Review: who we are in the dark (Peggy Baker Dance Projects/Canadian Stage)

Photo of Kate Holden, Sarah Neufeld, Mairi Grieg, and Sahara Morimoto in who we are in the darkChoreographer Peggy Baker joins forces with members of Arcade Fire for a multidisciplinary dance show

The world premiere of Peggy Baker Dance Projectswho we are in the dark is currently being presented by Canadian Stage at the Bluma Appel Theatre. Peggy Baker is one of the luminaries of Canadian contemporary dance. She has had a long career as a performer and as a choreographer, both in Canada and internationally. who we are in the dark is her biggest production to date. The piece is a multi-disciplinary evening featuring innovative movement, music, lighting, and visual art which combine into a feast for the senses.

who we are in the dark features seven dancers, four women and three men, barefoot and clad in simple black pants and tunics. The stage is bathed in a blue light. Banners with images from Montreal artist John Heward hang from above.

The movement is slow, soft and rooted to the ground with a lot of work on the floor. The dancers are powerful and technically very strong. They slide and spin, wrapping around themselves and each other. The image that sticks in my mind is one of spirals. The dancers often join hands and propel each other like a giant game of “crack the whip.” In my favourite section, the four women are escorted on stage one by one by some of the other dancers and eventually join in to dance together.

who we are in the dark began as a short collaboration between Baker and violinist Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire in 2015. The two continued their collaboration, eventually bringing in another member of Arcade Fire, drummer Jeremy Gara, to compose the original score. Neufeld and Gara perform on stage with the dancers.

The score is minimal and moody and incorporates vocalizations from the dancers in addition to the music. Some sections were very quiet, providing a propulsive undercurrent to the movement. Other sections were chaotic and aggressive with a heavy metal vibe. Live music is a rare treat in contemporary dance, and I thought it added depth and complexity to the performance. For most of the night, the musicians are on a riser to the left of the stage. But sometimes Neufeld moved among the dancers with her violin. My companion commented on how well she thought that worked. She was surprised, because often musicians don’t look or move like dancers, so it can seem awkward. Here, it felt seamless.

who we are in the dark doesn’t have a narrative or identifiable characters. But I definitely thought it created an atmosphere and had emotional power, exploring themes of connection and loneliness. Even though it was, in fact, dark, I left with a feeling of calm and even hope.

Details:

  • who we are in the dark is running at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front Street East) through February 24, 2019.
  • Performances are Friday at 7pm, Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm
  • Tickets are $51.00-$110.00 and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 416-368-3110.

Photo of Kate Holden, Sarah Neufeld, Mairi Grieg, and Sahara Morimoto by Jeremy Mimnagh