Celebrating with the grande dame of modern Canadian dance

This week York University is kicking up its heels as it celebrates dance through “The Independent Project”, an intergenerational showcase spotlighting the grace and physicality of established and emerging artists. It will run Wednesday to Friday, March 3-5, in Strate Studio at York’s Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts.

Right and below, left: Peggy Baker

The creative team of choreographers and dancers, who are an exciting and award-winning group of artists, includes Peggy Baker, the National Ballet School artist-in-residence and the grande dame of modern Canadian dance who keeps the dance world evolving and full of vitality.

The dancers will stretch in unison, then present works individually, in pairs and in ensemble scenarios. “The dancers are the magic,” said artistic director Darcey Callison, a York dance professor and director of the Graduate Program in Dance.

“A True Story”, choreographed by Peggy Baker, as well as “Savanna”, choreographed by Molissa Fenley, will be performed by Peggy Baker, who has been a vibrant presence in the world of contemporary dance for the past three decades.

A founding member of Toronto’s Dancemakers (1974), Baker toured internationally with Lar Lubovitch’s celebrated New York company throughout the 1980s, and joined Mikhail Baryshnikov and Mark Morris for the inaugural season of their White Oak Dance Project. More recently, she toured Canada and France in the work of Montreal’s Paul-Andre Fortier, and danced in Doug Varone’s chamber concert, “Short Fictions”, at Jacob’s Pillow.

Baker is the recipient of an Order of Ontario, an honorary doctorate from the University of Calgary and two Dora Mavor Moore Awards for outstanding performance.

“The Female Warrior” will be presented by York alumnus William Lau (MFA ’91), a leading exponent of classical Chinese dance. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Montreal, he has also trained in western classical ballet. A disciple of Master artists Shen Xiaomei and Song Changrong, he now specializes in dan (female roles) in Beijing opera.

York alumna Emily Cheung (BFA Spec. Hons. ’02), who has danced with Lau for a number of years, will entertain and enrich the audience with the “Flying Apasaras”, choreographed by Master Dai.

“So Often in Vagueness”, choreographed by Sylvain Émard, and “Comme deux solitudes”, choreographed by Lesandra Dodson, will be danced by the cutting-edge duo of Heidi Strauss and Darryl Tracy of Four Chambers Dance Projects which they co-founded in 1999. Both are independent dancers and choreographers who are actively involved in the dance community, and are on the faculty of the Toronto Dance Theatre.

“The Bach Dual”, choreographed by Susan Cash, and “Chak!”, choreographed by York alumna Andrea Nann (BFA Spec. Hons. ’88), will be performed by The York Dance Ensemble which is the University’s spirited young repertory touring company, under the artistic direction of  York alumna Susan Cash (BFA Spec.Hons. ’78). 

On Thursday, March 4, at 5pm, there will be a pre-performance talk between Peggy Baker and Carol Anderson, who has earned national recognition as a choreographer, performer, dance writer, consultant and educator. The Independent Project runs March 3 at 7:30pm, March 4 at 7:30pm and March 5 at 5pm.

Admission is free to the performances and talk. For more information about the events, call 416-650-8030.