Eight-foot-long fluorescent tentacles stretch across the floor. A gold-lacquered ball gown hovers among gold chain links 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 this Thursday through Sunday at Miami-Dade County Auditorium's On.Stage Black Box Theater.
As they rehearse, the dancers form a line and then sashay back while right legs kick and fingers snap. They skip sideways and pop into a lunge before spinning forward on the diagonal and punch their arms 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 shortwave radio.
The dancers collapse. "It's great! It's like a washing machine," Miami choreographer Brigid Baker exclaims as they gulp air.
"The whole thing is about hope in the darkness and what it is that permits connection," Baker says. "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-size anatomic heart whose arteries and veins are made of 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 homemade film clips, set to an up-tempo dance music track. The clips show sequences of people climbing a steep staircase or rocketing past the Statue of Liberty with jetpacks before they end with a full-size 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 till 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 and 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's recitation of 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 embraces. 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.
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."
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Dancer Amy Trieger (Justin's wife) adds, "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 the eight-foot tentacles were the main prop of Remain in Light and that the centerpiece of All the Way is the velvet heart. "In Remain in Light, it was about the extremities," he says, "while in All the Way, it's about the actual organs and going to the core."
— Sean Erwin, ArtburstMiami.com
All the Way. 8 p.m. Thursday, March 5, through Sunday, March 8, at On.Stage Black Box Theatre at Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami; 305-547-5414; miamidadecountyauditorium.org. Tickets cost $22 via ticketmaster.com.