Becoming Invisible In The Presence Of Good DanceSunday, August 28, 2011
On Friday night Rebecca and I went to the Arts Umbrella/Ballet BC Summer Dance Intensive. There are two versions of this which you can read below. One is going to be short and brief the other longwinded and convoluted. Take your pick. If I were you I would avoid Version 2.
1.The Arts Umbrella/Ballet BC Summer Dance Intensive which had highlights of the summer program was a brilliant showcase for great dance. It was held at a “new” Arts Umbrella studio, the Great Hall Studio (some sort of church before) since the Arts Umbrella has pretty well outgrown its Granville Island location. It was in need of more space and this “studio” on 7th Avenue and Quebec fit the bill just right. While the show was a delight my favourite part was the last called Contemporary Technique by instructor Marc Boivin, accompanist Toto Berriel and featuring the Advanced and Ballet BC/Graduate Level Dancers. This performance looked simple and seamless but I knew it wasn’t. Marc Boivin, showing a bit of the calming attitude the he must have learned from EDAM’s Peter Bingham was super-cool and collected.
This work looked like Esther Williams synchronized swimming minus the water (when the students were on the floor) and when they were upright they looked like a graceful army in the ready. They were accurately together and the movements were graceful and fast but sometimes slow, too. Rebecca and I marveled at the accompanist Toto Berriel with his percussion and special ankle rattles. His singing was African chanting, or so we thought. Then we distinctly heard him say, “Peinar el pelo,” or “comb the hair,” and I loudly uttered, “Es cubano!” “He is a Cuban.” Berriel turned around and smiling at me nodded in agreement. Both Rebecca and I thought that this exercise was very beautiful (and probably intensely difficult) and represented the most elegant way of keeping in shape and even, perhaps, of loosing weight!
I must confess that having lived in five large or largish cities in my life, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Veracruz, Austin and Vancouver I have always felt like a tourist in all of them. I have nostalgia for Buenos Aires when in Vancouver. Ditto for all the rest of the cities except Vancouver. And when I am elsewhere I feel that aching nostalgia for Vancouver. But I don’t really feel like I belong to any of them.
Watching a performance of the dancers of the Arts Umbrella Dance Company is very much (I felt curiously detached) like the experience of Dick Young in one of my favourite novels of all time, The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier.
|Alex Burton, 2009|
Dick Young, a physicist is leant a house in Cornwall (in the 20th century) by his friend Magnus Lane who is a bio-physicist. He is leant he house on the condition that he be the guinea-pig for a new drug. Young takes the prescribed dose and finds that he travels back (short periods that need more drug consuming to continue and visit back) in time to the 14th century in the same Cornish countryside. He is invisible and inaudible. He is only able to observe. Young finds that he is a kind of alter ego of Roger Kylmerth, steward to Sir Henry Champernoune, lord of the manor of Tywardreath.
Thirty six years of my stay in this city are recorded in my extensive files in my basement. As an example the file called Layton, Jack, proves he was in my studio and that I photographed him. I can remember his voice but it all seems very much back in time. It feels like my alter ego is the photographer/man who snapped Layton’s picture. I feel like that unobserved trime traveler of du Maurier’s novel.
Of late I read about the constant bickering between dog owners and not in the Vancouver Courier. I really do not give a damn. As a retired photographer who rarely invoices I am no longer bound to charge any taxes. The HST fiasco leaves me cold. I don’t give a damn. I read about the utterings of our Obama “Light” Mayor and I don’t really give much of a damn. Provincial politics leave me cold and the idea that the Georgia Viaduct might go leaves me cold with disinterest. I am embracing my deceased friend, Abraham Rogatnick’s dictum, “After me the apocalypse.” My wife reminds me that I must worry about my daughters and granddaughters but again I am feeling quite detached these days. My alter ego, the photographer is in charge and I am just observing.
|Jed Duifhuis & Nina Davies, 2009|
On Thursday I had to go to Ballet BC to photograph a new male dancer. After casing the location for the shoot, the roof of the Scotia Dance Centre on Granville and Davie I decided to go down the stairs and meander through the fifth floor where Ballet BC dancers rehearse. I poked my head in one of them and spotted choreographer Simone Orlando and Ballet BC ballet master, Sylvain Senez. There were 8 dancers in there 6 of them (including Alex Burton and Jed Duifhuis) one time danced at Arts Umbrella! If you read Ballet BC’s current roster of dancers you will note that there are more than 6 and they don’t even mention that some of their apprentice dancers are from Arts Umbrella, too.
|Kiera Hill, 2009|
The dancers all nodded and smiled but I must confess I felt invisible. I later talked to one of them, apprentice dancer Jed Duifhuis. I asked him what it was like at Ballet BC. His answer was interesting, "Artistic Director, Emily Molnar is just one of the dancers in the morning, She dances with us.” This statement was echoed almost verbatum by new dancer, Daniel Marshalay.
When these dancers communicated with me I again felt like an interloper/visitor/tourist. Yet I could talk and did talk to Marshalay of my first contact with Emily Molnar so many years ago. She had come into my studio and with a smile had then settled in a corner where she meditated for ten minutes before posing for my camera. I had felt invisible during that process.
The picture you see here of Arts Umbrella Artistic Director Artemis Gordon, dancer (then at Arts Umbrella but now at Ballet BC) and Emily Molnar is not a new photograph. But it is relevant in that those three people are still working together. And somehow this photograph, taken by my alter ego, the photographer proves that in some way my presence in this city is somewhat corporeal.
As I watched the dancers of Arts Umbrella dance on Friday night I noticed how many I had seen as little boys and little girls 6 and 7 years ago. I spotted one of them, sitting by the piano, the lovely and very classical looking ballerina, Kiera Hill. She was now a woman. There was no way any of them might have recognized me. The boys ignored me and the lovely maturing young ladies, made up to kill, looked through me. I felt transparent almost without any burden. Like that chap in The House on the Strand.
I don't quite think that had I been a dancer I might have felt imvisible. With James Kudelka sitting in the front row and Emily Molnar looking in from the sidlines I might just have wanted to become so!
Addendum: Here is a brief explanation by Marc Boivin.
Much of the material was inspired by or directly brought to the students from the work of Angélique Willkie, a wonderful teacher now based in Brussels. Of course there are a few other influences and much of my own research but just to give credit where due.