‘Beautiful Struggle’ to explore themes of race, gender and privilege

Photo by Nick Fancher.
Photo by Nick Fancher.

By Steve Sucato

The last time Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project visited the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, a dancer’s injury forced the company to alter its program and present a work-in-progress showing of Beautiful Struggle. This weekend, the contemporary dance company based in Columbus, Ohio, and Burkina Faso returns with the completed version of this thought-provoking dance-theater work. Beautiful Struggle “reflects on questions of belonging … visibility and invisibility, which are themes often revisited when delving into the slippery territories of race, gender and privilege,” says choreographer/director Esther Baker-Tarpaga. Set to an eclectic soundscape including West African rhythms played live, the 45-minute production combines highly physical postmodern, hip-hop and traditional West African dance styles with bold costuming and props such as a wooden table that stands in for a slave ship and a slave-auction block. Woven throughout are spoken-word recordings of anti-racism activist Tim Wise. Says Baker-Tarpaga: “I would like audiences to think about the struggle of living in a country that was founded upon slavery and how this resonates in contemporary times.”

Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project presents Beautiful Struggle, 8 p.m. Fri., Feb. 21, and 8 p.m. Sat., Feb. 22. 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. $15-25. 412-363-3000 or www.kelly-strayhorn.org

This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper on February 19, 2014. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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