Arts Umbrella - A Conspiracy To Create Stellar YouthSaturday, June 09, 2012
|Lauren Elizabeth Stewart - Third year dance student at Arts Umbrella
I find it difficult to begin a blog with the word life. These days facebook and other social media have been the repository of unending and cloying streams of aphorisms. At least the previous incarnation of that trend was the “word of the day” which did bring, at the very least, an opportunity to learn something that was not self-evident.
So I will not begin this with the word life.
Rarely does life give one a second chance. That has been my personal experience. But there are some interesting exceptions. My wife Rosemary and I, as parents of two girls made many mistakes. We had no experience. On my side the only grandparent, my mother, had died when our eldest was five. And once we moved to Canada in 1975, on Rosemary’s side the grandparents were in far away New Dublin, Ontario. To feed, raise and educate our two girls we had to do it on our own with the help (and I must acknowledge this here) the excellent Canadian public school system. When our eldest began to speak terrible English (she had attended very good French Immersion schools in Coquitlam) in what was going to be her grade 11 we put her into York House. She hated the school in the beginning and to this day Ale, keeps thanking us for putting her into that school.
Both Rosemary and I believe that private schools (when funds permit) can offer some advantages. I was the product of one and I can remember every teacher I ever had with pleasure and pride.
Getting back to not beginning with the word life, we have learned subsequently to our small triumphs and many failures in the raising of our two daughters, that being a pair of grandparents at close proximity (and we are at close proximity) can break that pattern that life gives one few chances for correction or re-wind.
|Lauren in class with her teacher
Claudia Segovia behind.
As grandparents we can look back at our mistakes and offer suggestions to our daughter and son-in-law (an iffy proposition this idea of suggesting. Mexicans have a beautiful but terrible-sounding word for someone who overly intrudes metiche). We are aware where we went wrong and can see similar patterns in the raising of our grandchildren. Unfortunately while this sounds good on paper (or looks good on a computer monitor screen) in actual fact we are metiches and we have to understand that grandparents are not parents.
The cliché is of the grandfather telling his grandson how he used to walk miles to the one room schoolhouse. The fact is that I never talked to my girlfriend (she did not know she was my girlfriend) and yet my daughter says that her daughter Rebecca still talks to her ex. By talk she means text. Since when was texting talking? Obviously walking miles to school is of inconsequential merit or value.
As parents we put our daughters into ballet. It was "the right thing to do" we were told by our friends. We put them into The Vancouver School of Music by The Planetarium. Either of us would drive from Burnaby to take the girls. Then we would wait for what seemed hours for them to put on their street clothes after classes. We did not understand that their teacher only put effort into the dancers she thought had talent. She ignored the rest and treated them badly. Both my daughters hated their ballet. The end of the years performances were excruciatingly bad and boring. When my eldest wanted to quit her ballet and her classical guitar classes I told her she could only quit one of them. She stayed with the guitar and to this day, because she can sight read so well, she thanks us over and over for having forced her into guitar. She plays the piano well and uses this knowledge as a primary school teacher in Lillooet.
This brings me to the real meat of this blog which is my unwavering admiration for the possibilities offered by Arts Umbrella, that education/culture gem of Granville Island. It was only a few days ago that I paid it a visit and I found myself in a lobby full of children’s art. There was a whole wall of personal pizzas (grand idea) but what really impressed me where sculptures and paintings inspired by Shadbolt, the Impressionists and other artists of stature.
|Rebecca Stewart & Andrea Hodge 2004
And then there is the end of the year performance of the dance students (from young and rank beginners to the seasoned and very professional Senior Dance Company). This June 8 to June 10 version of Expressions Festival 2012 to be held at the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre is a fast (very little time between acts) showcase of the talents of the dance students who are part of the Arts Umbrella Dance Program headed by Artemis Gordon and backed by a stellar staff of teachers and choreographers from here and abroad.
Judging from my past experience at this festival (I have attended the last nine) what you see is a far cry from the mediocre high school stuff of yore. Particularly when you see the Seniors and the Apprentices you see the best of ballet and modern dance.
Because my eldest granddaughter attended the program for six years (and alas she stopped) and I now watch the younger one Lauren dance in her third year, I can affirm that those who attend dance classes at this institution somehow manage to become physically fit, while learning to get along with others at close proximity and at the same time being able to elaborate on the merits of dancing to the music of Leonard Bernstein or being exposed to the dance philosophy of the noted American choreograph William Forsythe via one of his gifted dancers, Ballet BC’s Artistic Director Emily Molnar (a partner with Gordon in their underhanded conspiracy to produce well balanced young adults).
One of my fondest memories of the residues of the Arts Umbrella education on my eldest granddaughter was once when she told me, “Watch me dance in the style of Emily Molnar.” Then she sat down on the piano and said, “This is my impression of the music of Phillip Glass.” Rebecca’s introduction to Glass was watching Molnar’s classes to the seniors. Molnar loves Glass.
|Emily Molnar, Alexander Burton, Artemis Gordon
I am convinced of the merits that a dance education at Arts Umbrella provides to students. And especially when the students stay on and then are part of a program where they go to school (Magee Secondary School) in a special curriculum that drops physical education but begins early so that the students can then do dance in the afternoon. I have observed how these students seem to be able to talk to adults, are comfortable with their peers, all look fit; have a presence and a sense of humour. When they graduate they go to good universities or good dance companies in Europe and at lest two per year get jobs at Ballet BC.
As Arty (Artemis Gordon) often tells me, “Our students are off the street.”
I watch my Lauren dance in her class (her teacher is Claudia Segovia). I watch someone who is focused in what she does. She is flexible, graceful, and elegant. She is another person in class and I think that experience will in the end make her a better person out of class. My one hope is that she will stick to it.
Arts Umbrella -Essentially - Pure Dance
A Touch of Profanity - All In Good Taste