locus plot by Peggy Baker

July 2, 2015 at 8:31 am
Peggy Baker locus plot

Photo credit: Makoto Hirata

at Betty Oliphant Theatre

April 24/15, 8:30 pm

by David Fujino

 

The legendary dance artist Peggy Baker spoke in a pre-show talk about locus plot — her first full-length ensemble work in a varied 40-year career.

Baker said locus plot was inspired by a set of schematic drawings, and its swift graphic lines, curves, and fixed points in space led her to exclaim that they looked like “floor patterns for choreographers’.

Which led her to ask John Mighton for lessons in mathematics, physics, and the philosophy of science. The process of creating had begun. Whereas the (other-worldly) influence of vocalist Fides Krucker entered Baker’s dance in the form of dancers’ startling on stage vocalizing, shrieking and howling. This new element in Baker’s choreography appears to have been a transformative experience for Baker and her new ensemble work, locus plot.

The music for the show was created by the composer and musician of choice, pianist John Kameel Farah, whose spacious arpeggios and well-played electroacoustic responses to the dancers transformed the dancers into characters on stage — actual persons, right in front of our eyes. And add the responses of the audience to the dancers’ moving and vocalizing on stage. Clearly, a lot happened before and during and in, the dance.

There were a couple of glitches — Sahara Morimoto was caught immobile at least twice, waiting to start the same recurring segment: it was an awkward waiting pause in the semi-dark lighting of a dance segment. Maybe the lengthy pause did not belong, and the pacing wasn’t perfect, but the five dancers moved easily throughout the entire show and this had effectively set the tone for the evening.

But tonight — howling like a wolf or werewolf on all fours — and obliquely facing the audience on an angle it was, I believe, dancer Kate Holden in a couple of arresting vocalized sequences, down on both knees, head down, arms crossed. Amazing. The whole dance stage had become a space for acting. A dancer vocalized in character. They became someone. And that’s what theatre and film typically present — character(s), people who make sounds.

Baker scored high with locus plot. A well-formed core concept — a recognizable facet of Baker’s rigorous style of dance — was again freeing for Baker and the audience because, although the underpinnings of the dance were mathematical diagrams, the physical movements of the superb five dancers — Sahara Morimoto, Sean Ling, Kate Holden, Ric Brown and Sarah Fregeau — instinctively captured and portrayed modern life and its stressful pressures with several touches of elegance. A few times Morimoto, solo, could be seen to follow, then move in advance of the four dancers moving as one. It looked like Morimoto was trying to be ‘in sync’ with the group, but it wasn’t working out. At times, Morimoto mirrored the same movements as the others except hers were in reverse and out of position.

Now, Baker has observed that people usually look for a story in modern dance, even if she didn’t intend to have one.

Understood.

But I’m reporting what I saw — and greatly enjoyed.