At the age of 22, Brigette Cormier had already defied the stigma of being a millennial: She knew exactly what she was doing after college. After earning a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance from New World School of the Arts College in 2011, she opened the Brigette Cormier Dance Company (BC Dance Co.) in the heart of Miami.
Now, at the age of 28, she tackles the "millennial" label via the retrofuturist, contemporary dance piece Millennia, commissioned by the Miami Light Project for its program Here & Now: 2017, which will premiere this month at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood.
Millennia, a 15-minute work composed of an ensemble of five female dancers, including Cormier, looks back on the lives of millennials from the perspective of thousands of years into the future. But don’t expect robots dancing to the sounds of an iPhone alarm going off — the subject matter of her piece may be literal, but her performance is anything but.
“Once I decided that I had a basic idea for what I wanted Millennia to be, I really got to enjoy the fact that I work in the field of dance, and dance is abstract,” Cormier says. “Dance can be literal, but what’s so great about dance and the creative freedom that I have is that I can really range from purely abstract to extremely literal. And in Millennia, I use that to my advantage.”
The topic has been discussed and analyzed countless times in film, television, media, and print, but rarely through the medium of dance. By choosing such an abstract medium to broach the controversial subject matter, Cormier hopes viewers will come to their own conclusions about the topic.
“I really take the audience through a journey where they are observing some literal statements, and then slowly the literal statement actually unravels, abstracts, and then reassembles," she says. "This happens choreographically throughout the piece. I didn’t want to say too many specific things. I wanted to leave room for the audience to be able to make their own conclusions.”
Although her dance is abstract, audience members can expect to identify a few concepts throughout the piece, including the use of smartphones — devices that define millennials.
“There is one thing that is fairly literal [in the piece], and it’s about personal devices,” she says. “My dance questions how humankind will evolve or devolve if our relationships with technology and personal devices overtake our relationships with ourselves and with each other.”
One of the most common perceptions of millennials is that they're attached to their phones — so much so that they are known to often complain of neck pain or eyestrain from looking down at the bright screens of their phones for extended periods of time. Through choreography, Cormier visits the possible evolution of this attachment to smartphones and fantasizes how human bodies might evolve to adapt to these habits over time.
“What I did from a choreographic perspective is I took the basic posturing of someone on the phone and I imagined, How can I exaggerate this, and how might this posture evolve?" she explains. “Maybe thousands of years in the future, if we continue to look at cell phones the way we do, are we going to have hunched backs?”
Cormier not only choreographed the piece but also arranged the score. To make the most of the music, she incorporated sound effects and her own poetry. She says she took her poetry and fed it through an automator program on a computer that altered her voice to mimic a robot. During the performance, the audience will hear her poetry through this robotic voice.
“As you know, poetry is considered something that is usually abstract," she says. "So, for me, taking something that is abstract and adding an additional abstract component to reinforce an already abstract idea [is great]. I love working in the gray area. I love working in the nuance. We’re not telling the audience exactly what to think. We’re just giving them a lot of opportunity to just feel and experience the piece and not think.”
Although many contemporary dancers choreograph pieces around abstract subjects such as love or desire, Cormier feels compelled to tackle topics of sociopolitical importance. (She's such a millennial.)
“’Well, it's kind of funny to say, ‘I want to change the world, and the field I chose to change the world in is dance,’ but it’s true!’” she says with a laugh. “I feel like my role in the world is to create these dances and make this art that is speaking about life today. I’m really reflecting on and referencing my current experience of life. And in these pieces, I’m referencing some issues. I’m showing the audience the process of finding solutions through my choreography. Sometimes the choreography is a literal reflection of what I feel a thought process is. So [one dance may reflect] the thought process I might go through to try to find a solution for global warming. Do I actually find the solution to global warming? No. But if I translate that process into dance, maybe I can assist the audience in finding the solution.
“I’m taking something that really is a difficult issue, and instead of focusing on finding a solution or lack of solution, I’m just going to focus on the process that we go through as humans: dealing with life every day. I hope Millennia will expose the beauty of humanity that is within each of us. And I hope that, throughout this 15-minute work, what the audience is going to grasp is that we’re all in this together. And we’re all humans in this together. We’re all dealing with issues, experiencing issues, and we all have a desire to find solutions.”
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Although Cormier depicts the beauty and humanity of millennials in her piece, she also acknowledges the negative stereotype. “I’m a millennial, and I love myself. And I love all of my fellow human beings. And I think we’re all in this together,” she says. “But it’s true: The word 'millennial' and the context when someone says and speaks about millennials are negative. There’s a preexisting perspective. There’s a preexisting social definition that has been given to millennials that I feel most people know about. So I’m hoping that I can show another side of that. While everyone continues to define millennials as these [negative] things, in the end, it doesn’t matter, because we’re here and we want to express ourselves.”
Despite this, Millennia is not a direct reflection of her opinion on the subject.
“In this piece, I’m not really saying anything good or bad," she says. "I’m not working in the field of positive or negative. Instead, I said, ‘Hey, what if I make this piece in the place from 5,000 years in the future. And what if I’m in the future, thousands of years into the future, and I want to do a show that is talking about millennials. What if I’m thousands of years into the future and I want to say, ‘Welcome to Millennia. In this piece, we will be honoring the millennials from the 2000s,’ and then I imagine that it’s an audience of maybe aliens or people from the future, and they, how are they going to look back on our history on humans? And how are they going to remember millennials? So instead of having to define whether millennials are good or bad, I skipped over it. I went to the future and I said, ‘How are people thousands of years in the future going to look back at millennials?' This is why I’m able to give the audience a cohesive image of what millennials could or could not be.”
8 p.m. Thursday, May 11, through Saturday, May 13, at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th St., Miami. Tickets cost $15 to $25 via eventbrite.com. As a one-(wo)man show, Cormier provided for her dancers over the past couple of months. If you would like to help Cormier pay her dancers, visit generosity.com.