Peggy Baker's Who We Are in the Dark

Who We Are in the Dark

Concept, Choreographic Composition and Direction: Peggy Baker

Composers/Musicians: Jeremy GaraSarah Neufeld

Dancers: Nicole Rose Bond, Sarah Fregeau, Mairi Greig, Kate Holden, Benjamin Kamino, Sahara Morimoto, David Norsworthly, Jarrett Siddall, Calder White

Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto

February 21-24 2019

Reviewed by Ted Fox

We sit in a darkened theatre, listening to the sound of rumbling, like the ominous thunder of an approaching storm, or worse.

Gradually all becomes dimly lit and will remain this way throughout. We barely see the dancer in dancers moving and howling like wolves, keening like whales and vocalizing other animal sounds.

A video projection behind them of uni-cellular plasma organisms suggests embryos prior to birthing.

Later an abstract video of patterns, lines and forms, including one of a spinning wheel. Laser beams of light shoot out, suggestive of a war zone, of mechanization running berserk. Made even more compelling as this is accompanied by the live percussive drumming of Jeremy Gara. It builds and builds to a very high intensity that penetrates the bodies of viewers.

Certainly the effect on the dancers is impressive. Baker has composed the choreography in conjunction with them. Their improvised vocabulary consists of circling, spinning, falling, weaving in and out, clasping hands together like a rope and sinuously moving, snakelike. Creates an atmosphere of angst, dread and a fear of the unknown inhabiting the darkness.

In one segment violinist Sarah Neufeld walks while playing into their territory where they lie face down like corpses battered down by their environment. A block of light follows her as she walks.

The live violin and drums enter and embed themselves in the dancers’ bodies, impelling them like one body forward and back in waves, a crowd that morphs in the darkness into hunched over undefined images scurrying about like rats.

There are moments of respite when a couple of dancers come into slightly brighter lit spaces and engage in human interactions.

One segment features art by artist John Heward. It is painted on canvas hanging in tattered mounds folded inwards. Suggests the interior of a ruined temple after an apocalypse.

Ends with a dancer alone in front of a patterned backdrop, bathed in a pinkish golden light. Heralding perhaps a new dawning of a brighter future.

A really compelling but curiously unemotional exploration of the human condition in today’s technological society.