David Y.H. Lui, Celia Duthie & The Fighting Temeraire
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Before Thursday's ballet
began I was in the lobby with my companion Abraham Rogatnick. I noticed an old man barely able to walk with his cane. I have been blessed not only with a photographic memory for faces but also with a memory for a face that may have changed after so many years. I acknowledged the man and introduced him to Rogatnick
(who surely did know him and that was so), "Mr Lui (David Y.H.) this is Abraham Rogatnick."
Lui almost singlehandedly made dance a presence in Vancouver. Here he was coming into the "house he built" a virtual unknown. I felt sad. In happier times I photographed Lui by the side of the old Greyhound Bus station on Dunsmuir and Cambie. In those days they painted murals (on the Cambie side) on the high walls to decorate and hide the buses that were parked behind.
During the evening I recognized many of my former photographic subjects and some that I want to photograph soon. They were/are architects, writers and dancers. They are the lifeblood of our city's cultural existence. It is a pity that our city so soon forgets. We even forget the very men and women who made it all happen.
Yesterday I received a phone call from a woman who introduced herself, "Hi Alex this is your friend from Elba." Since Celia Duthie closed shop and moved first to Galiano and then to Salt Spring Island I have insisted that there is no way this active and powerful woman would ever live in exile on "Elba" as Napoleon did. She is soon to return. Of this I am convinced even though this time Celia is coming only for a visit with husband Nick. "We are really happy on Salt Spring and our furniture business/store/gallery is doing very well. Someday our furniture (mostly beautiful bookcases)will be sold at high prices at Sotheby's."
Sometime next week I will lunch with Celia and it will be like old times. Any idea that had some merit could be realized if you went to her, and I did many times. Once, most memorably (it was raining that day), she took me from her store on the corner of Robson and Hornby to the Vancouver Hotel through tunnels and passageways I did not know existed. We had lunch (we shared a club sandwich) in the central lounge that featured then and still features the women sphinxes.
In looking forward to lunch with Celia (the Vancouver Hotel, naturally) I remember all those other pleasant times we had together. Once we walked on Galiano and she showed me some open caves which I photographed with my Widelux panoramic camera.
It all reminds me of other good times I have had in Vancouver. They have been dance openings and concerts, openings of new buildings and art shows. What they all have in common is a sad ephemeral character. If you forget them then they never existed.
It further brings to mind one of my favourite paintings by J.M.W. Turner. It is called The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last birth to be broken up
(1839). She had fought valiantly at Trafalgar
and here she was being pushed by a smoke-spewing tug boat that represented the future of naval warfare and eventually to the pushing of buttons without seeing the face of your enemy. It was a ship that helped defeat Napoleon but it did not prevent him from leaving Elba. It is my hope that someday, our very own version of the exile in Elba will escape and bring us some excitement. Our city would be better off for it.
Friday, February 15, 2008
While enough has been written on how Antonio Vivaldi's Le Quattro Stagioni
has been recorded to death and I have observed that Vancouver restaurants have a tendency to play either the Four Seasons, Billie Holiday or the Gipsy Kings, nothing can be done to modify my perception that the Largo: la pioggia of L'Inverno
, is one of the most beautiful compositions by any composer ever. I would even enjoy it (tolerate?) played by Ornette Coleman on his plastic saxophone. Last night's performance of the movement by Ballet BC's Chengxin Wei (with "artist resident in cahoots" Tiko Kerr) has left me thinking about my tolerance.
I feel fortunate that I am not a dance reviewer and that my blog is an outlet for fun. This means I can write about anything I want, in whatever way I want and I don't have to be complete in the when, where and how department. But it is unfortunate that today I will break ( I may have broken it before) my commitment to not insert photographs with nudes. Children including my granddaughter Rebecca (although she has seen my nudes aplenty) might lurk in these pages.
A true snob (fortunately I am not one) would have left with companion (Abraham Rogatnick) after the first dance performance, Dominique Dumais's
a/way inside. It featured the tall and cool (like my favourite Southern style unsweetened iced tea) Edmond Kilpatrick (his swan song for Ballet BC as he is leaving to free lance) and the electric Alexis Fletcher (a product of Arty Gordon's
dance program at Arts Umbrella). They did not disappoint. This was pure dance unudulterated by anything. It just was.
But John Alleyne's The Four Seasons (fortunately Rogatnick and I stayed) was a wonderful three-ring-circus of surprises.
Dancer Makaila Wallace, a combination of Teflon, grace and femininity, packed tons of charm in her tiny package. We may walk but Wallace prances. She was the delightful unifying presence in Alleyne's work. And Jones Henry was her elegant and unruffled foil.
In composer Michael Bushnell's Musical Prelude and Postlude (I was not aware that word existed) Alan Storey's "Machine" tracked dancer Wallace inexorably. The "Machine" hovered over the stage and it looked like a spider cyborg from hell. At the end of the night the machine lowered itself (does it rely on humans?) and showed Wallace's tracks on paper(?). Even during the various curtains calls every movement that Wallace made was recorded by the "Machine". After the performance we went back stage to inspect the "Machine". Alan Storey gave us an explanation and then retired, probably to transmute some base metal into gold.
But it was the Vivaldi Winter Largo that left me speechless, troubled and in the end satisfied by Chengxin Wei's (below) completely out of context (to me, anyway) movements. The movements, jerky but full of passion, were softened by Tiko Kerr's smile behind the lucite screen on which he doodled with marking pens. The glowing and cheerful colours foretold the promise of a coming spring.
And John Alleyne again proved that there are plenty of surprises to come in his bag of tricks as he pushes the boundaries of modern ballet in Vancouver.
As for the picture above here is the explanation. In 1998 Nuvo (a magazine for those with hefty pocket books) comissioned me to recreate photographically Édouard Manet's Le déjouner sur l'herbe
. To avoid possible problems with the police I chose the little known Shakespeare Garden (right next to the Vancouver Police's horse stables) in Stanley Park. I had friend Helen Yagi to pose undraped and Ona Grauer
to pose draped behind. My friend Tiko Kerr (at right in picture) immediately volunteered and somehow persuaded art dealer David Heffel that his reputation was not at stake if he posed for us.
The picture represents for me the always cheerful personality of Tiko Kerr and how we are lucky to have him with us in Vancouver. Kudos to Alleyne for seeking his collaboration as well as Storey's and Bushnell's.
And I must not forget to mention the bonus of being able to see the senior dancers of Arts Umbrella. My eyes were only for the most flexible and tall Nina Davies
If Alleyne does not create a dance that will exclusively feature brother dancers Connor and James Gnam next year I will be disappointed.
Alexandra Elizabeth Waterhouse-Hayward - A Valentine
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Our lives are full of tragedy. And the biggest one for me is an awful regret in the knowledge that I never really told my mother or my father that I loved them. I have made up for lost time by telling Rosemary not only that I love her but I am constantly asking her if she is ok. It drives her crazy. After 40 years of marriage I can assert that I feel a great glow of satisfaction in my affection for her. One of the advantages of this is that non sequiturs rarely happen when we talk. I might be looking out of the living room and say, "It has to be moved." Rosemary without looking out of the window will finish, "because that Rhododendrum racemosum
is not happy there."
Since Alexandra, 38, moved to Lillooet I have been thinking a lot about her. I talk with her on Skype or we have video conversations in MSN and she always signs off with, "Te quiero mucho, Papi." (I love you lots). When Rosemary's situation at work began to look shaky Ale (as we have called Alexandra since we lived in Mexico City so many years ago and that was what her friends called her.) said that she thought she could contribute with $500 per month. Rosemary politely turned her down but glowed inside at the thought that our daughter does care for our welfare.
I have become close with Ale and I confide in her as I may not have in the past. Paradoxically the geographic distancing has been a godsend. I really miss her and I always look forward to our expeditions to Lillooet with Rebecca and Lauren.
I appreciate in more ways than Ale will ever know (Or I could be wrong about this.) that she constantly tells me how she loves me. Both Rosemary and I feel reinforced when Ale tells us how grateful she is that we insisted she finish at UBC or that she not drop her guitar lessons.
I feel lucky and revel at the fact that I know all the above and that it is not too late to tell my Ale that I love her. And this I do.
Richard Chamberlain & Diana The Huntress
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
It was 1970 and Rosemary and I had been married for two years. We lived in Mexico City's Zona Rosa within walking distance of the Cine Chapultepec. It was right next to the beautiful glorieta (roundabout) of la Diana Cazadora
(Diana the Huntress). For a while in the 50s during president Adolfo Ruiz Cortines's 6 years in office his wife had ordered a metal "bikini" bottom attached to the rousing and beautiful statue that was also a fountain. Since we left Mexico City in 1975 the fountain was moved and perhaps the Cine Chapultepec is long gone. But I remember it well for several reasons.
With my friend and mentor Raúl Guerrero Montemayor
(who speaks at least 10 languages) we saw many Antonioni films at the Chapultepec. We also saw Italian comedies. A couple featured bidet jokes. More often than not the Chapultepec was packed full and Raúl and I would sit separately. There would be a bidet joke and I could hear him laugh as he would hear me laugh. Mexicans had no knowledge of the function of bidets. It was at the Chapultepec that Raúl converted me to a film snob and I am grateful!
But it was in 1970 when the movie house seared in my memory a couple of events that I can now look back with a smile. When Rosemary and I approached the ticket booth, we were asked for ID. We were both flatered by this!
The featured film (classified as Solo Adultos
by Mexican censors) was Ken Russell's The Music Lovers
which was an out of the ordinary biography on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky played by Richard Chamberlain. The film is full of nightmarish flashbacks, and in one as a child, Tchaikovsky sees his mother die horribly, forcibly immersed in scalding water as a supposed cure for cholera. He is haunted by the scene throughout his musical career. Tchaikovsky dies of cholera in a bathtub scene so horrible that I refused to see Richard Chamberlain films for a long time.
In 1998 I had the opportunity to photograph Chamberlain for the Globe & Mail
at the Vancouver Hotel. He was gracious to Globe writer Chris Dafoe
and Chamberlain laughed with me when I told him of the Cine Chapultepec incident. He considered that film one of his best even if most people have forgotten it.
I wish I could tell him that I plan to see him in The Man In The Iron Mask
with Rebecca and as many of his swashbucklers as I can find. The Music Lovers
will have to wait a bit. Below is a photograph I took in 1997 that shows the Diana in its new location much closer to the (only now) aptly named Cine Diana which is a modern type of movie house without the charm of our old Cine Chapultepec.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Last night VLM Editor/Art Director Bob Mercer and I went to Ballet BC's Studio Series. In these events held at the Scotia Bank Dance Centre you get the privileged view of watching a work in progress (John Alleyne's The Four Seasons
) unfold and then have the promise of seeing the work performed complete, in this case, in two days on Thursday when The Four Seasons
open at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
The studio space is smaller and the intimacy created lends itself to making the audience feel as if they are watching the dancers under a loupe. We were sitting next to a Ballet BC fan with long tenure. It was architect Henry Hawthorn so our ballet experience was enhanced by his good company. The master of ceremonies deftly made John Alleyne drop his candid drawers so that we were able to understand how he manages a work in progress. In spite of the smiles I suspect this is serious and scary. For Alleyne, I believe, a work is not really finished until perhaps seconds before its premiere.
After watching a shortened version (but not shortened enough that we could not but notice the dancers gasping for air!) of the Four Seasona while having to leave to the imagination a couple of the promised features:
1. Artist Tiko Kerr will be painting works (sets?) during the performance of the Four Seasons on stage in an extemporaneus reaction to the action on stage. He is seen here being painted with his own paint brush by my favourite ever Ballet BC male dancer, Miroslav Zydowicz.
2. Installation artist Alan Storey
has created a giant drawing machine that will react to a light on dancer Makaila Wallace's head. The device will track her movements and draw on a screen, at the end of the perfomance, the audience will be able to see it all on a giant screen. You can see Storey here by his Coopers Mews sculpture.
we listened to the dancers give us their side of the story. Not too long ago I asked National Ballet of Canada founding member, dancer and choreographer Grant Strate
why it was that dancers in Vancouver seemed to be all so articulate. He told me that this was certainly not the rule. I then asked the master of ceremonies the same question. His answer was concise and an eye opener. "Ines Vancouver we don't have a hair bun and tutu tradition." From this I understood that dancers are not expected to just follow standard moves but must inject intelligence, individuality. They must think for themselves. It was a pleasure to listen to dancer Jones Henry (below) and James Gnam prove the master of ceremonies right.
I remember the first few years of Ballet BC when John Alleyne took over. There were plenty of tutus and bun heads at the time. Then slowly, surely and quietly they all but disappeard. Today's Ballet BC or Modern Ballet BC (as I would like to call it) has to be John Alleyne's legacy and we should be grateful for it.
But four men for Four Seasons might get some competition from more womanly quarters. While I am not familiar with Mark Morris's A Garden
I do recommend a/way inside
by Dominique Dumais (below). Her work, in all its simplicity, might just give the four men above a run for their money. And of course not to mention all the girls (women) in the band including my favourite Arts Umbrella graduate, Alexis Fletcher.
The Four Seasons
at Queen Elizabeth Theatre
on February 14, 15, 16 @ 8 pm
& February 16 @ 2pm
José Casals - Of Memory Lost, Gained & Lost Again
Monday, February 11, 2008
Pensó que en la hora de la muerte no habría acabado aún de clasificar todos los recuerdos de la niñez.
He thought that in the hour of his death he would not have finished classifying the rembembrances of his childhood.
Funes El Memorioso
Jorge Luís Borges
Memory and how it works is something I am constantly thinking about. I wonder how much of our shared life Rebecca will remember hence. I remember little of my life when I was 10.
I thought about this Saturday night when Rebecca was talking to cellist Colin Matthews after the performance of The Satchmo Suite
at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre
. I asked Rebecca, "How many strings does a cello have?" I was disheartened when she guessed 12. When Rebecca was 6 she could tell the difference beween cellos and similar looking violas da gamba. Rebecca would have stated unequivocally, "Violas da gamba have 5 or more strings and cellos 4." I suspect that memory is like a red carpet at the Academy Awards. As it is rolled out (new memory) the back of the carpet (old memory) is rolled in. Thus I don't hold much hope for her remembering much of what we do now.
Last week I went twice to a wonderful photographic exhibition
at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I went home thinking about photography and photographers. I remember that I photographed at least two photographers in my lifetime. They were Annie Leibovitz and Elliott Erwitt
. But I also remember taking portraits of an extremely interesting photographer in Lima, Perú in 1990. I was in Lima to photograph Mario Vargas Llosa
and I have several more blogs on him but this one
should be enough.
I remember little of the photographer or the circumstances that led me to meet him. My writer friend Mark Budgen with whom I traveled to Lima remembers that after I took my photographs of the man I had told him that he was an interesting photographer who liked to contemplate sundown in Paracas, Peru when he felt depressed. And that was it. Somehow I am sure that Mark called me some years later to tell me, "Your Peruvian photographer friend died."
Trying to find the pictures of the photographer was tough as I had no memory of his name, Mark did not remember, and Google could not help me. I simply had no information on the man. Even trying to connect "Peruvian photographer, Paracas
" gave me nothing. The only possible solution was for me to wade, through all my photo files (in alphabetical order) until I found him. That was daunting.
For yesterday's blog
I had to scan a couple of CDs. One of them was of Pablo Casals. While scanning it I stared at the name Casals and became very excited. I ran down to my files and looked under C, under Casals and found : Casals, José - Perú - Photographer!
Here he is. Of José Casals all I have been able to find out is that he worked for Magnum and had several retrospective shows with other Peruvian photographers. I have not been able to determine when he died, where he was born or much else. A site lists one of his books here
. Of the pictures listed on that site the one here (below,left) is the one that reproduced the best.
I wonder what the man was like? Why did he go to Paracas when he was depressed? What did he do for Magnum? I wonder what the man was like? My memory, my awful memory.
Of memory I have written before here
and I cite Jim Byrnes as having a wonderful memory. I will ask him today as I will be in his kitchen taking his photograph. Just one more Borgesian labyrinth.
Louis Armstrong, Bach's River Boat, Robert Bateman, Kevin Patterson - Captains Courageous
Sunday, February 10, 2008
When I was 21, and in Mexico City I thought I was young and avant-garde. So I had a black girlfriend from from Chicago (Jewish,too) called Benjamin ("Call me Benjie"). She gave me a subscription to Downbeat
and two Angel records. The records were J.S.Bach Suites for Cello performed by Pablo Casals.
In Vancouver in the 70s the records were never released as tapes. When CDs came around I eschewed the whole idea of having to scrap my records and tapes for them. But when I noticed that Angel (now EMI) re-released the Bach Suites as two CDs I promptly purchased them and waited a few years before I broke down to buy a CD player.
I never much appreciated Louis Armstrong. I grew up in the 50s and 60s and I thought Miles Davis was cool and Dizzie Gillespie (because of his attraction to Latin music) bearable. I could not appreciate Armstrong's loud trumpet. I preferred Davis's muted horn close to a microphone or Art Farmer's sweet and gentle approach. In 1970 when Rosemary and I lived in a little apartment on Calle Estrasburgo in Mexico City's Zona Rosa I ran into Louis Armstrong on the street. The black man, who was to die the next year, was casually walking like a tourist and enjoying the sights. I was much too shy to talk to him.
Six or 7 years ago my eldest daughter gave me the Verve CD recording of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. It is the only Armstrong record I own and I have never played it much. In the mid 50s I bought at a service station a special jazz recording issued by Texaco in the US (I was in Austin) for $1.99. I remember distinctly that my favourite cut was Louis Armstrong (and trombonist J.C. Higginbotham) playing St. Louis Blues with a tango rythm. The record disappeared from my collection many years ago.
Last Wednesday Rosemary and I were enamoured and fascinated with the Vancouver East Cultural Centre's production of Hans Böggild and Doug Innis's The Satchmo Suite
. It was so good that I brought Rebecca to see it Saturday night.
But I had to prepare Rebecca for it. On our way to a birthday party yesterday morning I played the Bach Suite No 1 in the car. Returning from the party I played my daughter Ale's CD of Louis Armstrong with Ella Fitzgerald.
The play is about a stuffed shirt black musician (Hubert Clements played by Andrew Moodie) who has a block for playing the suite. He must play it at a performance with a large orchestra and if he is unable to play it right he will lose his cello chair in the orchestra. Louis Armstrong's (Jeremiah Sparks) ghost walks through Clement's hotel bathroom mirror to rescue him.
There is a moment in the play where I laughed (there are many other moments to laugh) Hubert tells Louis, "Bach would have never played like that as he was never on a riverboat steamer." Armstrong replies, "Of course, they had not been invented yet." This brought to mind a slide in my files featuring a man whose name I never recorded holding a model steam boat in Kitsilano Beach.
Returning from the performance we had more boats in our agenda. Rebecca and I watched the 1937 film Captains Courageous
based on a story by Rudyard Kipling. I had not seen this film since I had seen it with my father as a child. It featured Freddie Bartholomew, Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, Melvin Douglas, Mickey Rooney and a terrific and young Jack Carradine.
Unlike the film Rebecca and I watched the other day, A High Wind In Jamaica
where children tame a crew of pirates in Captains Courageous, the crew of a Grand Banks fishing schooner turn the unlikeable Freddie Bartholomew into a man with skills. When Spencer Tracy is about to willingly drown (to save the ship) he tells Bartholomew:
Now listen to me, leetle feesh. I go now...We had good times together, eh, leetle feesh? We laugh. We sing. So you smile...Manuel - he be watching you. You be best fisherman ever lived.
I think that Rebecca (by then it was one in the morning) was shedding some tears and I realized we had had a wonderful day. Rebecca had had pleasant chats with actors Jeremiah Sparks, Andre Moodie and cellist Colin Matthews ("It is important Rebecca that you learn to read music.")after that night's performance.
I suddenly thought of men with boats. I photographed author and doctor Kevin Patterson (Journey At Sea) and Robert Bateman with boats. But I was always nervous about getting seasick. I always had Dramamine in my pocket.
Perhaps men with boats were ancillary to my growing up. Will Rebecca have a more intimate relationship with boats? Or was Louis Armstrong and the We're Here
schooner enough? And exactly what kind of music would Bach have composed on a river steamboat?