who we are in the dark

or, all the lenses I carry

There I was, 16 square seats deep in old white people; dead center in row E of the Babs Asper Theatre; primed by coffee, freebase nicotine, and an ongoing and chronic lack of sleep to decode whatever occluded meaning Ms. Baker might offer me. I knew nothing about Peggy Baker, or her dance projects, prior to receiving my program.

Ms. Baker, in her choreographer's note, says that her and Sarah Neufeld, the composer for the show, used the line "who we are in the dark" as a departure point. I didn't recognize most of the writers she referenced in the program, but Sylvia Plath and Jean Genet stood out. I'm most familiar with Jean Genet's text "The Criminal Children", which was written to be a radio broadcast, and was meant to include a response by a judge and a psychiatrist. It never aired, but the text is interesting to me for its suggestion that some people, particularly young people, seek out criminality because of the chance of heroism its accomplishment and punishment offer. I was hoping to see reference to these sort of limit experiences in the perofrmance.

As often happens when one unpacks a rich but ambiguous set of signifiers, my interpretation likely says as much about me as it says about what I was observing. I understood from the program, and from what Ms. Baker said before the curtain went up, that the piece was meant to explore the themes relating to darkness. In rough order of appearance (scrawled from my wrist to my elbow in the dark), I recognized sex, anxiety, domestication and revolt, differing relational dynamics, and finally light. Perhaps the section that was most powerful for me, due to my own ideological baggage, was the (perceived) exploration of domestication and revolt. I saw the capture of wild animals by civilization, and the pain that accompanies that capture, and then the destruction of the internalized masks, chains, and armour that make up our civilized selves. Honestly though, this might just be a me thing.

My focus was somewhat polyvalent throughout the piece, sometimes centred on the dancers, sometimes on the musicians, and sometimes on the awe invoking projections. I presume that this was intentional, and that the piece was meant to be overwhelming at times.

Trevor and Kel were planning to see the show the night after I did. I'm looking forward to talking with them about it, as I think my perspective is necessarily limited, and I'm curious to hear what others understood from what they saw.