DANCING DARKNESS Peggy Baker conjures 'who we are in the dark'

DANCING DARKNESS explores the distinctively personal and profoundly collaborative creative process through the conjuring of Peggy Baker’s latest and most ambitious work, “who we are in the dark”. Renowned American choreographer Mark Morris calls Baker a “living treasure of Canada”. She burst into modern dance in 1971, working with dance greats Morris, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Lar Lubovitch, James Kudelka and others in New York and Canada, dancing into her late 50s before turning full-time to choreography.

Baker’s accomplices for ‘who we are in the dark’ match this ambition, including celebrated Canadian contemporary dancers* as well as violinist/singer Sarah Neufeld and drummer Jeremy Gara (of the famed indie-rock band Arcade Fire) who composed and perform the dance’s fast-paced, haunting score. Set paintings are by Montreal artist John Heward and lighting design by Baker’s long-time collaborator, Marc Parent.

In three acts, DANCING DARKNESS examines Baker’s creative odyssey (including a bio brief on her career); human responses to darkness, in the dance and as the artists otherwise express; and the mystery and necessity of art itself. The dance’s technical/dress residency provides the film’s rich visual backbone and extensive interviews with principal collaborators form its narrative ‘voice’.

A single outsider, actor/ playwright Daniel MacIvor**, witnesses the dance to ask: Why make art? What does it mean? Baker and several of her collaborators also engage these questions, deepening reflection on this luminous work and the mystery and motive behind any art.

“How we understand if a work is powerful,” comments Baker, “is if the meaning has got enough space.” Her dance opens with a soloist whirling in a fractured circle of light, soon accompanied by the drummer and violinist, then the violinist’s ethereal voice, then the growls, sighs and groans of seven dancers as they navigate each other and the wild or sublime in the dance’s theme. So our experience in darkness is revealed: in solos, in sensuous or fraught duets, in groups of roving, threatened or threatening alliances. In its final scene, alone again, the first dancer embraces the dark.

DANCING DARKNESS examines this artwork as it emerges, conjuring something of the alchemy that motivates the creative process.

* Sarah Fregeau, Mairi Greig, Kate Holden, Ben Kamino, Sahara Morimoto, David Norsworthy, Nicole Rose Bond and Jarrett Siddall.
** His latest one-man play, Let’s Run Away, ran November 2019 at Toronto’s (CanStage) Berkeley Theatre: https://www.canadianstage.com/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::permalink=lets-run-away&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::context_id=

  • V. Tony Hauser
  • Ellen Tolmie
  • V. Tony Hauser
  • Ellen Tolmie
  • Laurie Filgiano
  • Karin Stubenvoll
    at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity
  • Peggy Baker
    Key Cast
  • Sarah Neufeld
    Key Cast
    "score / violin / voice"
  • Jeremy Gara
    Key Cast
    "score / drums / synth"
  • Daniel MacIvor
    Key Cast
    "playwright actor commentator"
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    39 minutes 54 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 15, 2020
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Int Festival of Films on Art - FIFA
    March 22, 2020
Director Biography - V. Tony Hauser, Ellen Tolmie

V. Tony Hauser, DANCING DARKNESS Executive Producer / Director / Producer, is a Toronto-based arts documentary filmmaker. A renowned portrait and arts performance photographer for +40 years, primarily in Canada and the U.S., he has also travelled to most continents to photograph varied indigenous peoples. In 2019 he was named a Member of the Order of Canada in recognition of this work.

Ellen Tolmie, DANCING DARKNESS Director / Producer, is a photography, film and essay documentarian. She worked as a documentary film producer/co-director for six years (in New York) and an editorial/documentary photographer for nine years (in Toronto, New York and Bogotá), prior to directing Unicef’s global photography for 23 years (New York). Unicef work included producing, editing and writing numerous photography essays (including a photography book on child rights), online mini-docs and other multimedia productions on international development and rights issues. She returned to Toronto in 2014.

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