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Peggy Baker Dance Projects

Dance and Joni in Fiction fan Bob Muller provided us with the following review, which mentions a dance set to Amelia:

May 12, 2004. 12:06 AM
Sharing the stage with a mixed bag of dance works

SUSAN WALKER
DANCE WRITER

Kate Alton does Peggy Baker and Peggy Baker does Sarah Chase in a truly mixed program, Unfold, at the Betty Oliphant Theatre until Sunday afternoon. Peggy Baker Dance Projects presents four vastly different works by three choreographers viewed from the theatre's backstage area.

It's a toss-up as to whether seating the audience onstage facing the empty auditorium, only a few metres from the performers, achieves a useful intimacy with them or an uneasy proximity to them.

Watching Kate Alton perform Baker's Unfold, a solo the choreographer created for herself in 2000, one is appreciative of the effort it takes to dance this detailed, tempestuous piece. As pianist Andrew Burashko moves from one grand piano to another to play Scriabin's Opus 11 Preludes, a little distance might have helped delineate the relationship between dancer and pianist, movement and music.

Baker's choreography is so particular to her that it was like encountering a familiar suit of clothes on the friend of one's friend. Alton, similarly long-armed and wide-shouldered and possessed of Baker's condensed emotional energy, takes charge of the difficult solo. But it may take a few performances before she can make this piece - a gift to her and Andrea Nann through Baker's Choreographer's Trust - her own.

While Unfold is all about disclosure and revelation, a way to master silence is just the opposite. A very short solo with no music was a peekaboo affair that Baker performed in partial light, so that only pieces of her moving body were illuminated. It's the ultimate solo: A secret, soundless dance viewed as if the watcher were a peeping tom.

New York choreographer Doug Varone has had a long-running influence on Baker and the dances he has created for her always draw on her ability to create narratives. Heaven, with Burashko at the piano playing Cesar Franck's poignant Prelude, Fugue and Variation, is a duet between player and dancer.

The pianist's delicate fingering is viewed up-close, a perfect counterpoint to the dancer's lightness of foot. Baker dances like a lover trying to find a way to get closer than flesh will allow to the loved one.

Sarah Chase has created one of her dance stories for Baker, called The Disappearance of Right And Left. Like the portraits that Chase performed last week in her own show, this solo is crafted out of Baker's own life stories and is both spoken and danced.

Her tales are fascinating: a Scottish ancestor loses his wife in childbirth; a grandmother loses two sons in World War I; the astounding birth of Baker's sister's baby boy. As she speaks, she turns over rectangles in a partitioned panorama of a prairie hay field. On the back of each piece is a family photo to illustrate her anecdotes. The stories gain little from Chase's choreography, which consist of a good deal of arm-waving moves that look too simple for Baker. In this case, Burashko subsides into the background as Baker dances to a recording of Joni Mitchell's "Amelia," and then accompanies her with a Beethoven sonata and a dance piece by Ginastera.

Much as one might enjoy her storytelling, Baker's dancing is more eloquent than her speaking.

(Contributed by Bob Muller)

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