Adam Baranello had been painting for hours, holed up in his basement studio working on his latest collection of work. “Rad,” a 1986 flick about BMX racing, played in the background, a longtime piece of his creative process.The artist was scrubbing the paint off his hands when he heard his wife, Gail, descending the stairs to sneak a peek at his new creation.
She found the large canvas propped up against an easel in the middle of the room—and it brought her to her knees. She collapsed, shaking and sobbing, overwhelmed by the image in front of her.
In his signature grunge style, her husband had painted a rocker with green hair on the right, with a purple-haired ballerina, on pointe, to the left. They held a red heart between them, with a thick Roman numeral “X” at their backs.
“This is the story of a boy and a girl,” the painting’s crude script read, “who set out to change the world.”
In that moment, their decade together—which they will celebrate on Saturday, August 16, during the 10th annual AJB Art Show at Hampton Theatre Ballet School in Brigehampton—washed over her. Ten years of dancing, art, fashion and music. Ten years of collaborating, creating and growing. And 10 years of a life-altering love.
It began at Stony Brook University, the couple explained over coffee at their home in Hampton Bays, in November 2003 at an audition for the dance program’s company. He thought she looked like actor Kate Beckinsale. And she was wasn’t even supposed to be there.
Ms. Baranello—then Ms. Benevente—should have graduated the semester before, she explained. Due to an administrative error, she was suddenly nine credits shy of her degree, and none too pleased about it.
“I ended up going back and just taking more dance,” she said, “which ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. It was such a lesson. I don’t remember ever being so angry, and my whole life has changed, because I met Adam.”
Their successful auditions hurled them into a whirlwind of rehearsals, six to eight hours a week. They became fast friends. “I think he really liked me right away,” Ms. Baranello said, and then hesitated. “Right?”
“Maybe,” he smirked. “One of the modern dance pieces, it was weird, it had pizza dough. And during the rehearsals, I kept eating it because I was starving.”
“And I was eating it, too,” she smiled.
“So we kept seeing each other eating it and laughing.”
“We thought it was hilarious,” she said over her husband, and in unison, they added, “And then we kept getting in trouble. For eating the dough.”
“So we just had that little bond: the two who ate the dough,” she said.
“That was how we became friends,” he said.
After rehearsal, they spent their free time swapping hopes and sharing dreams. He wanted to write music and create dance and art. She wanted to be a part of something original. And, so, their love affair began.
By May 2004, the dancers were a couple—“If he asked me to marry him the next day, after our first kiss, I would have said yes. But I waited eight years,” Ms. Baranello said—and planning their first show of original song, dance and art, which ran for five performances in Riverhead.
“It wasn’t even a demo,” Mr. Baranello grimaced. “It was like a really rough sketch. It was the idea. It was the seed.”
“One night, we didn’t have any lights, because the guy who lent them to us needed them,” she added. “But it was still our first show, August 2004—10 years ago.”
The couple, who married in September 2011, has come a long way. After years of battling doubt and rejection from major record labels, Mr. Baranello has sold thousands of his six albums in more than 30 countries. He and his wife have founded a fashion line and A&G Dance Company. They teach at local studios, camps and schools, carving out an East End stronghold while delivering the message, and brand, Mr. Baranello lives and breathes: Change the world.
“I’ve gotten it from smug adults—‘Change the world? How are you going to change the world?’” Mr. Baranello shook his head. “And it’s like, ‘Well, you’re talking about it now. So you just opened a dialogue.’ We deal directly with kids and we’re using the art and the music and the clothes to get to them. They say, ‘Hey, maybe I could do something original,’ and then they do it. And maybe they’re the ones who change the world.”
Whether they’re in their recording, artistic or dance studios, the Baranellos are changing each other’s worlds every day—forcing one another to think, create and use their imaginations. And, sometimes, consider what might have never been.
“What would have happened if I didn’t meet you?” Ms. Baranello said, turning to her husband. “I’m so positive now. Anytime something seems like it’s not working the way I think it should go, I always remember, ‘Well, maybe there’s another idea going on here.’”
“I try not to think about it,” Mr. Baranello said. “The whole dynamic of how our life works, it’s so cool.”
“You don’t want to jinx it,” his wife said.
Mr. Baranello took her right hand in his, and smiled.
“Right,” he said.
The 10th annual AJB Art Show, celebrating Adam Baranello’s newest album, “Grunge Pop,” and his decade-long collaboration with Gail Baranello, will be held on Saturday, August 16, at Hampton Ballet Theatre School in Bridgehampton. The art gallery will open at 7 p.m., followed by a live performance by A&G Dance Company at 8 p.m. Admission is $5, or free for guests wearing an AJB shirt. For more information, visit adambaranello.com.
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