Preview: “Beautiful Struggle”

  • Nick Fancher photo
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From the April 12, 2012 edition

As Esther Baker-Tarpaga sees it, the two words in the title “Beautiful Struggle” are opposites.

“The physicality that each of these words creates … always engages me as a choreographer,” she explained. “From [the] civil rights struggle to the current struggles both of oppressed people and marginalized peoples globally, there is violence and hardship.” And yet, she notes, “Love and struggle made possible the civil rights movement and many social justice changes in history and currently.”

“Beautiful Struggle” brings together the personal journeys of Baker-Tarpaga and her collaborators in the Baker and Tarpaga Dance Project, including her husband Olivier Tarpaga, D. Sabela Grimes, Abby Zbikowski, Dante Brown and Michael Wall.

“I am very interested in how memories of violence and love, whether it is personal or historical, are rich terrains for choreographic explorations,” Baker-Tarpaga said. “At the same time as my own personal inquiry, I have worked with each performer to create solo vignettes born out of their individual histories and navigation of race, gender, border.

“Each performer also comes from a deeply embodied Africanist aesthetic in their physical practice, be it West African, hip-hop or house,” she continued.

“Beautiful Struggle” also has aspects of performance art and dance theater, incorporating text from the white anti-racist activist Tim Wise.

“It works in the in-between places that are not so black and white and definable, which lines up with the shifting notions of identity we are living every day as we border cross,” Baker-Tarpaga explained.