Things Get Disorderly with Baker & Tarpaga

KST spoke with Esther Baker Tarpaga of the Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project about their upcoming performance “Disorder Inside Order”, a striking and emotional performance based on the events that transpired after the 1998 assassination of Burkinabe journalist, Norbert Zongo.

KST:  What inspired you to create this performance?

EBT:  My husband, Olivier Tarpaga, is from Burkina Faso and he grew up knowing this story. 

The journalist Norbert Zongo was murdered because he spoke out against the government.  I’m an American woman but I’m still very interested in African music and giving voices to those who are oppressed throughout the world.  That’s an impetus behind why we wanted to tell this story.

KST:  How long have you been working on this piece?

EBT:  We worked on it in LA for a year in 2009-2010, including research.  We’re revisiting it now with a new cast—some new cast members, some old.

KST:  Are you using any music, props, set pieces, or special lighting and if so how will it enhance this work?

EBT:  We’re using the djembe (West African percussion), kora (string instrument), guitar, singing.  The cast also sings. It’s actually more like chanting or “demonstration-based singing.”  As far as visuals, we’ll use newspapers, which go with the context of being a journalist.  There’s really not a set besides these newspapers and some abstract images of the people and the writing, kind of like the “writing on the wall.”

KST:  What do you want or think the audience will gain from this performance?

ET:  I think they’ll gain some understanding of a history, of a cultural context, of socially relevant choreography, and of artists who are working in a socially relevant context.  It’s not just art for art’s sake, but rather the importance of music and dance in the African arts context and how they’re linked. It’s about communicating a message, not the color of your skin. Our cast is multi-racial. You can be from anywhere in the world and still learn other cultures’ dances.

KST:  How does this piece vary from others you’ve worked on?

ET:  In a lot of our work, there are themes of love, violence, and immigration.  And other works might address more the immigrant’s life in coming or the journey and hardship, the suffering and the joy.  Some of them are more abstract, like Glass Undone.  We try to have live music for most of our works.  I think that we make socially relevant choreography that addresses certain issues that we’re concerned about and that contemporary society is concerned about.  For example, race, migration, love, violence and some darker themes, like themes of struggle and social justice.

KST:  If you had unlimited time and resources what would you choose to create and perform, and why?

ET:  I think we would work with a larger cast of performers and have people paid more!  I’ve had experiences when groups of collaborators gather together and just feed off of each other ideas, which I liked.  Additionally, I’d like to create other touring exchanges for emerging artists or small organizations.

Baker & Tarpaga performs “Disorder Inside Order” on July 15 at 1:30PM & 8PM.

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