A&G Dance Company: Original to the Bone

Artists-in-residence at the Hampton Ballet Theatre School in Bridgehampton
Adam Baranello, left, and Gail Baranello, the co-founders of A&G Dance Company, are performers, teachers, and artists on the South Fork. They demonstrated a piece from their repertoire, “Just Keep Going.” Durell Godfrey

From the original hip-hop beats aligning their movements to the movements themselves to the art on the walls in the studio where Adam and Gail Baranello train and teach, right down to some of the clothing they wear, their film projects, and live events, everything is all their own.

The Baranellos, co-founders of the A&G Dance Company, an alternative dance troupe, are performers and dance teachers who are also creators in other media, and they bring all of that to their classes and productions. They are artists-in-residence at the Hampton Ballet Theatre School in Bridgehampton.

“We create original content that we use as tools to communicate our methods and techniques,” Mr. Baranello said. “The methods and techniques are designed to encourage people to find their own authentic voice as a mover and artist and maybe even more importantly as a person.” The message: That every person has the ability to change the world in some way.

Ms. Baranello trained in ballet, jazz, tap, and other styles from the age of 3 and eventually became part of a traveling team that dominated on the East Coast competitive dance circuit. She has also acted in independent film projects and regional community theater. Mr. Baranello was an athlete first, but began pursuing the arts while in high school. They met as students in the fine arts program at Stony Brook University and now live in Hampton Bays.

The A&G Dance Company itself has its roots in a 2004 showcase they produced through the East End Arts Council. It was a year after Mr. Baranello started his own multimedia production company, AJB Productions, through which he makes his own music, clothing, art, and films. A&G Dance Company puts on two live dance shows per year, transforming the Hampton Ballet Theatre School’s studio into an edgy performance space. The next event, which includes a fashion show, is on Saturday at 7 p.m.

It all fits together. Mr. Baranello’s paintings form the backdrop to the choreography, and he has even sung some of his songs live as the company danced alongside him. Many of the T-shirts he designs reflect the imagery in his art, which is represented by the Polaris Art Gallery and has been shown at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory, Wallace Hall, and the Manhattan Vintage Show at the Metropolitan Pavilion. Mr. Baranello has produced six albums of music, many of which feature his wife’s vocals. Last year, he released the film “Dead End,” about a trio of deceased performers whose lives and relationships are seen through flashbacks. Another film, which also includes dance elements, is in the works. Ms. Baranello appears in both.

The husband-and-wife duo frequently make professional guest appearances in the shows produced by the Hampton Ballet Theatre School, including its recent production of the ballet “Coppelia.” They are tireless teachers, with town-sponsored recreational classes in Riverhead and Southampton, and school-based programs in Hampton Bays, East Quogue, the Country School in Wainscott, and the Hayground School in Bridgehampton. They teach hip-hop, contemporary, jazz, and tap at the Hampton Ballet Theatre School, and are particularly adored by kids at Project Most, the after-school program at the Springs and John M. Marshall Elementary Schools.

“Every time you perform, you kind of grow as a dancer, and then you have more to share with the students,” Ms. Baranello said, “and every time you teach, you just get inspired by the kids to push yourself more and bring more to the table.”

Sara Jo Strickland, the founder and director of the Hampton Ballet Theatre School, said the A&G Dance Company adds a lot to her studio. “Adam and Gail bring the young energy of pop culture and contemporary dance, and they’re on the pulse of what the kids are looking at and doing and learning,” Ms. Strickland said. “They’re great. They are very strong and focused.”

On a recent afternoon, outfitted in some of Mr. Baranello’s original T-shirts, the two dancers performed a hip-hop piece from their repertoire for a couple of visitors. Titled “Just Keep Going,” the lyrics go like this: “There comes a time where we get lost, torn up, beaten down, broken. What matters is that we just keep going.” Their movements are big and small, fast and tight, and convey a lot of angst. Think survival of the fittest, set to original music. It is hip-hop with more of a contemporary dance feel, rather than the street-smart style often seen on TV or in pop music videos.

The A&G brand of dance is hard to place into one overall genre because the inspiration for the choreography is drawn from a number of sources. It’s fair to say the Baranellos are like the East End’s own NappyTabs. That’s a reference to Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo, the Emmy Award-winning choreographers of “So You Think You Can Dance” fame, who also met in college, have also designed their own line of clothing, and often mix and match different styles of dance.

The Baranellos say they are doing exactly what they pictured themselves doing when they set out more than a decade ago as a fledgling dance company. 

“All the things we wanted to happen are happening,” Mr. Baranello said. “We made the choice to settle out here, create in the community in which we live, and give it something original, independent, and unique. And so far, we’ve felt there is an appreciation for it.”