Brigid Baker Commemorates Victims of the AIDS Crisis in Big Wonder

Big Wonder celebrates beauty in dark times.
Big Wonder celebrates beauty in dark times. Courtesy Brigid Baker WholeProject
In times of turmoil and chaos, Miami choreographer Brigid Baker encourages us to see the beauty. In her show Big Wonder, premiering January 18 at the Miami Dade County Auditorium, Baker will take audiences through a journey of remembrance and celebration.

“In the end, there is only beauty,” remarks Baker, who runs her dance company Brigid Baker WholeProject in Little Havana. “I’m a storyteller and this is a developed feminine work. It’s a different perspective of looking at life: the feminine creates, the feminine organizes.”

Big Wonder consists of two companion pieces: Wonderlawn, which references the tragedy of the New York City AIDS crisis, and Big Beautiful, a joyful and celebratory performance. Both pieces will feature multimedia installations created by Baker. Wonderlawn will run first at 15 minutes. The evening will then conclude with the 35-minute Big Beautiful. “The two pieces belong together. Wonderlawn took me 35 years to create. It’s not a simple story,” she says.

Wonderlawn is drawn from Baker’s experience living in Manhattan in the 1980s. She describes the heartbreak that occurred in the creative community during the AIDS crisis. “In 1986, 20,000 people died of AIDS in the U.S…New York suffered the greatest losses. It was an invisible story. We went to 20 funerals in one year. We were burying someone and taking care of someone else who was dying at same time. We were losing all our fellow artists, activists, freaks, wild people,” she says.

Baker explains how the collective grief of the survivors was the inspiration for the piece: “I created [Wonderlawn] with enormous longing from those of us who remained. It was a tear in the fabrics of our psyches and hearts, and Wonderlawn tells our story,” she says.  “[In Wonderlawn], I’m carrying over the legacy that was skipped over as we moved into the future. There was a whole language, point of view, development of art, and a future that went away.”

Big Beautiful is a reaction to the grief in Wonderlawn. “Love can arrive after great loss,” says Baker, “and that’s Big Beautiful.” The piece, which has been described as “a surreal dance dream,” debuted in her studio in Little Havana in 2017.

Baker hopes that audiences can feel and appreciate the beauty in Big Wonder. “I hope their emotions are stirred and I hope they really are able to understand that we are beautiful; it is beautiful; and life is beautiful and precious.”

Big Wonder. 8 p.m. Friday, January 18 at Miami Dade County Auditorium, 2901 West Flagler St., Miami; Tickets cost $23.
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth