reality seeping through.
On the dance floor, the company hones “Persian Love,” the final number of its March program, “All the Way,” which runs March 5 to 8 at the Miami Dade County Auditorium’s On.Stage Black Box Theater.
As they rehearse, the dancers form a line then sashay back, right legs kicking, fingers snapping. They skip sideways and pop into a lunge before spinning forward on the diagonal, arms punching forward.
They alternate between quick walks and sprints, complicated group rhythmics giving way to a solo as dancer Liony Garcia flails his arms over back-snapping backbends. The sequence wraps up with the dancers coupling up in a merengue grind to a recording of Holger Czukay’s 1979 “Persian Love” – a wild adventure in sampling that mashes a calypso beat with steel drums and the chant/lament of Farsi lyrics the composer captured on short-wave radio.
The dancers collapse, gulping air, and Miami choreographer Brigid Baker exclaims, “It’s great! It’s like a washing machine.”
“The whole thing is about hope in the darkness and what it is that permits connection,” Baker tells the reporter. “I’m not interested in the problems that are out there, but I am interested in the solutions.
“As Mr. Rogers used to say, ‘Look for the helpers!’”
She explains the new program’s main prop: an ottoman-sized, anatomic heart, the arteries and veins constructed from purple, yellow and scarlet velvet.
“In the middle of ‘Persian Love,’ the heart floats to the middle then hangs over the floor,” she says.
The program opens with one of Baker’s signature home-made film clips, set to Frankie Knuckles’ uptempo, “Take Me Higher.” The clips show sequences of people climbing a steep staircase or rocketing past the Statue of Liberty with jetpacks before ending with a full-sized killer whale kite-sailing above the beach.
Acting as counterpoint to Baker’s self-described “hack job” videos are slick, highly engineered media clips by Justin Trieger, New World Symphony’s director of new media.
In one Trieger-engineered segment – “All Night Long” – a black orb floats in a starry sky. During the Czukay-contrived soundtrack a voice scats/talks, “Got to keep moving ‘til the break of day,” and a sharp-heeled walk marks time. The orb gradually brightens on one edge to reveal the bright side of a gorgeous moon.
Baker’s choreography accompanies the segment. The dancers walk stiffly, straight legs on demi-pointe, then suddenly melt, bodies jazzy, arms swaying to each side accenting hip rolls, arms circling. Baker scats out the rhythms as the recording closes with poet Charles Bukowski reciting his poem, “All the Way.” As the poet repeats, “If you’re going to try, go all the way,” the dancers’ movements pick up the pace, the sequence half-walked, half-pantomimed to Bukowski’s intonations.
At the end of the segment, a gorgeous choir erupts with composer Thomas Ades’ Arcadiana 6: “O Albion” for string quartet. Forming two lines, the dancers reach, spin and drop, arms sweeping out. They couple up and briefly melt in an embrace. As a group, their weight shifts to the side and they float to the back of the room. Here, a video will show everyone, “getting it together,” Baker explains.
When asked where “All the Way” fits in with the company’s other recent programs – such as 2017’s “Big Beautiful” and 2019’s “Remain in Light” – dancer Garcia emphasizes the similarities: “I think there are different fields she likes to move in.”
Dancer Amy Trieger continues, “In this program, we are being asked to move between the fields and to take the audience with us each time.”
“That’s right,” Baker interjects. “Once the field has arisen, it’s my responsibility to practicalize it.”
Dancer Isaiah Gonzalez points out that 8-foot tentacles were a main prop of “Remain in Light,” while the centerpiece of “All the Way” is the velvet heart.
“In ‘Remain in Light,’ it was about the extremities, while in ‘All the Way,’ it’s about the actual organs and going to the core.”
What: brigid baker wholeproject presents “All the Way”
When: 8 p.m. March 5-8
Where: On.Stage Black Box Theatre at Miami Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami
More information: 305-547-5414; miamidadecountyauditorium.org