In this essay, August Intensive instructor Fides Krucker (Vocal Exploration) shares her inspiring experiences with Peggy Baker’s work, her philosophy on vocal creation, and what students can expect in her class this summer:
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Andrea Nann is dancing In a Landscape – the music is John Cage’s and the choreography is Peggy Baker’s. My eyes are pulling me into terrain I have never experienced before. My breath suspends between thrill and relief.
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I have had the pleasure of sitting with Peggy in rehearsal for many hours working on Geometry of the Circle, in Vancouver and in Toronto; learning from her even as I plied my vocal trade in order to recreate Ahmed Hassan‘s musical score. I have felt her passion and her very open state of being. And I have seen her dance countless times and each time I have felt my heart and soul expand as her arms and legs stretch through time and space. I think I know Peggy and her work.
But now, sitting alone in the Betty Oliphant at the dress rehearsal for Stereophonic, my mind is having one of those barn-raising, rafter shaking moments. I am getting Peggy’s geography in a whole new way. Andrea’s interpretation of Peggy’s movement is connecting with me mentally as well as physically and that is allowing me to understand the landscape of spine and limb as beautiful, fathomable math. Equations with laws I can follow. My mind and body are finding each other…’reasoning’ becomes a bigger idea.
The visceral pleasure of this math is that it is so organic. I am really feeling how this language is indeed form, and how Peggy’s particular form can be filled by another individual’s life experiences.
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I don’t dance … I sing. The inside of my body is a landscape with very specific and mutable shapes, textures and feelings. My voice is birthed in dark but once it has whirled around within me, and moved out into the space surrounding me, it becomes light and that light resonates, is audible. It reaches into the listener.
What I do is not difficult. We all made gobs of sound when we were loud, little tantruming two year olds. But we have become socialized and our automatic nervous systems have become habituated coping responders to life’s many demands.
As an interpreter of new work I use my autonomic nervous system to bring a composer’s ideas to the stage. Sometimes the work is good and I don’t have to do much more than my job! Sometimes the work is very dark and it triggers powerful sensations within my body and my psyche, ones that might invade my daily life. Sometimes I have to make up for a work by adding more to it than what is there to keep an audience attentive. I have invested parts of myself that I could have kept for my own work and play. I have pillaged my own emotional geography.
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When I teach voice I use breath as a way to enter into the core of the body without prejudice – without letting the need to ‘perform’ get in the way. I ask breath and voice to exit the body without being ‘important.’ We identify with ourselves and then with others. Through profound yet mundane skills we begin to build a technique in which the voice guides us to extraordinary places…ones we can revisit regularly. The sounds are grounded in the body and in the autonomic nervous system in a way that includes the benefits of both ‘rest and digest’ and ‘fight and flight’ functions – parasympathetic and sympathetic working together towards ease, repeatability and sustainability.
I work with song to get into the architecture of emotion. The artistry within a good melody guides us into emotional places we may not know how to access on our own, takes us outside of our patterns. This builds our vocal repertoire for all sorts of sound making. It is fun to get into all the invisible, ‘hard to feel’ bits that a singer uses. It becomes less mysterious to do and yet it feels even more wonder-filled in the doing. Doing and being unite.
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I am back to Andrea Nann and Peggy Baker, inhabitation and expansion, heart and mind, body and breath … balanced ideas … movement that adds, subtracts, multiplies and divides … like cells. BRinging voice to life through the body is a part of the math that collaborates within us all.
In our five days together at the August Intensive we will work with natural body functions like ‘yawn’ and ‘sigh’ as well as bel canto (classical opera) techniques to learn how to receive air, how to expel air so that it does not get in its own way, how to engage with pitch as a function of the vagus nerve, how to connect with a variety of emotional states, opening our resonators and creating vocal building blocks. We will thread this physical learning into songs that I will bring in to increase our creative pleasure and understanding of self and other.
Fides Krucker has been an innovative interpreter of vocal music in Canada and abroad for 25 years. Her expertise in teaching groups has taken her frequently to Vancouver, Regina, Montreal, Tel Aviv, Zurich and Rome. This will be Fides first time teaching at the August Intensive, and the first time we have ever offered Vocal Exploration for dancers. Visit peggybakerdance.com to register.