That Deep Bench
Saturday, June 05, 2010
When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was, (but the servants which drew the water knew) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and said unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou has kept the good wine until now.
Today, Rebecca and Lauren attended the Arts Umbrella Dance Company Season Finale at the Vancouver Playhouse. Even though there were long lineups to enter the theatre we still managed to sit in our favourite seats, front row and smack in the center. From here we were able to see everything in great detail.
Unlike the marriage at Cana, Arts Umbrella Artistic Director, Artemis Gordon chose to display the best in the beginning. Gioconda Barbuto’s (above right) piece Sling Shot
choreographed for the Senior Dance Company was clearly the best of the evening. My granddaughter (12) who has been seeing dance since she was 5 agreed with me. We also agreed that the second piece by Ballet BC’s Donald Sales, left, Yours Truly
choreographed for the older members of he Apprentice Company Dancers was a close second. One of the reasons that both these works had a curious appeal to Rebecca is and she commented, “It is so wonderful to see modern ballet, even modern dance set to classical music.” In the case of Barbuto she used the music of Joan Jeanrenaud, Antonio Vivaldi and Francesco Geminiani while Sales choice of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata performed by Flafkkvartetten on some sort of synthesizer was an inspired one.
There is a movement these days to use a lot of anti-ballet (my coinage) moves that are clearly ungainly, unattractive for reasons that sometimes escape me. But I am adjusting slowly! Both Barbuto and Sales still believe in the beauty of human grace and both works had lots of that.
The rest of the evening was inspired, exciting and certainly never dull. It clearly showed that Gordon and her company have what in sports would be called a deep bench of talent. Everybody in the company had a chance to shine which made the evening seem long only if you checked your watch (3 hours including intermission).
In a couple of numbers by the Senior Dance Company, Cherice Barton’s entertaining (music by Jacques Brel, Johnny Horton, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, The Platters, Sandy Nelson and Eidth Piaf) ’59
and Shawn Hounsell’s Kinesphere
all or most of the Senior Company were on stage. Seeing what a choreographer can do with 20 dancers must have made Ballet BC’s Artistic Director Emily Molnar (whom I spotted amongst the audience) awfully jealous! - A deep bench, indeed.
It was in Barton’s ’59
where I finally noticed that Jed Duifhuis(above right with friend Nina Davies) is more that just a tall and strong dancer. Yes, he can pick up dancers and swing them around. But he has this manly style so rare these days in our city’s dance companies. He has not yet graduated which means he has another year to hone his skills. I see a future for this boy turned man.
Of Alex Burton, above, left, I can only say that every time Rebecca would ask me, “Who’s the prettiest girl on stage now?” I would answer, “I don’t know because I am too busy watching Alex.” I look forward to his performances as an apprentice dancer for Ballet BC this coming season. It was Alex Burton, Jed Duifhuis and Scott Fowler who taught me to notice them and give all those pretty girls a rest!
But there are two pretty girls I did notice beyond the multi-talented and strong (and compact) Livona Ellis who has already been hired by Ballet BC. One of them is Clea Owens, left, with big eyes, lots of freckles and an expression on her face of almost anguished wonder. Her body is tiny and compact and it must be a dream to choreograph to her body. In a short chat with Gioconda Barbuto when I was throwing praise on her Sling Shot I mentioned that she had even choreographed for extremely tall and long limbed male dancer (from Manchester) Chris Hoyte. I had noticed that Barbuto had taken advantage of those long limbs and done something that no other dancer in the company could have possibly equaled. Barbuto answered something like, “I choreograph to anything that nature throws at me. After all it is all nature’s way.”
Clea Owens appeared lots and the more I saw of her the more I liked. As I watched her dance I wondered if she could also act. That could be a second career seeing that dance does not always pay the rent.
The second dancer I noticed I have noticed for many years as I waited for my Rebecca to finish her classes at Arts Umbrella for the four years she was there. Kiera Hill, left, has to be noticed as she indeed proves what I thought was a fallacy. And this is that, indeed, some dancers are swans. I have not been the only one who noticed as she was the recipient of an important Arts Umbrella Scholarship prize. Kiera Hill might just be the one to inherit the mantle of that other would-be swan Ballet BC’s Alyson Fretz. And yes Fretz did graduate from Arts Umbrella.
Friday, June 04, 2010
iPhone snaps of Arts Umbrella Senior Dance Company and of the Apprentice Dance Company were only possible because I had a good assistant. My assistant was Nina Davies who is back for the summer from her job in a London circus. I have noticed Nina for years because my eldest granddaughter Rebecca danced at Arts Umbrella for four years. I immediately noticed the tall and lithe girl with a flexibility that could make you lose your breakfast if she showed off in earnest.
In May, 1973 I wrote a cover article for a good city magazine, VLM which is, alas, no more. I wrote about the ballet boys of Arts Umbrella. I came up with the idea of taking pictures of four of them (there were six boys) with one female dancer. I called up Arts Umbrella Arty Gordon and told her I had made up my mind who that girl was going to be. I remember that Arty said, “I know, it is probably Nina Davies.”
Three years later you can see what Nina Davies looks like now. She is almost 19 and we have been told that her possible future involves a horse in Paris. Good luck!
The boys in the pictures are, clockwise from top left, Michel Issa Rubio, Jeremiah Kennedy,Scott Fowler and Jed Difhuis. In this Saturday night's final performance of the Arts Umbrella Dance Company Season Finale you can catch Fowler and Difhuis. If you spot a tall girl with very red lipstick in the audience that will be my assistant!
Know Where You Are Going & Go There
Thursday, June 03, 2010
"Know where you are going and go there."
Artemis Gordon, Artistic Director - Arts Umbrella Dance Company
Vancouver holds many special secrets. Some should not be so. I am going to share one of them right now. Any performance of the Arts Umbrella Dance Company is such a secret. And the most special is the Company Season Finale of the Arts Umbrella Senior Dance Company (the “Rolls Royces”) and the Arts Umbrella Apprentice Dance Company (the “Bentleys”) at the Vancouver Playhouse. The first show is Friday night at 8:00pm and the second one is on Saturday night.
These extremely fast dance performances (one dance number follows the next with almost no interval and the two hour show always seems shorter) feature works by well known international and local choreographers. These are:
James Kudelka, Gioconda Barbuto, Cherice Barton, Serge Benna than, Roberto Campanella, Amber Funk Barton, Shawn Hounsell, Rob Kitsos, Josh Martin and Donald Sales.
These performances are a fine blend of modern ballet, modern dance with bits of avant-garde thrown here and there. At any given point in time you can find at least four Arts Umbrella alumni dancing with Ballet BC. The dancers make the transition seamlessly. To many who may have had their first and usually last eperience of dance in a high school show or in some lesser dance academy, watching Arts Umbrella dancers is a completely different deal. They are budding professionals. Consider that most of the dances that will be performed were personally directed by the choreographers listed below. Arts grants to bring these people to Vancouver are becoming nonexistent but I am sure that if there is anybody who will know where to get the necessary money to bring that talent to Granville Island it is Artemis Gordon.
It is not important to understand dance. Consider that Arts Umbrella Artistic Director, Artemis (Arty) Gordon once told me, “Alex, where else can you sit down to see attractive, beautiful, young men and women move gracefully and who at any given moment are not wearing much?”
When Arty invited me to come to the rehearsals to shoot whatever I wanted I came up with the idea of taking snaps of every dancer using my new iPhone. I shot them all in about an hour on Thursday afternoon. My assistant was the able and flexible Nina Davies. She rounded them up for me. You can see here in one of the pictures below hiding behind Senior Dance Company male dancer, Jed Duifhuis.
I will be the first to admit that I have yet to get down pat the technique for using the iPhone in conjunction with a my soft box light. The phone is all over the place with colour and exposure. There are a few stinkers (and in particular the one of the extremely tired and burned out Arty Gordon) but, all in all I like the spontaneous look of many of them. All certainly portray the passion and enthusiasm of the Arts Umbrella Dancers. The last picture (and the little one above, right) is of Julie-anne Saroyan who is the stage manager. She is holding a red bulb because she positioned one at the end of the theatre so that should the dancers lose their bearings (a most unlikely situation) the will know they are facing the audience when they see the red bulb. A stage manager has to deal with the dancers, with a sound man (Tim Brecht) a lighting designer (Rob Sondergaard) while facing at least two laptops.
Watching these professionals direct the rehearsals was a treat. I was amazed at the gentle corrections of the rehearsal directors Lina Fitzner and Andrea Hodge. They never shouted and they never got angry. It was during one of these rehearsals that I heard Arty direct her dancers, “Know where you are going and go there.”
I would entreat any who might not know what to do Friday or Saturday night to treat Arty’s statement as both a challenge and an invitation for adventure. You will not be disappointed.
The pictures appear in the order that we took them. Some tried to avoid but Nina Davies cajoled them and brought them to the rehearsal room by the Green Room to face my light. We managed to get Julie-anne Saroyan one minute before 7 when the dress rehearsal started. Again I must apologize that there is a lack of uniformity and some of the portraits are below my standards. But it is the unpredictability of my iPhone (until I can figure out its haphazard independence) that attracted me to today's experiment.
Kate Burrows - Costume designer
Gioconda Barbuto - Choreographer
Alex Burton - Senior Dance Company
Lynn Sheppard - Senior Company Rehearsal Mistress
Zoe Nichele - Senior Dance Company
Daniel Alwell - Senior Dance Company
Maya Klassen - Senior Dance Company
Jessica Atkinson - Senior Dance Company
Brandy Ostrosser - Senior Dance Company
Clare Bassett - Senior Dance Company
Clea Owens - Senior Dance Company
Livone Ellis - Senior Dance Company
Layla Trummer - Senior Dance Company
Kiera Hill - Senior Dance Company
Amee Chan - Senior Dance Company
Alicia Chan - Senior Dance Company
Kaitlyn Ramsden -Senior Dance Company
Ali Thatcher - Senior Dance Company
Amy Josh - Senior Dance Company
Chris Hoyte - Senior Dance Company
Violeta Nunez - Senior Dance Company
Paxton Ricketts - Apprentice Dance Company
Christoph von Riedemann -Apprentice Dance Company
Lina Fitzner - Apprentice Company Rehearsal Mistress
Sabine Raskin - Apprentice Dance Company
Kate Shepard - Apprentice Dance Company
Rachel Wong - Apprentice Dance Company
Maya Doytchinova - Apprentice Dance Company
Oksana Wengreniuk - Apprentice Dance Company
Madison Smart - Apprentice Dance Company
Alex Poole - Apprentice Dance Company
Selby Wilkinson - Apprentice Dance Company
Misa Lucyshyn - Apprentice Dance Company
Claudia Nicholls - Apprentice Dance Company
Stephanie Lebedies - Senior Dance Company
Agata Chrzastowska - Apprentice Dance Company
Lucy Huang - Apprentice Dance Company
Sophie Belic - Apprentice Dance Company
Hailee Mah - Apprentice Dance Company
Alex Tam - Apprentice Dance Company
Sam Neville - Apprentice Dance Company
Matt Clarke - Apprentice Dance Company
Jed Duifhuis - Senior Dance Company & N.Davies
Nigel Underhill -Apprentice Dance Company
Jan Lee - Apprentice Dance Company
Scott Fowler - Senior Dance Company
Scott Fidzarko - Apprentice Dance Company
Chisato Ide - Senior Dance Company
Diego Romero - Apprentice Dance Company
Alex Andison - Apprentice Dance Company
Artemis Gordon - Artistic Director & Kiera Hill
Emile Teichroeb - Apprentice Dance Company
Noa Salamon - Apprentice Dance Company
Julie-anne Saroyan - Stage Manager