Sean Ling (front) moves to the music of John Cage, played by John Kameel Farah.
THE SOUND AND FEEL OF IT choreographed by Peggy Baker (Peggy Baker Dance Projects). At the Betty Oliphant (404 Jarvis). To January 29. $28, stu/srs $22. peggybakerdance.com. See Dance Listings. Rating: NNN
After decades of solo work, the extraordinary Peggy Baker has been branching out recently, choreographing works for two and more dancers.
It's telling that the strongest pieces in her latest program, the sound and feel of it, remain two earlier solos. Her new quartet, though intriguing, just doesn't have the sharpness of those other pieces.
First up is In The Fire Of Conflict, a 2008 solo she's re-envisioned for Benjamin Kamino, a lanky, intuitive dancer who made a lasting impression several seasons ago at Dancemakers. Clad in track pants, Kamino casually leaps onto the spare stage, where he soon dominates our attention, suggesting a fascinating internal struggle. That conflict is reflected in the music, which combines live marimba (performed by Beverley Johnston) and fragmented snatches of hip-hop by Christos Hatzis.
Baker reprises her Dora Award-winning solo, Portal, a rich work full of startling images of a woman navigating various shafts of light. She uses her lean, muscular body to maximum effect, at one point turning away from us and, clasping her hands behind her, resembling a figure seen from the front in devout prayer.
That focus seems to be missing from the one new work, Piano/Quartet, inspired by the music and poetry of John Cage, whose 1948 Sonatas and Interludes is performed on a prepared piano by John Kameel Farah.
The music has a skewed, ever-shifting quality, but Baker's movement feels woefully earthbound. Occasionally, dancers Ric Brown, Sean Ling, Sahara Morimoto and Andrea Nann evoke an abstract painting come to life, their repeated gestures coming together before splitting off for a solo or duet.
But the tension slackens, and the whole exercise is twice as long as it needs to be.
Despite the program's title, there's too much sound, too little feeling.