The lights come up on the stage, illuminating a wall of boxes lit in yellow geometric shapes. A tinny chime counts the time until guitar riffs roar into the space, seeming to crush and crumble the boxes across the performing space.
That's when you first notice them -- the dancers, once camouflaged against the wall, now moving as one as they settle into place across the stage.
This spectacle is the opening of Duet for 11 or 17, a piece that owes its stunning choreography to Brigid Baker, a native New Yorker who has played a major role in South Florida's fledgling dance scene since she arrived in Miami.
For Baker, dance isn't just about making bodies move. She describes her work as choreography mixed with "environmental installations" that encompass the fields of dance, music, and film.
"The work is cinematic in nature, working with an orchestration of elements that are symphonic in delivery," Baker explains.
Trained in dance at Purchase College, State University of New York, Baker has traveled the world, teaching at festivals and studios across Europe and Latin America. But her home base is Miami, where she teaches at New World School of the Arts and serves as director of the nonprofit 6th Street Dance Studio in Little Havana, which she describes as "a gathering place for artists."
There, Baker leads dancers in contemporary classical technique, as well as Lightbody, a movement technique she developed that uses "holistic and quantum perspectives" to strengthen and broaden the abilities of dancers' bodies.
There's good reason for her performers to fortify their physiques; they're tasked with more than dancing. Duet for 11 or 17 is just one example of how Baker uses her dancers not only to execute choreography but also to literally build the sets as they go. "Everything is handmade and repurposed and nature-oriented," she says. "The work is task-oriented. Performers are required to do a lot, including constructing the environment."
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Challenging? Definitely, for performers and audiences alike. But Baker wouldn't have it any other way. Asked what drives her to create, she simply responds, "Because I must. Because it is there. Because I love."
Wanna see more MasterMinds? At Artopia, sponsored by Miracle Mile and Downtown Coral Gables, you can check out work by 2014's ten MasterMind award finalists and watch as the three Mastermind Award winners are announced. And that's just the beginning. Artopia will also include live entertainment by Bottle & Bottega, CircX, and Flamenco Puro; local art by Tesoro Carolina, Trek 6, 8 Bit Lexicon, Hec One Love, Ivan Roque, and Jay Bellicchi; and DJ sets by Main Event Productions, Phaxas, Golden San, Skinny Hendrix, and DJ Supersede. Other sponsors include Rums of Puerto Rico (Official Rum sponsor), Car2Go, El Palacios de los Jugos, Beck's (official beer sponsor), and Vero Water (official water sponsor). Early bird tickets are available through Feb. 2. Visit the official Artopia website.
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