Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Peggy Baker's Phase Space

Peggy Baker's
Phase Space, the current program of dance - concept and choreography by Peggy Baker - running at the Betty Oliphant Theatre until January 31st - is a full, rich evening comprised of an intricately woven  quartet of work culled in a unique and original manner from the memory of Baker’s acclaimed repertoire – and the corporeal memories/impressions she has encouraged the dancers to craft from the depth of their own remembered dance histories.
The four works that make up Phase-Space are remembered dances that didn’t yet exist. When we set off, I assigned each dancer the task of calling up the moments, gestures, actions and phrases from their repertoire with me that live most vividly and deeply in their body. These excavated fragments provided the seeds for dreamscape memory dances that reveal impulses, images and oblique storylines that emerged from under the surface of the steps.

                                    Peggy Baker, program notes
Bracketed and punctuated by powerful and evocative live music, created for each performance by Berlin/Toronto based composer John Kameel Farah, the soundscape is a complex arrangement of gorgeous sound, noise, dissonance, and rapturous melodic substance that appears and disappears throughout with incredible nuance framed by at once excitable and soothing aplomb. Situated on a raised platform high above the dancers, the composer/musician’s presence looms powerfully and subtly and becomes an integral visual and aural presence throughout. Sections between each piece provide an array of seemingly found sounds woven into the music that move seamlessly from everyday clattering to beautiful noise – frequently finishing with rhythmic versions of all that came before.
The solos and ensembles marking the evening, graced by a beautifully nuanced duet mid program, all bear a delicate relationship to the dancers forms as they move closely, in and out of each others limbs - and throughout the playing space - in breathtaking physical solidarity with each other, themselves, and the music that surrounds them – pushing them forward into a plethora of athleticized challenge and beauty throughout.

Fides Kruker’s vocalography works in gorgeous unison with the live music, emanating through rhythmic sound and creating an incredible syncopation with every gestural moment that the dancer evokes vocally and physically. At times the voices of the dancers become so disembodied through a paradoxically broken seamlessness of the physically demanding and the ethereally audible tones that it is simultaneously comforting, enthralling, and disquieting to discover where precisely these tones are coming from – connecting eloquently to the surreal, visual art element that sculpts the final intense solo moments of the evening with invigoratingly shaped lighting that commands and liberates the dancing body.

The final corporeal excitement of the evening has a single dancer take the stage, among exquisitely sculpted lighting effects by Marc Parent, emanating from and surrounding a blank canvas, as she moves among the shadows and glaring, sharply defined blocks of light, becoming part and parcel of the geometric abstracted patterns and sounds that the immersive theatricalized experience becomes enmeshed within. 

This culmination of an evening of powerful movement and at times beautifully dissonant work brings all of the elements together into a sublime form of dance theatre, leaving the spectator satisfied and enlivened by an overall program - yet craving more of those final movements that begin with a torn canvas tabula rasa and develop into a fully embodied play of light, limb, music, and relentless, seemingly effortless gestural excellence.    

Phase Space, at the Betty Oliphant Theatre 
(404 Jarvis Street)

January 22-24

 January 27-31, 8:30 pm

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