David Norsworthy on tackling two dynamic pieces as part of the SplitScreen program

David Norsworthy the newest member of the Peggy Baker Dance Projects ensemble talks about meeting Peggy, his love of dance and performing in SplitScreen.

1-Tell us about how you discovered Peggy and how you two came to work together.

aa_pbdp_davidnorsworthy_6204_fDavid Norsworthy

 

Peggy and I first came into contact when I invited her to attend a TOES FOR DANCE mixed-program production in 2014, which I was performing in and co-directing. We shared some time chatting and drinking tea the next week. The following year we invited Peggy to set an excerpt of her Piano / Quartet for the next TOES FOR DANCE production. It was such a joy to work with her in the studio — although our process was quite speedy! 

2- When did you know you wanted to be a dancer & why did you pursue contemporary dance specifically?

I aspired to be a film director in high school (I was theatre major at Cawthra Park Secondary School’s Regional Arts Drama Program) while I was training in dance at Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre. It wasn’t until I attended a summer intensive, at Perry Mansfield Performing Arts School, in Colorado that I decided to pursue dance post-high school. I didn’t specifically decide to pursue contemporary dance — my focus on it has evolved naturally, through a process of following my curiosities.

3- You are performing in two pieces for SplitScreen, the first being Yang, tell us about what it’s like sharing the stage with another performer while dancing a solo.

tqn_8008David Norsworthy and Ric Borwn in Yang

 

It’s like dancing a solo, honestly. I can feel Ric’s presence with me but it really doesn’t feel like anything other than a solo. Peggy wants both performers to operate independently in Yang. The sense of agency is invigorating to me.

4-Split Screen Stereophonic is a duet for a couple, what dynamics and patterns would an audience member recognize? 

ctr_0633David Norsworthy and Sarah Fregeau perform in Split Screen Stereophonic

Coming together and separating again. Negotiating space. Moving in the same direction and then moving in different directions. Immediate response to sound and touch. The audience will see compassion and listening through sameness and conflict through difference.

SplitScreen runs until Feb 26th at The Theatre Centre. Click here for details & tickets.

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The genre-defying composer Tim Motzer talks about his inspiration, creative process & and; upcoming performance with Peggy

The well-known Philadelphia-based guitarist/composer Tim Motzer will be joining us in Toronto and performing live as an accompanist to Peggy’s solo, epilogue, which is a part of the SplitScreen program. Following each show audience members will be up for a treat as Tim performs with a line-up of some of Toronto’s most talented musicians. 

tim-motzerTim Motzer

 

You work across so many different genres; jazz, electronica, fusion, hip-hop, soul, what inspires you to do so?

TM: I’ve crossed through many genres over my years as a guitarist. Living in Philadelphia has offered me a wide variety of playing possibilities. I must say I really enjoy collaboration and the idea of bringing my voice and hopefully something fresh to various projects that I’m involved in. These days mostly I’m focused on my own music and direction which is slightly out of genre and forging new areas of musical expression. The music on my label, 1k Recordings, offers quite a few examples of that.

You and Peggy are both working together on epilogue, a solo danced by Peggy and the music is performed live by yourself. How was this collaboration sparked? 

TM: I first met Peggy when I was working as an accompanist for her master classes in Philadelphia. I believe working together over the years created a dance/music simpatico that developed more every time we performed together. Peggy also heard some of my recorded music including Descending—an album I made and produced with German touch guitarist Markus Reuter, a duo collaboration with special guests BJ Cole, Pat Mastelotto, Theo Travis among others and invited me to write some music for her solo. 

Tell us a little about your creative process for writing the music for epilogue

TM: The music came from Descending. It was initially a duo performance recorded on a live radio broadcast in Philadelphia. Later as I worked with the material I contacted international musician friends to make contributions to certain tracks across the album. I consider it a very special recording and am still happy how the record came to be made. Peggy was drawn to this music which was expanded for epilogue. Further refinements and changes will happen during our run in Toronto!

SplitScreen (Feb 21-26) runs at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St. West). Click here for details & tickets.

“I want to see our community blossom.” Peggy Baker in conversation with Lucy Rupert on generosity, art and community

by Lucy Rupert

originally published at Blue Ceiling Dancer

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-3-46-28-pmPhoto by: Aleksandar Antonijevic

Early in January I had the new-year joy of sitting with Peggy Baker to talk about her upcoming show SplitScreen at Theatre Centre. A clear, crisp day of fresh month, Church street seemed cleaner and brighter as I headed over to the National Ballet School, where she and her company are resident, to meet with her.

Peggy was just emerging from Christine Wright’s ballet class for contemporary dancers (a program spear-headed by Peggy Baker Dance Projects), and we headed up to her office, lined with books and a smattering of gorgeous posters on the walls.

I have known Peggy for a long time now, but I still get a little nervous when we talk. The clarity and precision of her thoughts possess the same clarity and precision of her choreographic works, with a beautiful layer of warmth as well.  Wisdom in motion.

We started with a little chat about the New Yorker…

P: I subscribe to the New Yorker and what I really appreciate about that magazine is the volume of conversation about literature of all kinds, dance of all kinds, art of all kinds. Dance resides right in there with political commentary and science and cartoons…It’s really where dance is, part of the world.

L: It needs to be talked about in amongst other things.

P It stimulating, exciting, nourishing to read it in that way. It’s a struggle in this country for this kind of holistic view.

L: Speaking of a holistic view….I was reading about the program for your upcoming show…. What was the impetus or spark to put those pieces together…it’s a mixed program, but it’s not.

P: No, it’s not a variety pack….Well….The move to a new [theatre] space ….I did my first show in 1991 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, then for a while I was at the Fleck Theatre, then I went back to the Betty O. They are both conservative spaces, a really old format that’s very successful. Proscenium staging is amazing, like a fantastic sound studio.

There were pragmatic issues about the theatre, the main one is that it’s a teaching studio so if you are presenting there you have to dismantle your show everyday. My  shows have been getting pretty complicated staging-wise and the last time we were there, it was frightening to pull apart the level of technical we had every night….

L: And Theatre Centre, where SplitScreen is happening is an outstanding place. The leadership and values are apparent in the actual bricks and mortar there!

P: Toronto has been lacking a place like this for many years.

It’s important to me to try to find my integration in our community. We [the dance community] are at a disadvantage because we don’t have a central meeting place or presenters who champion local creators.  I’ve been separate because of the location of presenting my work.  Theatre Centre puts me in a neighbourhood that’s alive with ideas and images and activity and art.

So why did I choose these works….

Not presenting anything new was pragmatic as I’m working towards a very big project so I had to budget my resources this year.

I felt like one of the things that’s been happening and I’ve been questioning is the utter disposability of everything we make. I wanted to bring together works that I felt had some resonance with one another and were strong in their own right, with a good balance between male and female and in the Theatre Centre space to could offer an intimate experience with the performers.

I wanted works that require great artistry, that are substantial as a choreographic works and as I put them together a pathway through these works emerged….

Opening with a woman alone on stage. That’s how I’ve spent much of my career…You understand that incredibly vulnerable position.

L: I do.

P: Then to look at two men.  Ric Brown and David Norsworthy. Ric is almost twice the age of David…at opposite ends of their career arcs. They are thoroughly unique.  The material very available for David at his age and a triumph for Ric as an older dancer.

L: I don’t know Ric at all, but when I see him in person or dancing he has an almost angelic energy.

P: He is completely open, uncluttered.

And next in the program is Split-Screen. I really love Split Screen Stereophonic….I don’t know if this is literally true…but I don’t know that I had choreographed about intimate relationships before this piece.

Of the original dancers — Ben Kamino, Sahara Morimoto, Sean Ling and Sarah Fregeau–Sarah’s the only one I have this time. So it’s been really interesting and great to shift it so much. The chemistry is very, very different. It’s a kind of evidence of the strength of the composition.

I’ve set out to make works that are compositionally have the strength and flexibility of something like a musical score or a play so that it’s only the choreography. It requires artists to enter it and create performances. They are both necessary and strong: the composition and the performance.

Then as a companion piece to Split Screen Stereophonic, I made epilogue. So through the whole arc of SplitScreen we have a balance of vulnerability and virtuosity, a blast of a flip side with the men, then into relationships and then a lone woman again. A woman at a different point in her life than the opening woman.

Women who are dancers.

L: Women who are dancers. They have to be dancers….What made you want to return to performance?

P: I feel very in command of the demands of epilogue. It’s still very close to the bone for me. Until I’ve really completed all my personal quandaries around it, I’ll do it. And I’m not sure it belongs outside the Split Screen Stereophonic context.

Not every piece needs to go on. Some of my solos have relevancies outside of my necessity to make them, some of them don’t.

2-epilogue-peggy-baker-photo-makoto-hirataPeggy Baker in epilogue. Photo by: Makoto Hirata

L: I know what you mean. I don’t have the same span of career as you, but I’ve found already that some of the solos I’ve made, some of the ones I love to dance, the reasons don’t arise to do them again. Others do. They have more opportunities. It’s hard because some are really in the heart,  they were epic and hard to make and they may never happen again and I have to be okay with that.

It’s kind of  the flip side is the disposability you spoke of before.

On to something else. There is always something structural, architectural about your work….a description in your materials about “lines of action” struck me. It’s not about the structure sitting there, but alive through action. The structure is an emotional structure or one that can be felt, lived by the dancers emotionally.

P: I came to dance through theatre, so that’s my primary point of entry. Character, situation, relationship….something needs to be going on. We need conflict. If nothing goes wrong there’s nothing. Where’s the complication? the difficulty? the misunderstanding? And yet I’m pretty abstract in my way of going at it. I love the physical character of the work. But there’s always subtext. Motives.

Everything can’t be spoken for, otherwise there’s no room for the dancers to create, to be spontaneous. All those things that are available to you when you dance your own work because you can make those decisions and responses as you go– I am wanting to make similar situations for my dancers, to make work that always has room, that creates room for the artists.

Dancers want great work to be inside of….it’s that feeling of watching it and wanting to be inside it that dancers get. That’s great resonant work.

L: I have that feeling all the time, but I hadn’t thought of it that way. The movement seduces me,  because I just want to be dancing all the time. But I think it’s actually the journey that’s happening inside the movement that really grabs me. It’s the whole world.

P: It is movement too. And it requires a dancer. It requires an artist who is a dancer.

L:  It’s funny when I see plays I don’t want to be in them even though I’ve been involved in theatre for more than 15 years.  But dance does it for me because it is the movement. I am a bit addicted to moving.

P: SplitScreen is hard for me because I can’t watch this show — I’m in it. I can’t quite know how it functions in performance. Being outside the work over the last few years I’ve learned so much. But I can’t with this show because I have to look after my performance.  Once I hit the time for me to prepare for my performance, that’s it.

L: I haven’t figured that out yet. When I made a duet for Elke Schroeder and Sky Fairchild-Waller last year, I loved just watching, It was first thing I choreographed that I’m not at all in….but the twitchiness to be in …to dance, is still there…how many more years do I have, it whispers…

P (laughing): I don’t have that twitchiness anymore. That’s already made itself clear. I’m no longer a dancer but I sometimes still perform. I’m the ruin of a dancer. I could only be what I am now if I had been a dancer. Even if someone else could do the things I can do I’m not sure I’d buy it. I just know that all of that investment we make in our physical practice makes a different kind of performer.

L: You have sort of talked about this a bit already…. But how has your choreography evolved?

P: An accelerated evolution. I’m looking with incredible kinesthetic memory. From what I’m feeling in my body and what I’m seeing and the impulses of my dancers. Before it was my own kinetic impulses….I didn’t expect to be a choreographer at this time in my life, but I wanted at first to experiment with working with other people with the same tools I used on myself. After a somewhat lurching entry during which I learned a huge amount, something started.  My own drive to make took over. Before it was always self-exploration….

L: When do you feel that switch started to happen?

P: It happened when I came home from rehearsing with the dancers one day and felt really happy. I realized I hadn’t felt like this since I was really in my body.

L: So fairly recently.

P: The last six or seven years.

It was with Coalesce (2010)….it got me excited. I was learning, I was growing. I couldn’t wait to go back into the studio. It was the same feeling I had in my dancer life.

L: Since I had that mentorship grant a few years ago and you with me sat in my renovation-ridden house and you gave me some breathtaking advice, I associate you with generosity – resources, information, spirit. How do you keep yourself so generous?

P: Oh my goodness….well I’ve been the recipient of such tremendous generosity….I come from a big family. I learned how to share and take pleasure in sharing. I love being part of a community, a network that’s healthy and vibrant. The more any artist here succeeds the better it is for everybody.

I want to see our community blossom. I want dance to be a great milieu. It requires everyone to contribute to that possibility.  I want to do that. I want this to be a great place for dance. There’s some stuff in the way but we shouldn’t be in our own way.

L: I’m glad I have this recorded because I can listen to it again and again to feel re-inspired and rooted.

 

See Peggy Baker Dance Projects in the heart of the arts:

SplitScreen

February 21-26, 2017

The Theatre Centre

(1115 Queen St. West)

Adults: $30

Students/Seniors/Arts Workers/CADA Member: $22

Other discounts available through The Theatre Centre Dance Card

Click here for more details & tickets.

 

 

 

 

Peggy Baker talks Dance Weekend’17

2017 will mark the first year that PBDP takes part in Dance Ontario’s DanceWeekend. Artistic Director Peggy Baker talks about the two arresting solos that we will be presenting.

1- You describe solo from locus plot as a piece that “muses on the notion of gravity as an aspect of the curvaceous geometry of spacetime.” What drew you to mathematical equations as a subject to explore through choreography?

I find mathematics and physics extremely poetic; an incredible synthesis of abstract thinking and precise language. Our bodies are in a constant state of navigation in relation to gravity, and dance easily stretches and compresses time, so the subject matter arose from the art for me. 

ctr_0285-470x314

Photo by: Citrus Photography

2-on earth is an episode of Piano/ Quartet which translates the poems of John Cage into choreography. Can you tell us about the process of turning poetry into dance?

I have used text as source material for dance for many years but Piano/Quartet took the adherence to the text to a real extreme. I worked word by word – and sometimes letter by letter –  to craft individual movements as a response to the sound, shape, dynamic, rhythm or meaning of each tiny bit of text. It’s meticulous work.

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Photo by: John Lauener

3-You are both a choreographer and performer, but these two works choreographed by yourself will be interpreted by other artists. Tell us little bit about what that experience is like.

When I am choreographing for myself, all of my choices are made in relation to sensation – the way movements feel and how they work on me in the context of the subject matter and the music. Choreographing a solo for another dancer places me completely outside the experience of the dancing. I’m using my eyes. I’m empathizing with my body, imagining my own kinetic response, but the choreography is mainly an exercise in seeing: capturing an image in my mind’s eye, observing the dancers’ responses to my instructions,  imagining the possibilities offered by the movement, and anticipating what is emerging – what I want to see next.


Don’t miss our performance as part of DanceWeekend’17 this Jan 21st at 1.30pm at  The Fleck Theatre, Harbourfront Centre. For more information click here!

Sights and Sounds of “The Perfect Word”

We’re thrilled that Debashis Sinha is joining Peggy Baker Dance Projects again for “The Perfect Word”, part of the in/future festival at Ontario Place. Deb is designing both the interactive audio design and the video design for “The Perfect Word”.

How long have you been working with Peggy? Do you recall the first project you worked on together?

DS: I’ve been working with Peggy for over a decade and a half, first accompanying classes for her on percussion (I am primarily a percussionist) with her late husband, Ahmed Hassan. I met Peggy though Ahmed, who was a composer and accompanist in the Canadian dance community for many years. When I moved to Toronto he and I became friends, and he mentored me and introduced me to Peggy and modern dance, as well as many other musicians who have since become close friends and with whom I still play music today.

Debashis Sinha

If I remember correctly, the first major project I worked on with Peggy was a remount of Sanctum, which was a piece that she and Ahmed created many years ago. Ahmed had multiple sclerosis, and he and Peggy decided that it would be me that would reprise his role as musician onstage for a remount as Ahmed was losing his coordination and beginning to restrict his artistic practice to voice and composition. It was a great honour for me, and an extension of the deep friendship I had with Ahmed and Peggy.

Since then, I have collaborated with Peggy on many performances and compositions, as well as accompanying her dance classes at Canada’s National Ballet School for many years. I am very fond of saying that my collaborations with Peggy have made me the musician I am today.

What do you have to do to prepare for “The Perfect Word”?

DS: Peggy found an amazing book for me to make my visuals from – The Complete Encyclopedia of Illustration. I am combing through its thousands of public domain images to create a photo stream that the audience members can use as a starting point to think of their Perfect Word, which they are invited to speak into a microphone set up for this purpose. As the night goes on, the many words that the public speaks will be looped and will create a drone of sound that will be the main audio element for the installation, on top of the text that the dancers will speak in their various languages (which will also be processed somewhat and added to the soundscape).

How does a live audience alter your preparations?

DS: It is impossible to predict what will happen once the installation is opened up to the public. I have some good ideas, and have designed my audio accordingly (e.g. making sure the audio signal does not distort and remains at a manageable level, even with the many microphones that will be live during the night). But the great thing about sharing a work, particularly a work that will be built by the public, is that one never really knows what will happen, especially since I don’t have the ability to run the installation exactly as it will be on the night.

Sounddesign

Don’t miss the chance to see and hear Debashis Sinha live in action. “The Perfect Word” is part of the in/future festival, Sept 15-18 at tOntario Place.

Fides Krucker’s trip down memory lane…

We’re taking a trip down memory lane with each of the extraordinary artists from Phase Space. Catch up by scrolling down to the beginning with Sahara Morimoto, Sean Ling, Sarah Fregeau, Kate Holden, Ric Brown, Andrea Nann, and John Kameel Farah.

Fides Krucker

Which dance production/performance will you always remember?

There are several, almost all from the 80s. David Earle’s Sacra Conversazione set to Mozart’s Requiem in Banff, Margie Gillis dancing to Tom Waits’ songs in BC, Marie Chouinard and her L’après midi d’un faun with Debussy’s music in Ottawa, and Pina Bausch’s Cafe Müller in Toronto’s Ryerson Theatre.

Do you remember the first time you discovered Peggy Baker?

Yes I do! Peggy was dancing and Andrew Burashko was playing the piano. It must have been the early 90s. I don’t remember the name of the piece but I do remember a feeling of literal expansion within my own body as I watched her move. The breadth of her gestures and how she filled them and the way she covered the full terrain of the stage left a profound mark on me.

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Peggy Baker Salon (2015) Suba Sankaran and Fides Krucker. Photo by: Makoto Hirata

What’s your earliest memory of performing?

I got to play a large role with lots and lots of words in the grade 3 play. I don’t remember what it was about…I think I got the part because I was able to memorize these long speeches. It did not feel creative but I do remember my costume… an oversized green turtleneck over tights. I think it was my grandfather’s shirt! The burden of getting all those words right, and a feeling of being ‘caught in the lights’ when we finally had an audience remains with me. It is remarkable that I returned to performing in my 20s – though I seem to avoid words!

elegant equations (2015) Fides Krucker. Photo by Dragonfly Imagery

Which choreographer, from any era, would you like to work with?

I think it would be Rudolf Laban. The time and place in which he lived and worked (early 20th century Europe) is a period I yearn for, or fantasize that I might have thrived in. He worked with weight, space and time in a way that makes sense to me and feels compatible with how I experience voice and vocal creation. He broke with tradition in his own unique way as others like Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Kandinsky and Klimt were transforming music and painting.

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Peggy Baker Salon (2015) Fides Krucker and choir. Photo by: Makoto Hirata

For Peggy Baker Dance Projects:

Fides has previously collaborated with Peggy Baker to reconstruct and coach Ahmed Hassan’s vocal score for Geometry of the Circle, created the vocal soundscape for land / body / breath, which premiered in the Thomson Collection of Canadian Paintings and First Nations Objects at the AGO in May 2014 and was the vocalographer for locus plot in 2015.

Be sure to catch Phase Space, January 22-30. For tickets and info visit here

John Kameel Farah’s trip down memory lane…

We’re taking a trip down memory lane with each of the extraordinary artists from Phase Space. Catch up by scrolling down to the beginning with Sahara Morimoto, Sean Ling, Sarah Fregeau, Kate Holden, Ric Brown, and Andrea Nann.

John Kameel Farah

What’s your earliest memory of performing?

I guess my first performance was singing “Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers for my sister and her friends when I was five, dancing and playing air guitar on a tennis racket. If it had been in front of thousands of people I still would have been pretty uninhibited.

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locus plot (2015). John Kameel Farah, Sean Ling, Ric Brown. Photo by Makoto Hirata

What dance production/performance will you always remember?

The first real dance piece I made music for was a solo piece choreographed by Julia Sasso in 2001, danced by Heasuk Kim. The choreography was so animalistic and grotesque, yet beautiful; it really made a strong impression on me. The piano was situated above and behind the stage, and I will always remember the image of watching this contorted dancer slowly crawl towards the audience as I was playing, it was primal.

Do you remember the first time you discovered Peggy Baker?

I was at a show at the Theatre Centre with a friend, and she said, oh the next dancer is amazing, she’s incredibly expressive with her hands and has this overwhelming stage presence. It turned out to be Peggy, and it was a powerful experience.

1 Encoded Revision - John Kameel Farah and Benjamin Kamino - Photo Makoto Hirata

Encoded Revision (1996). John Kameel Farah and Benjamin Kamino. Photo by Makoto Hirata

Which choreographer, from any era, would you like to work with?

It would be amazing to make music with someone who coordinated dance movement in ceremonies or festivals in some ancient civilization, for example in ancient Babylon. It would be fascinating to see how the dance was put together, what creative freedom they might have had, how the dance interacted with the music, what kinds of instruments they had and whether it was improvisatory or completely pre-determined.

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elegant equations  – free lunchtime concert series with the COC (2015). Sarah Fregeau and John Kameel Farah. Photo by Dragonfly Imagery

For Peggy Baker Dance Projects:

John also performs Piano/Quartet, Encoded Revision, In a Landscape, Aleatoric Solo No. 1Aleatoric Duet No. 2 and locus plot.

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Piano/Quartet (2012). Ric Brown, Sahara Morimoto, Andrea Nann. Pianist John Kemeel Farah. Photo by John Lauener

To watch John improvise live on stage, join us for Phase Space, January 22-30. For tickets and info visit here