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Sarah Neufeld and Sarah Fregeau. Photo: Jeremy Mimnagh Photography

Dance Preview: who we are in the dark at the NAC—04.12.19 to 04.13.19

By Madeline Paiva on April 9, 2019

Peggy Baker Dance Projects brings who we are in the dark to the National Arts Centre April 12-13. I had the opportunity to speak with Peggy Baker about the upcoming show. Baker says “we folded into the choreography vocal work for the dancers. They’re not speaking or singing; it’s between pre-language sound and music. It really opens up the visceral world of the dancer—it animates their face in a different way.”

Music plays a significant role in who we are in the dark, with a collaboration between Baker and musicians Sarah Neufeld and Jeremy Gara of Canadian band Arcade Fire. Baker says “the music is really special. There’s not a huge amount of opportunity to hear live music with dance, only really in ballet. I’ve been using live music for 30 years and the musicians are always on stage. Their presence as performers and individuals on stage, it’s not an accompaniment, they are themselves dancing. These are incredible Canadian musicians and I really encourage people not to miss them.”

Kate Holden and Sahara Morimoto. Photo: Jeremy Mimnagh Photography

The show encompasses more art than just dance. Baker says “it is also a very rich design show because it has a very special staging. The musicians are on stage. The lighting design is extraordinary—lights, projection. There are paintings by the late John Heward, an abstract painter.” The show itself is “exceedingly rich. It is abstract. There is no explicit story, although there are scenes in which narrative stories arise.” Baker says “you could think of it with the visual pleasures of spending an afternoon in a great art exhibition.”

You could think of it with the visual pleasures of spending an afternoon in a great art exhibition.—Peggy Baker

“[The show] has a lot of great pleasures to offer and a great sense of discovery—the different scenes in the work are very poetic and they address different ideas about how darkness plays significantly in our lives” says Baker. The significance of loss is one that she addressed in our conversation. She says “we talk about loss, or depression in terms of going through a dark time. Loss must be faced over and over—like your child going to school, it’s not always tragedy. These are certainly events that change our lives.”

Baker’s own personal experience factors into that, saying “I’m later in my life, in my late 60s and I’m looking back and understanding how many dark times I’ve gone through and how important they were to shaping me, not because they were difficult, but because they were necessary. Any time we go through a period of loss, we are going to learn if we move into it wanting to continue evolving as a person. I can see very clearly my husband, of 20 years, died 8 years ago and how my work at the time was informed and enriched by that very profound experience.”

Baker’s keen piece of advice for this show is “listen with your eyes. Hear with your heart.”

Kate Holden and David Norsworthy. Photo: Jeremy Mimnagh Photography

Baker’s keen piece of advice for this show is “listen with your eyes. Hear with your heart.” She wants people to abandon the notion that only certain people can experience and appreciate dance: “I think that it’s completely available. There’s no hidden language. We are not afraid to take in music and question what the notes mean or what’s the story? If we can open our eyes to dance on that same level, it’s full of delights and discovery.”

Rather than worry about loving or hating the work, Baker says “I hope they say ‘I’m really glad I saw that.’” Baker told a story about Wim Wenders, the German filmmaker, whose “girlfriend loved dance but she always went alone.” Baker says “[Venders] reluctantly went with her and was in tears in 10 minutes. He had convinced himself, having very little experience with dance, that it had nothing to offer him, and it’s the assumption he made.” Baker’s final word of advice: “for people who haven’t seen dance before, come on over!”

Peggy Baker Dance Projects’ who we are in the dark is happening at the National Arts Centre April 12th and 12h at 7:30pm. The performance runs approximately 65 minutes, with no intermission. Tickets are available online and range from $35 to $67. Student tickets and Live Rush are available for this performance.