Peggy Baker

Artistic Director, Choreographer, Dancer

Peggy Baker is acclaimed as one of the most outstanding and influential contemporary dancers of her generation. Her unique abilities are the product of an education in both dance and theatre, pursued initially through the drama department of the University of Alberta, with The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, and in New York at the Martha Graham School and the Herbert Berghof Studio. Born in Edmonton in 1952, she began her professional career in Toronto in 1974, as a founding member of Dancemakers, toured internationally as a prominent member of Lar Lubovitch’s celebrated New York company throughout the eighties, and joined Mikhail Baryshnikov and Mark Morris for the inaugural season of their White Oak Dance Project in 1990, subsequently forging important creative relationships with Paul-André Fortier (Montreal), James Kudelka (Toronto), and Doug Varone (New York) through numerous performance projects.

 

She established Peggy Baker Dance Projects in 1990, and for the first 20 years she dedicated herself to solo performance, winning rapturous praise for the eloquence and depth of her dancing, and accolades for her collaborative partnerships with extraordinary musicians and designers. Among them: choreographers Sarah Chase, Molissa Fenley, Paul-Andre Fortier, James Kudelka, Tere O’Connor, Tedd Robinson and Doug Varone; composers Michael J. Baker, Chan Ka Nin, John Kameel Farah, Ahmed Hassan, Christos Hatzis, Heather Schmidt, Debashis Sinha, and Ann Southam; dancers Margie Gillis, Christopher House, Sylvain Lafortune, and Susan Macpherson; directors Daniel Brooks and Denise Clarke; actors Conrad Alexandrowicz, Jackie Burroughs, and Michael Healey; visual artists and designers Larry Hahn, Ina Levitsky, Janet Morton, Caroline O’Brien, Marc Parent, Kurt Swinghammer, Jane Townsend, and Peter Vogel; instrumentalists Andrew Burashko, Denise Djokic, John Kameel Farah, Henry Kucharzyk, Shauna Rolston, James Sommerville, and Robert W. Stevenson, as well as Amici, Arraymusic, The Modern Quartet, Art of Time Ensemble, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under Jukka-Pekka Saraste. Since 2010 her choreography has focused on works for small ensemble. Over its 26-year history Peggy Baker Dance Projects has been presented at major festivals and dance centres in North America, Asia and Europe, including Danspace, The Kitchen, Symphony Space, and the Harkness Festival in New York; the Luckman Center in Los Angeles; Jacob’s Pillow; the Copenhagen International Dance Festival; the Time Festival in Ghent, Belgium; MoDaFe in Seoul, Korea; the Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa, The High Performance Rodeo in Calgary, three seasons at L’Agora de la danse in Montreal, Landmark Tower in Yokohama Japan, and Fall for Dance North at Toronto’s SONY Centre. She has premiered five all-night choreographic events for Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, situated her hour long choreographic installation move – danced by local community members – in a public market in St. Catharines, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, and the Tett Centre in Kingston; staged The Perfect Word, a 3-hour sound/video/dance installation, for in/Future on the abandoned west island of Toronto’s Ontario Place; and presented interior with moving figures – four dances, performed simultaneously in four different spaces for a span of 70 minutes – and land | body | breath – an hour long installation for 8 dancers and 2 vocalists – at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Under the banner The Choreographer’s Trust she has published a series of booklet/DVD sets that document six of her landmark solos, and she is the subject of a book by Carol Anderson, Unfold – a Portrait of Peggy Baker, published by Dance Collection Danse.

 

A master teacher, Ms Baker teaches regularly at universities and professional training programs throughout Canada and the U.S. including The Juilliard School, The School at Jacob’s Pillow, American Dance Festival, New York University, UC Santa Barbara, Philadelphia’s Dance Advance, York University, University of Calgary, Simon Fraser University (as director of dance for the Contemporary Arts Summer Institute at from 1991 – 1994), The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, L’Ecole de danse de Quebec, and Canada’s National Ballet School, where she is Artist-in-Residence. Irene Dowd, Christine Wright, Patricia Miner, and Risa Steinberg, her primary teachers since the mid-eighties, continue to exert a powerful influence on her development.

 

Ms Baker has been honoured with numerous awards for her extraordinary achievements and contributions including the Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Achievement (2009), the 2006 Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, five Dora Mavor Moore Awards, a 2002 Cadillac-Fairview Salute to the City Award, the Toronto Arts Council’s 2002 Margo Bindhardt Award, honorary doctorates from the University of Calgary and York, the 2010 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts, a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, the George Luscombe Mentorship Award, and NOW Magazine’s 2014 & 2015 Reader’s Choice for Best Choreographer.

See the NFB Peggy short film here.