Baker Lights New York City Ballet’s Year of the Rabbit

By Nicholas Katzban/Special to 24700

CalArts alum Brandon Stirling Baker (Theater BFA 10) has designed the lighting for New York City Ballet’s newest performance, Year of the Rabbit, a collaboration between the ballet’s choreographer, Justin Peck and indie rock mainstay, Sufjan Stevens. The world premier takes place on Oct. 5 at Lincoln Center’s iconic David H. Koch Theater.

The ballet is comprised of seven movements, each representing a different symbol of the Chinese Zodiac. Baker has created a unique environment of color that complements both the music and the aesthetics of each of the chart’s symbols. “It’s safe to say that all his albums and compositions are extremely visual,” says Baker of Stevens’ work. Of course, the talented alum took in the totality of the project when configuring his designs, and after all, what’s a ballet without dancing? Baker’s lighting illuminates what he called Peck’s “pattern-based” choreography.

Year of the Rabbit, utilizes 18 dancers and a full orchestra performing a 30-minute music piece based on Stevens’ 2009 album Run Rabbit Run. Baker, Stevens and Peck all worked together on a shorter version of the ballet in 2010 called Tales From the Chinese Zodiac, which featured three movements from the album—itself a sort of orchestral arrangement of Stevens’ 2001 electro LP, Enjoy Your Rabbit. Baker has always been a fan of Stevens’ music. “[I] grew up listening to his albums, The Avalanche and Come on Feel the Illinoise.”

The 24-year-old will be among some of the youngest to ever design for New York City Ballet. Along with Sufjan Stevens, 37, and Peck, 25, who joined the New York Ballet as recently as 2009, one could say that Baker’s and their rise marks something of a youthful revolution in a very traditional art form.

“New York City Ballet is one of the world’s largest and oldest ballet companies that has performed works by Jerome Robbins, George Ballanchine and other legendary dance artists,” Baker explained. “I think Year of the Rabbit will be a great example of today’s generation creating refreshing new work.”

Watch a video of Baker talking about his work at CalArts.

NYCB promo for Year of the Rabbit, posted above.

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