Category Archives: Fans & Audience

Peggy Baker honoured with the George Luscombe Award for Mentorship

We are thrilled to announce Peggy has been awarded the George Luscombe Award for Mentorship. The award was presented at TAPA’s Dora Award Press Conference on Monday, June 1 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. The award was accepted by Peggy’s dear friend and nominator, Nova Bhattacharya as Peggy was unable to attend.

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Here is Peggy’s acceptance speech:

Greetings to all of you performance world folk who are up and out and gathered in a theatre lobby first thing Monday morning. I am so sorry not to be with you – truly, as I am currently waiting in pre-op for a knee surgery – but I will share a few words through the grace of my friend and colleague.

The dance milieu is a highly complex and unstable world. Within it, each artist must establish and constantly expand and deepen their expertise in a multitude of roles. In class, in rehearsal, in performance; under the gaze of teachers, directors, critics and the public; in meetings with administrators, managers, board members, presenters and grant officers dancers do battle with their vulnerabilities and fears in order to pursue their physical and creative practice, and to accomplish and share their art. At almost any point in the arc of a career, any one of us of could flounder, become overwhelmed, lose our bearings or our confidence, or realize we lack the tools for growth. If we are persistent enough, or desperate enough, we will turn to someone for a crucial exchange that lasts a few hours, a few weeks or months, or is sustained over many years. I am forever grateful to Patricia Beatty, Lar Lubovitch, Doug Varone, James Kudelka, Irene Dowd, and Christine Wright for their extraordinary mentorship, and for the immeasurable impact each of them has had on my work. Their generosity and honesty set the standard for my own interactions with those who have likewise sought me out. I am deeply moved by the courage of each artist who has entrusted me with entry into the highly personal sphere of their creative life. I thank each of them for the significance of our exchange. I know that by addressing our deepest concerns together we have strengthened our community and contributed to the vitality of our art form. I am honoured to accept the George Luscombe Award for mentorship in recognition of the value of our work together. Kudos to TAPA for establishing and sustaining this important award.

Thank you.

Peggy Baker

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locus plot dancer: Kate Holden

locus plot, Peggy Baker Dance Projects upcoming main stage show will open April 24. Before it begins, let’s get to know our dancers a little more! Last week we met Ric Brown. Next up is Kate Holden. Kate’s repertoire with Peggy Baker Dance Projects includes Brahms Waltzes, coalesce, Night Garden and land / body / breath

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PBDP: On your way to rehearsal, what are you listening to?
KH: I only listen to something if I have to travel during rush hour – to try and give myself a barrier from other people’s stress and rush. Recently I’ve been on a podcast kick and following a new NPR show called “Invisibilia“. If I’m travelling at other times of the day I prefer to listen to the city.

Do you have any pets?
My husband and I have a funny little dog named Sam. She’s a poodle mutt and ball full of love. She’s ridiculously affectionate and more than  a little neurotic.

What’s your favourite snack?
Healthy: handful of a really good dried fruit and nut mix,
Unhealthy: chips chips chips!

Where are you from originally?
Toronto. Bloor West Village to be specific.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
By the ocean somewhere a little warmer.

What would be the title of your biography?
I think someone else would come up with a better title – they’re writing it anyway right?

Which actor would play you in a movie?
Kirsten Dunst (whom I’ve been mistaken for a number of times) – but I think she would need a dancer double for the big dance scenes.

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What’s the last thing you tried to DIY?
I re-purposed/retrofitted some light fixtures for our apartment.

Tell us about your first dance class.
I don’t remember it as it was some movement and music class when I was really young- but when I started learning ballet, Pia Bouman was my first teacher, when her space was on Queen West close to Roncesvalles in an old church hall.

Seeing as this is a show influenced by math – a math question! What is the square root of pi?
I just looked this up on Google and found that Pi is irrational and so does not have a definitive square root but can be estimated at 1.77……. it is also transcendental and you can’t square a circle. Which I may have known at one point in my life but I certainly didn’t recall it. I used to be at least competent in math at school but I admit to being awfully slow at some pretty basic functions now. There are too many other interesting things to work at being good at. I love that a number can be irrational and transcendental.

Stay tuned for interviews with Sean Ling, Sarah Fregeau and Sahara Morimoto. And be sure to catch them in locus plot, April 24 – May 3. 

locus plot dancer: Ric Brown

In preparation for locus plot, we wanted to get to know each of our fabulous dancers a little bit more. First up is Ric Brown. Ric’s repertoire with Peggy Baker Dance Projects includes move, Night Garden, Piano/Quartet, Split Screen Stereophonic, stone leaf shell skin, and land / body / breath

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PBDP: On your way to rehearsal, what are you listening to?
RB: On my iPod I flip from, Linda Ronstadt: Greatest Hits vol.2, Duffy: Rockferry, Cyndi Lauper: She’s So Unusual, Kim Stockwood: 12 Years Old, Susan Boyle: Someone to Watch Over Me, Lady Antebellum: Need You Now, Gwen Stefani: Love Angel Music Baby

Do you have any pets?
No pets, love dogs.

What’s your favourite snack?
Addicted to Lays plain potato chips.

Where are you from originally?
I was born in Sarnia Ontario, grew up in Wallaceburg Ontario, parents still live in same house I grew up in.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I love living in Toronto, always wanted to be a part of the Stratford Festival doing Shakespeare so I would love to live there. Also I lived in New York for a summer and would definitely live there again.

What would be the title of your biography?
Biography, Just Ric, (cuz I dropped the Hard)

Which actor would play you in a movie?
Daniel Craig, because I love him!!!!

What’s the last thing you tried to DIY?
Re-covered 2 chair seats.

Tell us about your first dance class.
Took jazz in London Ontario in a studio in the basement of an old Biway store. music for going across the floor was Rhythm is a Dancer.

Seeing as this is a show influenced by math – a math question! What is the square root of pi?
Square root is 1.77 blah blah blah, there is no end. Actually wanted to be a math teacher until I took my first theatre class in grade 10, then I wanted to be an actor doing Shakespeare!!!!

Stay tuned for interviews with Sean Ling, Kate Holden, Sarah Fregeau and Sahara Morimoto. And be sure to catch them in locus plot, April 24 – May 3

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.

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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.

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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.

A Letter to the Toronto Dance Community

Republished with the generous permission of Francisco Graciano, dancer with Paul Taylor Dance Company (NYC).

Dear Toronto Dancers,

This summer you are acquiring a great sage.  The last six years of my dance career have been the richest due in large part to the tutelage and guidance of Christine Wright.  I know I can speak for the majority of her students when I say the treasure you are about to receive is special beyond comparison. This letter is mainly a personal note from me to you. However, on account of the many outpourings of affection for this wonderful master it wouldn’t be too bold to say my words come from a whole host of dancers across several disciplines in the concert dance community.

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Appreciate her because she won’t ever allow you to take this craft for granted. She will always demand your musicality be led by your own sensitivities. Or as she has refers to it often as “the place deeper than your personality.” And she won’t give up on you until she sees you are on the right track. “No one ever wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I want to be mediocre!’ “, she once ruminated. She always expected us to desire our greatest selves as artists. And she’ll ask the same of you. We thank her for that and with her encouragement you will soon begin to peel away more layers revealing that honest “tone” that we all seek as individuals and as artists.

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She might tell you the inspiring story that made me realize I found the perfect teacher. Her passion to keep going and developing as a dancer was so strong and intelligent. She felt much like most of us do that despite the limitations of our bodies we must continue. But how with these legs that won’t turn out or go any higher? Or with these feet that won’t point? How with this body that doesn’t match the aesthetic of fill in the blank? 

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With quality, she says. With musicality, she emphasizes. And somehow when she says it you believe it.  Sometimes we forget that dancing is a physical experience. Christine reminds us that what goes on in our intelligent minds won’t necessarily inform our movement.  It’s the body’s instincts that convey our expression. In doing this she’s helped us broaden our expressive repertoire and inspired our drive to become more honest.

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Aesthetics are crucial but she’s also brilliant at recognizing what you need technically as a dancer. Study with her and over time you will not only notice a significant improvement in your articulation as an artist but in your technique as well. The individual attention she gives to her students demonstrates her sincere passion for teaching.  When she talks to you there’s a feeling that she’s paying closer attention to you than anyone ever has. As if the class only exists for your benefit.

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We adore Christine Wright because she’s given so many of us the one thing that we desire more than anything as artists: The ability to feel and subsequently develop our own “tone”, our voice. And when that voice does surface, doing all the work for us, she always manages to discover something else to challenge us with. This gift has not only helped me to distinguish myself among my peers as a dancer but also as a creator of movement. It’s a trait that requires constant refinement.  With Christine everything including refinement becomes an experience of flow. Cherish her because we will miss her dearly.  We pay immense gratitude to her for helping each of us project our individuality as humans. We know you will too.

Sincerely,

Francisco Graciano

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Capturing the Moments…

The photos of Peggy’s new work, stone leaf shell skin, are quite stunning. Makoto Hirata is the man behind the camera who has captured these beautiful moments. Makoto tells us about what it’s like to photograph dance, and the experience he had while shooting Peggy and the dancers in rehearsal.

How did you come to know Peggy, and what was the first project you shot of the company?

MH: Life is full of unpredictable things and sometime the miracle is happening. Knowing Peggy Baker and her company dancers is one of those experiences for me.

I believe my life was far, far away from contemporary dance scene.

As a freelance photographer/reporter/blogger, I’m regularly attending major events in Toronto which are Honda Indy Toronto (high-speed motor sports), Rogers Cup Tennis Tournament, Caribbean Carnival, TIFF, Toronto Marlies, ISU Figure Skate competition also exploring coast to coast by VIA Rail, chasing Northern lights at Yellowknife and Yukon.

First I met her was at COC free noon concert at Richard Bradshow Amphitheatre. I took few shots at that time but it wasn’t good. I was unprepared and I didn’t satisfy with result. But what struck me was, I heard a Japanese name when Peggy introduced her company dancers. After performance, I found her and quickly introduced myself. Her name is Sahara Morimoto. Surprisingly enough, we came to Canada exactly same year of almost 17 years ago.

I was curious about why she came to Canada (it is halfway around the globe from Japan) and working for Peggy now…. I know it must be quite a challenge for her to be there. Even though this was first time meeting her, I couldn’t resist asking this question.

In return of this question, she gave me a big smile then introduced me to Peggy.

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Peggy and Sahara at the Canadian Opera Company. Photo by Mikato Hirata

I took one photo of them. I don’t know why I took their photo but this is exact moment when I met them, with many thoughts. This is how I met Peggy not knowing anything about her but they’re passionate contemporary dancers / artists.

It was what’s happening at very cold winter day of January 2012.

Taking photos of people moving, especially dancing, can be quite challenging. What is so different about shooting dance in comparison to some of your other projects? And how do you prepare for what’s coming next, and/or not knowing where the dancers are moving? Any advice for photographers on shooting dancers?

MH: I was looking for a chance to see them again.

Four months later, Sahara sent me an email that Peggy’s welcoming me to take photos at their rehearsal. Sahara was a one of dancers of “Old & Young & Reckless Together” and busy preparing for solo performance of Peggy’s 1997 work, “Sylvan Quartet”. This was my first experience of shooting contemporary dance.

First photo day was at studio 5B of NBS.

I brought two lenses, two cameras. I came early checking a room for positioning of photo shooting and light. During rehearsal, I tried not interfering their rehearsal by my movement, sound of shutter. It took over three hours and I was busy to capture the moment. What surprised me was, Peggy merely showed her moves by herself but expressed her thoughts / ideas through “words” and “phrases”. This was an eye opening experience for me.

“It is something like listening to a voice of earth”

I still remember that Sahara’s move has completely changed after this Peggy’s words. Two dancers were connected. They are not only artists but also athletes. It’s unbelievable for me how they precisely move their body to where they want to. Having said that, capturing the moment when they’re sharing “image” of “movements” through “words” is quite a challenge for me. Also I started to think there might be something I might find in-between moments of “image”, “words” and “movement”.

Second photo day was at “The Citadel”.

It was last day before performance, technical rehearsal. Peggy was busy checking combination of light, sound and dance. First shooting experience at low light stage, complicated lightings for photo shooting. Adding to these, Sahara’s costume was black.

Despite these circumstances, I felt something while I was chasing black costume in dark place. It was a completely different experience. I saw something warm, passionate and strong even though it was a same dance sequence, same music. Performance was powerful.

Last day was performance day. I felt I must see the day she performs, with no camera. It was funny feeling that still I wanted to capture the moment even I didn’t have a camera….

This was what’s happening on three incredible three days in May, January 2012.

The moments you’ve captured in the rehearsals for stone leaf shell skin are all quite beautiful. What was the experience like on your side of the lens as you were taking photos of the dancers in motion?

MH: After I joined “Night Garden (September 2012)” and “Stereophonic (February 2013)”, I’ve got email from Peggy said she’s started new creation for 2014 spring season. It was October 2013 and I realize I was a witness of very early stage of three rehearsals at studio 5B of NBS.

During intense three hours rehearsals, because of music will be arriving later, only I heard was dancer’s breath and sound of steps on floor. Peggy was communicating with three male dancers through “words” as usual. Dancers tirelessly perform part of dance sequence in front of her again, and again, and again.

Readers of this story might be wondering what photographer will be in this situation. Basically I’m taking photos, a lot. I’m quiet, not moving most of time during performance. I took three positions, stand or sit or lie down on the floor. Three hours rehearsal shooting comes to between 300 to 400 photos. I take these down to between 20 to 30, send them to Peggy for her review.

It is quite an experience for me to know what she chose. She has certain image of creation but nobody knows until it unveils. So, I realize I’m the first person who actually see, without knowing, through lens.

Peggy communicates “words” with dancers. How I communicate with her?
Here is an answer to it.

Hi Peggy,
It was my pleasure to see you again.
Here are photos from yesterday. Attached are off shot as well.

Thank you!
Makoto

Beautiful images from the performance!
My favorites are
021005, 033715, 035111, 035428, 040131
and most especially 040358
also good are
020756, 032532, 033134, 03220, 033528, 034852

Thank you so much for laying your eyes on my work.
Peggy

It looks simple email with numbers but these emails are very special for me. The photos I took are my interpretation of what she’s trying to say through her art expression. Because I’m always quiet at studio, only moment I really “talk” with her starts when I show my photos. I don’t recall we discuss how I shoot but something that is especially interesting is she chose photos when I was really focused on dancers even I couldn’t remember I took a shot of it. I don’t know how but she knows.

This is what’s happening now and very rare experience for my life.

Any other thoughts you have about this new piece that Peggy and the dancers are working on?

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Peggy with dancers Mateo Galindo Torres, Ric Brown, and Sean Ling.
Photo by Makoto Hirata.

MH: I’m not an artist or dancer, even dance photographer. Still I think it’s a miracle has happened in my life which is I met her and taking photos for her. I was far, far away from contemporary dance scene but I’m one step closer to them now. The reason why I feel this way is a photo I took at last day of rehearsal in October 2013. I’m impressed how closely they work together.

I strongly recommend that you should come to meet dancers and see their performance. There’s a beautiful dance company here, beautiful dance people here and beautiful dance family here.

You can see Makoto’s striking photos of our 2013/14 season on Facebook.

Don’t miss the chance to the see these moments performed live. he:she runs from March 28-30 and April 2-6 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre. Buy your tickets here or call 1-800-838-3006. Use discount code HESHE20 for $20 tickets to shows on March 28-30!

Peggy’s 60th: An Incredible Season for Peggy Baker Dance Projects!

What a year!

Our 2012/13 season marked a major milestone: Peggy’s 60th birthday! True to form, Peggy celebrated by programming a busy, multi-dimensional, and very ambitious season of new works, remounts, residencies, and tours across the country.

Click to watch the birthday messages from Peggy’s friends in the dance world:

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Through the support of our $60,000 for Peggy’s 60 Years Campaign donors, and our corporate, foundation, and government partners, PEggy Baker Dance Projects delivered a spectacular season of dance works. Some of our favourite moments:

Night Garden at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche: 12 dancers performing for 12 hours in a serene night gardent lit by sculptural light forms.

Watch the highlights video, built from photos taken by our audience! 

Our Dance Training Residencies: Peggy Baker Dance Projects had the pleasure to work with students of many ages, abilities, and experience levels this season. Our thanks to the beautiful dancers of Rosedale Heights School of the Arts, Sunnyview Public School, and the University of Calgary!

Peggy teaching at Rosedale Heights. Photo by Sahara Morimoto.

Peggy teaching at Rosedale Heights. Photo by Sahara Morimoto.

Stereophonic: Our Toronto program, featuring the premieres of Split Screen StereophonicAleatoric Solo No. 1, and epilogue.

“Baker offers hot-and-cold images of fraught emotion, intimacy, and detachment…It’s the kind of piece you really want to see several times.” Michael Crabb, Toronto Star

Piano/Quartet at the National Arts Centre 

Pianist John Kameel Farah: “Just finished preparing the piano. Gets more interesting each time. Since each piano’s construction differs, the preparations make each tone sound different, so I have fund with making adjustments to get an interesting sound for each note, which will have different effects for each piece. What the dancers hear and recognize in the music also affects their movement, so this has to be taken into consideration too.”

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Making it Happen: Our Supporters

Last summer, we kicked off the $60,000 for Peggy’s 60 Years Campaign to support our ambitious season, and the response from our fans has been tremendous:

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