Category Archives: Community Events

move in Kingston

In August, Peggy spent a week in Kingston at the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning, working with 16 local performers on move – a dance installation that distills and illuminates fundamental dualities of caregiving and also of dance practice.

Cast: Fenella Baptista, Betsy Collin, Sam Crosby, Meredith Dault, Mary Farrar, Tracey Guptill, Jane Kirby, Julia Krolik, Sue Livesey, Asia Matthews, Jennifer Rees, Mark Reinhart, Kim Renders, Greg Tilson, Tammy Wang.

Following their final performance of move, we asked a few of the participants some questions about their experience.

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Kingston cast of move. Photo by Paul Webster.

What motivated you to participate in this project?
Mark Reinhart: Getting the opportunity to work with Peggy.  Her reputation precedes her, and I wanted to take advantage of a chance to work with her.  Also, after researching the project and its intentions, I wanted to suture myself to the community that was to be created, and experience the meditative activity of being cared for, and caring for others.

What was the rehearsal process like for move?
Mary Farrar: The rehearsal process was incredible.  I loved the warm-ups and the moves that were completely new for me – the crescent roll for example. Muscles I had never really used before were awakened.  At first, I couldn’t sleep at night because my body was so excited by the experience.  Working with a partner also opened a new world for me.  Peggy is so conscious of each dancer’s strengths, weaknesses and style and she pairs people expertly.  The slow gentle style of movement that she revels in is one that I found personally exhilarating. Also the theme of caring and being cared for is deeply moving.  The emphasis on different spatial orientations was a bit scary as I have difficulties finding my way on the street.  I truly needed the guidance of my partner to help me know which directions to move – especially as the dance itself is re-performed facing all four directions.  Meredith was a perfect partner for me.  Watching each dancer develop and integrate with their partners over the course of the week was deeply meaningful.

What was the rehearsal process like for move?
Sam Crosby: It was JUST the right amount of time to hone our skills as a collaborative “vehicle”

Photo by Paul Webster

Asia Matthews & Sue Livesey. Photo by Paul Webster.

 

How do you think this experience changed your outlook on dance? Or has it?
Mary Farrar: I have come to appreciate the essence of Contemporary Dance and also the contemporary performance focus on personal growth and expression.

Were there any unexpected outcomes as a result of your participation in move?  
Mary Farrar: Actually, as a result of concentrating so much on sharing space lovingly with others, I am driving my car differently!  I now see driving as a form of dance where cars share space and accommodate one another.  Perhaps experiences like this could help those who suffer from Road Rage? HaHa.

Photo by Paul Webster

Jane Kirby & Sam Crosby. Photo by Paul Webster.

What’s your favourite moment from move, and can you describe it? Mark Reinhart: My dance partner in this piece came to the work with a loaded suitcase.  He almost did not participate.  Knowing this, I encouraged him to stay, and after we were paired, I realised that perhaps it was my role in this piece to look out for him, in many ways.  The moment before the performance, he expressed his appreciation for the space we created together, particularly in terms of his personal trajectory to the work.  Then, he asked me to tell him something vulnerable about myself, something that not many people know, so that he could have further insight as to how he could care for me.

Describe your overall experience working on move and with Peggy.
Sam Crosby: Inspiring, spiritually moving, body-intensive, full of “a-ha moments”
Mary Farrar: Peggy is amazing.  She gets each dancer to awaken the shared theme within themselves in a unique and personal way.

Kingston cast of move. Photo by Paul Webster.

Kingston cast of move. Photo by Paul Webster.

2015 was the first year of a three year residency in Kingston. Peggy will return to the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning in 2016.

More photos from move by Paul Webster can be found here.

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Sights and Sounds at this year’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

We’re thrilled that Debashis Sinha is joining Peggy Baker Dance Projects again for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche October 4-5. 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 an Independent Project at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, sunrise to sunset, October 4-5 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis Street. Admission is free.

An Important Message from Arts Day in Toronto

Earlier this year, City Hall committed to reach a $25 per capita funding level for artists by 2017. IT’S UP TO YOU – artists, arts workers, students, and patrons – to make sure they follow through on that promise!

On Friday, November 8, TAPA and the Friends of the Arts Network will converge on City Hall for the 4th Annual Arts Day at the City. Show Toronto Councillors just how important their support is to our community by getting involved today:

  • TWEET your message of support with the hashtag #artsdayTO. We’re telling council that 2013 was #justthebeginning – there’s a lot left to do before we make it to $25 per capita!
  • POST your message of support on Facebook with the hashtag #artsdayTO.
  • SHARE the Arts Day campaign video.
  • EMAIL your friends / colleages / patrons and ask them to show their support for the Toronto artists they love by voicing their opinion online or directly to City Hall.

and most importantly:

  • CONTACT YOUR COUNCILLOR to tell them you care about the arts, and you VOTE! If you don’t know who your councillor is, no worries! Just click here.

You can also download the Arts Day “Just the Beginning” sign (click here) and share a photo of yourself with it to lend your face to the campaign. Or better yet: show us that gorgeous mug in person! RSVP here to attend the Arts Day press conference at City Hall on November 8 at 9:30AM – the more the merrier!

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And remember…Arts Day / November 8 isn’t the only day to connect with your government representatives. Make sure your Councillor / MPP / MP knows what’s going on with the artists they represent year-round!

Funding isn’t guaranteed until it’s in the budget! It’s your art, and your future: make sure City Hall knows how important municipal arts funding really is to artists and audiences across Toronto. If you’d like more information about Arts Day and how you can get involved, feel free to email Meaghan Davis, our Manager of Communications & Enrichment and one of the Arts Day organizers.

The Choreographer’s Trust in Action

I had the pleasure of seeing Kate Holden and Kate Franklin’s firstthingsfirst productions’ with a trace last night at the Enwave Theatre. Alongside new works created by Val Calam and Mélanie Demers, the program featured this body of memory/Brahms Waltzes, performed by Kate Holden.  She describes the piece as a “trace through the choreographic landscape of Brahms Waltzes“, a solo that Peggy choreographed for herself back in 1992 and which Kate learnt in 2002 as part of  The Choreographer’s Trust project.  I was reminded of the video I’ve linked to below while watching the piece. Shot during the one week in which Kate learnt the work, this video captures Peggy’s instructions to the four dancers learning her works at that time – instructions that they have the liberty to take the work and bring it fully into their own dance lives, which could mean having a new costume designed, or developing a new staging. Peggy gave the dancers such beautiful artistic license, and seeing how Kate had taken that license and reworked the entire solo to live within the aesthetic of this program, 11 years after she first learnt the work, was, without wanting to sound too dance-nerdy, really neat.  with a trace continues at the Enwave Theatre until Saturday Sept 21. Visit danceworks.ca for tickets.

– Meredith Potter, manager of Peggy Baker Dance Projects since 1999.

Read Kate’s interview with Inside Toronto here, and Paula Citron’s review of with a trace in The Globe and Mail here.

Ten Suggestions: Peggy Baker, Mark Morris, and Mikhail Baryshnikov

Fans of the New York contemporary dance scene will know Mark Morris and Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project. Peggy Baker was invited to dance for its inaugural season in 1990, and she shares her experience in the following essay, an excerpt from The Choreographer’s Trust of a longer piece entitled Interpretation and Identity: a preoccupation I share with John Cage. Mark Morris Dance Group is coming to Toronto this summer for Luminato, and Peggy Baker Dance Projects fans can receive 20% off their tickets to L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il ModeratoBook before June 13. Click here to buy your’s today.

Ten Suggestions / Mark Morris (an excerpt from Interpretation and Identity)

In 1990 I was invited to join Mark Morris and Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project for its inaugural season. Among the many extraordinary gifts of that time for me was sharing a part with Baryshnikov in a charming solo called Ten Suggestions. Mark had made Ten Suggestions for himself and I had seen the first performance at the old Dance Theatre Workshop in New York. I went home from that concert and wrote a poem that captures the touching, virtuosic, campy essence of the performance:

The man in the pink silk pyjamas was spectacular; 

Casals playing in the light of Liberace’s candelabra. 

I saw Nijinsky dance in 1981.

Mark Morris circa 1980. (from markmorrisdancegroup.org)

Mark Morris circa 1980. (from markmorrisdancegroup.org)

Mark is a great big guy, soft and floppy and flamboyant. He tosses off impressive turns and balances with the greatest of ease and he is supremely musical. Misha is like a greyhound, small and perfectly proportioned. He is lean and muscular, and there is nothing he can’t do well. One of the greatest classical dancers of all time, he is handsome and sexy to boot. I am a tallish, angular modern dancer, somewhat androgynous. My proportions are odd, but somehow everything balances out. Depending on the dance, I tend toward extremes of either cool abstraction or deep emotion.

Peggy circa 1994 in Brute. Photo: Lois Greenfield

Peggy circa 1994 in Brute. Photo: Lois Greenfield

It was an unusual choice for Mark to cast both Misha and I in a solo he had made for himself. With no basis for comparison, because of the drastic contrasts among us, I realized that I had been in the habit of comparing myself to other dancers rather than thinking of myself purely in relation to the choreography.

Picture this: for the very first step of the dance you wait several bars, then suddenly appear from the up right wing, pull off as many pirouettes as you can in a couple of counts and then drop to a crouch. Any choreographer would dream of having Mikhail Baryshnikov for a moment like that. But whatever Misha did, I was going to have to treat it differently, because I’ve never gotten around more than three times in my entire career. The immediate and enduring lesson on that one was to focus on the dance and to consider and explore ways in which to meet the challenges of the choreography, rather than lamenting my inability to choose options that are only available to others.

Mikhail Baryshnikov

Mikhail Baryshnikov

I also got a better sense of the fact that sometimes it is simply the physique of a dancer that makes something work in a particular way. Mark’s lush bulk was splendid for the Duncanesque dance with a ribbon. Misha was so low and compact for the somersault / crouch phrase that it read like the kind of optical illusion a clown uses to squash his height. And my extra long arms were the perfect length for the deco sequence with the hoop. You can’t compete with that kind of thing, you can only think of it as a gift in terms of the dance.

Mark was incredibly generous in the way that he rehearsed Misha and me, taking tremendous pleasure in seeing the dance reinvented by each of us. One of my strongest memories from those rehearsals is of Mark, head thrown back, laughing his wild cackle over the delightful beauty, or crazy out-of-character look of some moment. Misha loved to talk things over with me. How did I approach this or that, what did I think of the way he had chosen to do something.  Was I aware of having lost some detail or of having changed something he thought worked well. That same openness and curiosity was sustained through the performances as we supported each other with a comment or question and continued to observe each other’s work with interest and appreciation.

Peggy Baker

Sunny Faces at Sunny View PS!

This month, Peggy visited with students at Sunny View Junior and Senior Public School for three days of movement and rhythm classes. Sunny View has been educating elementary level students with physical disabilities for more than 50 years. It was such a delight to work with these wonderful young people. Thanks for having us!

Photos by Martha Harbell.

Honouring Menaka Thakkar

The revered classical Indian dancer Menaka Thakkar is the 2012 recipient of the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts, and I took part in a splendid celebration of her life and work the evening of October 20th at the Flato Markham Theatre, just north of Toronto.

Eloquent appreciations of Menaka’s accomplishments were delivered by a magnificent array of civic and cultural leaders, and Menaka, whose masterful solo performance concluded the evening, shared beautiful and stirring memories of the most significant influences in her artistic life.

Expressing gratitude as deep and sincere as that reserved for her guru, her protégés, and her beloved family, Menaka remembered the immigration official who talked her into the idea of applying for landed immigrant status rather than renewing a temporary visa. This man had told Menaka that Canada needed people like her, that he wanted to see her dance. Menaka has made Canada her home since 1972, and on several occasions the arts loving bureaucrat who won her for us has sent a note of congratulations to her following a performance.

Peggy