Renowned dancer Peggy Baker brings her new show to Whitehorse on March 13
Relieved – that’s how Peggy Baker feels to be bringing her latest choreography to the stage after more than a year of preparing for it.
“We’re so ready to do this,” she said over the phone, two weeks before who we are in the dark comes to Whitehorse on March 13. “It’s going to be fantastic to get it onstage. We need an audience now.”
The “we” Baker is referencing includes a pretty big team. In addition to seven dancers and a crew of artists who put together the lighting and design for the show, who we are in the dark will be travelling to seven venues across Canada with Sarah Neufeld and Jeremy Gara, both members of Grammy and Juno award-winning band Arcade Fire. The pair composed the score and will perform it live during each of the multi-media performances this spring. It’s a project Baker said she’s been thinking about since 2015, when she worked with Neufeld on a smaller-scale project that included a performance by just the two women.
“It was so exciting to work with her,” said Baker, a dancer, choreographer and member of the Order of Canada. “I just thought ‘I love being around this artist and being affected by her talent and I would love my dancers to be able to be in a big project with her.’”
Neufeld said the momentum and the excellent communication between the various artists involved (they were all only working on the piece in the same place, at the same time, for a total of roughly five weeks) was what part of what made the experience so memorable. Baker agreed. She has worked with Neufeld and all the dancers before, and Neufeld and Gara are used to working together, so there were connections that meant the project wasn’t a complete unknown for anyone involved, but Baker was still amazed by how well everyone gelled.
“I think this is a really special group of people. Each individual really takes responsibility for their role and they want to support one another in making a great event.There can be groups where there’s complications and stresses and it’s just magnificent where we have none of that. Every single person is just working toward the same goal of bringing this idea to life.”
Kate Holden, one of the dancers, said that idea started in a way that’s typical of Baker’s style, but unique in the world of dance. It began with Baker asking the dancers to do some research. For this project, that consisted of a lot of reading, writing and thinking about the concept for the show. (in this case, the various things that darkness can represent.) From there, Baker brought words into the studio.
“Words that trigger movement for us. Action words. Reach, coil. We then used those words to help generate movement,” said Holden.
She said she loves working with Baker because of this method. “This approach brings more of my own creative voice into the room (than other approaches), so that, not only am I generating some of the movement, I can then infuse that movement with my point of view.”
Gara and Neufeld said they felt the same about the music. Certainly, Baker has always been the bandleader when it comes to the project, but within the scope of what she wanted the work to achieve, Neufeld said they were given freedom to push themselves as musicians and really explore.
Baker said that’s part of what makes the performance so emotional.
“I think people will be very touched by it.”
Who we are in the dark takes place at 7 p.m. on March 13 on the Yukon Arts Centre mainstage. Tickets are available on their website, YukonArtsCentre.com.