ANDREW'S BLOG

Music and Dance: My History with Peggy Baker

In preparing for the Intermezzi shows, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my work with Peggy Baker. Peggy and I have worked together for twenty years. Our collaboration began in January of 91. She had just returned from New York where she was working with Mark Morris and Mikhail Baryshnikov as a member of White Oak Project. Her first solo performance in Toronto included a piece called Ten Suggestions by Mark Morris. He originally made it for Baryshnikov and gave it to Peggy as a parting gift. The piece was set to solo piano music by Alexander Tcherpnin - the Ten Bagatelles Op. 5. At the time, one of the groups I was working with was a Toronto based new music ensemble called Array Music. Composer Michael Baker (Peggy’s ex) was the artistic director and Henry Kucharzyk (also a composer) was one of the keyboardists. They were the first two people Peggy turned to for a recommendation. Both suggested me. That’s how it began.

Very soon after that, we started performing joint recitals in both the dance and music worlds. I felt very strongly that the composition of the music should be strong enough to stand alone as a piano recital, so Peggy started asking me to choose the music. The process basically consisted of my bringing her the music and explaining the structure of each piece as thoroughly as possible. After that, Peggy would go off on her own and create the choreography. Her Heart (set to four of Brahms’ Intermezzi), was one of the first pieces she choreographed. To this day, it’s one of my favourites.

In performance, it was never a matter of the music following the choreography. Peggy always wanted me to play the music as I felt it and she danced to whatever I was feeling in the moment. Throughout our collaboration, many people commented on our chemistry - on the synergy generated by our performances. I think it was a testament to Peggy’s musicality and sensitivity in her response to my musical expression and intent.

I think that more than anything else, it was my collaboration with Peggy that led me or inspired me to start Art of Time. My work with her exposed me to so many new worlds. It took me from the concert hall in to the theatre and showed me the possibilities of lighting and staging. Even more than that, it allowed me to learn how powerfully music translates when combined with other art forms - how much it is informed by the extra musical elements.

I’m so looking forward to revisiting this beautiful work.

-A

Intermezzi
April 9 - 11, 2015 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre
April 29, 2015 at the National Arts Centre Ontario Scene Festival

Learn more about Peggy Baker here, and at peggybakerdance.com

Photo Credit: John Lauener, from Shakespeare: If Music Be (2008).