Peggy Baker Dance Projects
Betty Oliphant Theatre, Toronto
January 22-24 and 27-31, 2016
The heroine of Friday night’s performance of phasespace was Sahara Morimoto, who not only beautifully performed in a trio and a solo, but stepped in on very short notice to take the place of an injured Sean Ling in a duet with Andrea Nann.
Much was made, in the before-show chat from Baker and Fides Krucker, of the vocal scores that Krucker composed from the dancers’ own pre-verbal and non-verbal sounds. The voice, Baker maintained, provides a direct link to the performer’s body and to the audience. But it was Morimoto’s silent solo that was the highlight of the night.
In the noisiest piece, the trio performed by Ric Brown, Sarah Fregeau and Morimoto, there was little sign of the narrative that Krucker had seen forming while working with the dancers. Three sets of standard straight-backed chairs, one human-sized the other a miniature, made an aimless allusion to Alice in Wonderland. The dancers came and went and moved themselves and the chairs through space. John Kameel Farah, perched above and behind the dancers played and improvised acoustically and electronically on the piano and computer keyboards, but did not seem a part of the piece as he did in last year’s Baker show locus plot. Marc Parent’s well designed lighting defined performance spaces. All of these elements should have added up to a unified piece, but it was hard work to find coherence in this piece.
Morimoto was a character shaking with the giggles, a high tittering sound. Brown was a howling dog. Fregeau careened about and each of them phased in and out of a whispered chatter that had no obvious connection to their movement. Such distractions took away from the well-rehearsed dance steps.
In Baker’s introduction to the show, she referred to a starting point: recognizing her own choreography in the body memories of her dancers. When it came to the Morimoto solo, first mounted in 2013, we could see Baker’s vocabulary, alive and present in a dynamic way. The Tokyo-born dancer, who has worked with Baker since 2008, displayed the long, wind-milling arms, the precise hand gestures and the fluid, almost flying movement that have long been Baker’s hallmarks. Inside a diamond shape etched in blue light, Morimoto created a world of her own. It was a simple, abstract solo, a purity of movement expressed through facial and body gestures as only dance can do.
Andrea Nann added a new element to the gallery of dances. Not only is she a fine interpreter of Baker’s dance; she is an established performer of her own choreography. In the duet that Baker made on her and Ling in 2014, Nann’s prolonged, sinuous movements made a kind of dance alchemy.
Kate Holden, who has been a fine interpreter of just about every contemporary choreographer of note, performs the new Baker solo, also vocally scored by Krucker. Her performance stretched the boundaries of the space and she broke out of her invisible box with long, slow strides and a final winding-out, a Ginsbergian howl that seemed to come from some place deep within her.
CREDIT: Sahara Morimoto in a solo, one of four dances in phasespace. Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh