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.
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.