Dance icon Peggy Baker profiled in York professor’s new book

York dance Professor Carol Anderson is celebrating the publication of her latest book: a biography of Peggy Baker, one of the luminaries of contemporary dance in Canada.

A richly illustrated, 224-page volume published by Dance Collection Danse Press/Presse, Unfold: A Portrait of Peggy Baker received its Toronto launch Sunday, Sept. 21, at Canada’s National Ballet School. Peggy Baker attended the launch and performed her solo “Strand” and Anderson read extracts from her book.

Right: Carol Anderson (left) with Peggy Baker at the launch of Unfold: A Portrait of Peggy Baker

"Peggy Baker is a passionate proponent of contemporary dance. Both an icon of dance and an artist swimming joyously in midstream, she is an avid, articulate lover of her art," writes Anderson in her book. "A consummate performer, once seen on the stage, she is unforgettable; for her, performances radiate a crystalline quality of profound artistry, physical acuity and unique emotional strength. An Olympian of the dance, she has helped forge a new model of feminine strength." 

Edmonton-born Baker has been celebrated as one of the most outstanding artists of her generation. For decades, she has influenced dancers in both modern dance and ballet, and has captivated audiences across North America, Asia and Europe. Baker has worked with the world’s leading dance figures, including Mikhail Baryshnikov (who contributed the foreword for Anderson’s book), Paul-André Fortier, James Kudelka, Lar Lubovitch and Mark Morris; her collaborations with musicians, filmmakers, visual artists and designers are legend. 

In Unfold, Anderson takes the reader through Baker’s early years, focusing on her development leading to her full maturity as a dance artist and teacher. The author, herself a dancer, choreographer and educator, provides analysis and commentary on Baker’s intense and layered working methods, the influences and impact of her many professional relationships and her investment in the next generation as an instructor and mentor. 

"It is rare that a dancer’s career is long enough to allow consideration of how circumstance, achievement and artistry have informed one another over a long span of time. Peggy Baker integrates past and present, finding resonance from earlier experiences in her current practice," writes Anderson. "Her memory is keen and her sense of time is fluid; she makes links between memory and the present, affirming themes and transformations over the arc of her extended dance career." 

Anderson has chronicled Canadian dance and dancers for the two decades in numerous articles for Dance Canada Danse as well as in Carol’s Dance Notes and a growing number of books. Her written works include Judy Jarvis: Dance Artist – a portrait (1993); Chasing the Tale of Contemporary Dance Parts I and II (1998/2001); This Passion: for the love of dance (1998),an anthology of original dance writing for which she was contributing editor; and Rachel Browne: Dancing Toward the Light (1999).

She is also the author, with York alumna Katharine Mallinson, of Lunch with Lady Eaton: Inside the Dining Rooms of a Nation (2004), a cultural history/cookbook which won a Toronto Heritage Award of Merit. See YFile May 19, 2004 for the full story. Her book Reflections in a Dancing Eye: Investigating the Artist’s Role in Canadian Society, co-authored by Joysanne Sidiumus, was released in 2006. See YFile Nov. 20, 2006 for a review of Reflections in a Dancing Eye.

Unfold: A Portrait of Peggy Baker is available for purchase through the Dance Collection Danse Press/Presse Web site.