Todd, Lauren, Whale Tails & A Snub-Nosed 38Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Some of you by now, must know that I am crazy about women and specially my granddaughter Rebecca (9). But I must admit that Rebecca's sister Lauren (4)is doing a good job of confusing me. She is a delight. She is my companion on Saturdays when we drop off Rebecca at her Arts Umbrella ballet and dance classes on Granville Island. Lauren and I buy a plain croissant at he bakery that is across the butcher shop that features "dino bones" (I am afraid to ask). We then sit down at the Granville Island Tea Company for an hour. Lauren munches on her croissant while I drink a Rwanda Rukeri. Lauren behaves all the time like a little adult and she sometimes plays , "I spy with my little eye....."with the cute and friendly attendants at the tea counter. We know all the regulars who come for their tea. One of them is Todd Woffinden, dancer, actor, carver and sometimes singer.
I have to admit that while I really like women I have been afraid of male dancers particularly those that dance at Ballet BC. Some were intimidating (when I first started taking their pictures in 1992) others remote. But it was around 1994 that the Globe dispatched me to photograph Ballet BC's John Alleyne. I decided on a dancer couple for background. That's when I first met the easy going Todd and Crystal Pite. Todd in his quiet and most American drawl told me it was going to be easy. It was and the photo was very well received.
I had the opportunity to shoot with him again in November 1997 when I did a fashion spread for the Georgia Straight that featured a narrative involving three women (female Ballet BC dancers) being holed up in a cheap hotel (Room 615 of the Marble Arch, then owned by my pal Tony Ricci) who lure two men (Todd and another Ballet BC male dancer) and then dispose of them with a snub-nosed 38. In the photo from left to right, Andrea Hodge, Gail Skrela, Todd Woffinden and Lauri Stallings. During rest periods I was "shocked" (out of ballet character?) that Todd was watching American football in another room. It was then that I noticed that he resembled that other good old American and favourite actor of mine, Sam Shepard.
A few years later I was asked to photograph a dancer and a musician for a joint charity program involving Ballet BC and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Here's Todd with VSO violinist Karen Gerbrecht.
Two weeks ago Lauren and I ran into Todd on Granville Island. He was at his stall (not far from the Tea Company). Todd has stopped dancing for Ballet BC and has now gone independent in many directions. In 2004 I saw him in the Vancouver Opera production of Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera. If any Vancouver Opera production features ballet, Todd will be on stage as he was for Aida. But the most striking talent Todd has are his carvins specillay his trademark whale pendants that he carves from 10,000 to 40,000 year-old Yukon mammoth tusks. Here you see Lauren holding on to Todd for dear life (and not knowing that one of Todd's specialties was to hold up women of any size back in his dancing days). His whale tail pendant and hand woven cord is hanging around his neck. Both Rebecca and Lauren appreciate Todd's quiet way of talking to them as little adults. I appreciate it and him, too.