Review of “The Choreography of Light” by Brandon Stirling Baker presented by Works & Process at the Guggenheim

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Review by: Arden Greenspan-Goldberg, L.C.S.W, B.C.D.

January 20, 2019

I was delighted to join patrons and dear friends, Charlie and Debbi Adelman for “The Choreography of Light” by Brandon Stirling Baker at Works and Process, Go Behind the Scenes, at the Guggenheim Museum.

Brandon Stirling Baker is an accomplished lighting designer who has worked internationally in ballet, opera and theater. He is currently the lighting director for Boston ballet and the 2018/19 resident artist fellow at the Center for Ballet and the Arts in New York (link to his extensive vitae).

As I descended down the circular stairwell to the Guggenheim auditorium, a blue light enveloped me and the patrons. The auditorium was softly lit and blue as well. Mr. Baker was at once at work setting up a calming effect.

The panel discussion was interspersed with four different dance excerpts all playing with light. The theme: lighting sets the mood.

“Days Gone By” a world premiere choreography by Jamar Roberts, was performed by Sarah Daley-Perdoo, from the Alvin Ailey Dance company. The lighting started at her ankles, ground level, at the outset of the sunrise. She was the sunrise with her two expanding arms making arc-like circular movements.

As the sun rose she became enveloped in the white light. Moving to Sunset the light transformed to dark. As a sunrise and sunset worshiper, I so loved Jamar’s choreography. The sun rises and sets differently from day to day, season to season. That makes me very happy.

The second collaboration with Jamar and Brandon was “The White Light Variation” ( World premiere), a modern dance, exquisitely performed by Taylor Stanley, A 27-year-old male principal dancer for the New York City Ballet in Manhattan. It was danced to the music of Duke Ellington’s Solitude song by Ella Fitzgerald. I could barely see Taylor till the white light shone on him. The lighting was his partner. The question still resonates with me, What is white light?

The third collaboration with Jamar and Brandon, “Les Couleurs de la Danse” (World premiere) acoustic music by Mary Halvorson, was beautifully danced by Patricia Delgado former Miami City ballet principal dancer, currently freelancing and recently married to Justin Peck, soloist and resident choreographer for New York City Ballet.

Here I saw the passage of color blue-green-magenta-gold-white light, color mixing that set an ever changing mood. I adore Patricia’s dancing especially effusive with the red spicy magenta light.
Later on during the panel discussion, Patty shared how her partnering with the light affected her dance movement. She described how interacting emotionally with the light was like when a puzzle piece fits perfectly.

Last piece “Untitled New Peck”(excerpt ) by Justin Peck was commissioned by the Houston ballet, Choreographed by Justin, music for 2 Pianos played by Emily Wong, American Ballet Theatre pianist and pianist Cameron Grant, Pianist New York City ballet, left me hungry for more!

I saw two differently lit versions. One presented in white light, followed by the same excerpt in blue-purple Mauve light. This piece was more of a neo classical ballet. The three dancers were from Houston Ballet. Jessica Collado, on pointe danced with Chun Wai Chan and Harper Watters. I love the male dancers precise single arm movements at the onset. Once Jessica was on stage it became more melodic and flowing. I particularly loved the closing, how their heads and bodies melted melded and lined up perfectly horizontal. So warm, so sweet!

The white light version so much crisper while the colored light version more romantic.

Post performance:
I had an opportunity to talk briefly to Brandon Stirling Baker. I shared, I so much enjoyed learning more about light grounding dancers and setting the mood. He was more than pleased. It was wonderful to speak to a few dancers and choreographers, up close and personal. What a great evening to warm up on a very chilly Manhattan night.

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Works & Process at the Guggenheim
presents
The Choreography of Light by Brandon Stirling Baker
Jamar Roberts with Sarah Daley, Patricia Delgado, 
and Taylor Stanley
Houston Ballet’s New Justin Peck Commission
January 18 and 20, 2019 at 7:30pm
Works & Process at the Guggenheim presents The Choreography of Light by Brandon Stirling Baker on Friday, January 18 at 7:30pm and Sunday, January 20 at 7:30pm.
Explore the past, present, and future of lighting for ballet with visual artist and Boston Ballet lighting director Brandon Stirling Baker. A frequent collaborator with choreographer Justin Peck and a diverse group of artists including Anthony Roth Costanzo, Benjamin Millepied, Sufjan Stevens, Jamar Roberts, Michelle Dorrance, Emery LeCrone, and Shepard Fairey, Baker will present this world premiere developed through the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University. Inspired by the close relationship between choreography and lighting design, this program will feature an excerpt of brand-new choreography by Justin Peck for an upcoming Houston Ballet premiere performed by Chun Wei Chan, Harper Watters, and Jessica Collado; new music by Sufjan Stevens; and new choreography by Jamar Roberts performed by Patricia Delgado, Sarah Daley, and Taylor Stanley. New York Times dance writer Marina Harss will moderate the discussion.
TICKETS & VENUE
$45, $40 Guggenheim Members and Friends of Works & Process
Box Office (212) 423-3575 or worksandprocess.org
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue, New York
Lead funding for Works & Process is provided by The Florence Gould Foundation, The Christian Humann Foundation, Mertz-Gilmore Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Evelyn Sharp Foundation, with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Brandon Stirling Baker is a lighting designer working internationally in the areas of ballet, opera and theater. His lighting can be seen in the repertories of New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Berlin Staatsballet, Miami City Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Houston Ballet, Semperoper Dresden, Opera Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, Los Angeles Dance Project and many others.   Since 2010, Baker has been a frequent collaborator with choreographer Justin Peck of the New York City Ballet. Baker’s lighting has been presented nationally and internationally by major venues including Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Hollywood Bowl, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Theatre du Chatelet (Paris), Sadlers Wells (London), Maison de La Danse (Lyon), Teatro Carlo Felice (Genoa) and the Guggenheim Bilbao (Spain). Other international credits include premieres in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, South America, Cuba, Jamaica, United Kingdom and Canada. Baker has worked with a diverse group of visual artists, directors and composers including Shepard Fairey, Sufjan Stevens, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Bryce Dessner, Daniel Buren, George Condo, Karl Jensen, Marcel Dzama, Jason Hackenwerth and Stephen Powers.  Mr.Baker received his BFA from the California Institute of the Arts and studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, Scotland. Baker is the Lighting Director for Boston Ballet. He is a recipient of the 2016 Lotos Foundation Prize and a 2018 Resident Artist at the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University.
Works & Process at the Guggenheim
Described by The New York Times as “an exceptional opportunity to understand something of the creative process,” for over 34 years and in over 500 productions, New Yorkers have been able to see, hear, and meet the most acclaimed artists in the world, in an intimate setting unlike any other. Works & Process, the performing arts series at the Guggenheim, has championed new works and offered audiences unprecedented access to generations of leading creators and performers. Most performances take place in the Guggenheim’s intimate Frank Lloyd Wright-designed 285-seat Peter B. Lewis Theater. In 2017, Works & Process established a new residency and commissioning program, inviting artists to create new works, made in and for the iconic Guggenheim rotunda. worksandprocess.org.
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Michelle Tabnick PR, www.michelletabnickpr.com
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