How This Designer Shapes What Audiences See Onstage
He may not be a household name, but you probably know Brandon Stirling Baker's work. The 30-year-old has designed the lighting for most of Justin Peck's ballets—including Heatscape for Miami City Ballet, and the edgy The Times Are Racing for New York City Ballet—but also Jamar Roberts' new Members Don't Get Weary at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a trio of Martha Graham duets for L.A. Dance Project.
He's been fascinated by lighting ever since he attended a public performing arts middle school in Sherman Oaks, California, where he had his first experiences lighting shows. He also has a background in music (he plays guitar and bass) and in drawing. Both, he says, are central to the way he approaches lighting dance.
Creating The Right Space
Justin Peck's Everywhere We Go. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy Baker
"Lighting helps to create the point of view in dance. We have so much control over how an audience can see a piece. It can create something that's very human and very real. I create space for the dance to live in."
"Jerome Robbins' Glass Pieces is one of the reasons I became a lighting designer. That piece really captures the use of space; from the moment the curtain rises there's this beautiful white space, like a breath of fresh air. I knew, when I saw that, that's what I want to strive for."
Painting With Light
Ailey dancers in Jamar Roberts' Members Don't Get Weary. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy Baker
"At CalArts, I spent an enormous amount of time in life drawing classes, visual composition classes, animation, music. As a lighting designer, you study visual composition and color theory the same way a painter would."
Collaborating With Choreographers
San Francisco Ballet in Justin Peck's In The Countenance of Kings. Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy Baker
"You learn a lot about how choreographers think, what they like in their work, what they like in life. I learn the most about lighting a work by hearing a choreographer speak to their dancers."
"Almost a year in advance, we start thinking about, What is the world of this piece?"
"I always ask every choreographer, 'What is white light in this piece? Is it warm? Is it cool? Is it like hospital white?' "
How His Job Has Changed Him
New York City Ballet in Justin Peck's Rodeo. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy Baker
"I see color differently now. When I listen to music, I think, Is there color in this? Is there enough color that I don't need to add onto that, that I can just support it?"
Dance May Be Behind—But That's Okay
Tiler Peck and New York City Ballet in Justin Peck's The Times Are Racing. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy Baker
"I was just in Las Vegas at a lighting convention. We got to see a lot of technology and how it's used in other art forms. And dance is a little bit behind. But I'm not really driven by technology. I happen to work with tools that are technical, but I don't think of myself as a technical artist."
"I don't ever try to make it into a light show. I feel like it's the most successful when you don't really notice the lighting."
When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (Okay, maybe more excited.)
This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
If you're seeking an extra dash of inspiration to start the new season on the right—dare we say—foot, look no further than dance documentaries.
Starting August 23, OVID, a streaming service dedicated to docs and art-house films, is adding eight notable dance documentaries to its library. The best part? There's a free seven-day trail. (After that, subscriptions are $6.99 per month or $69.99 annually.)
From the glamour of Russian ballet stars to young dancers training in Cuba to a portrait of powerhouse couple Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder, here's what's coming to a couch near you: