|Kiera Hill & Arty Gordon
Of Artemis Gordon, Artistic Director of the Arts Umbrella Dance Program, I could write on and on as I have come to know her well and admire her vision and belief that the arts and particularly dance can make humans more so.
For those who might not understand her dance program on Granville Island (they have expanded and have other studios in the city) the purpose of the dance program is not to get the kids off the street or out of the malls (even though it does is so well) so their parents can breathe easily.
Arty Gordon’s standards exceed most of the standards of other dance schools (the ones that are there to purely get your children off the streets while guaranteeing them grace in movement in going up and down stairs with a book on their head). Children, teens and young adults that graduate from the Arts Umbrella have something else going for them.
I noticed this on Friday when I went with my family to the Expressions Festival 2013 at the Vancouver Playhouse. The Arts Umbrella Dance Company gave a recital of all of its classes which happened to include two in which my other granddaughter Lauren is an avid (and I must add) talented dancer who at 10 is seriously addicted to Arty Gordon’s dance program as imparted by her two teachers, Andrea Rabinovitch, jazz dance and Claudia Segovia, ballet.
What I noticed was clearly evident with the graduating class of the Senior Dance Company.
I have seen other Senior Dance Companies in the past. They have all been very good but here I noticed a difference. In the past the quality of the dancers competed with a few stars who were truly phenomenal. Several of those now dance for good dance companies around the world and for Ballet BC.
This year’s graduating class did not seem to have Rolls Royces, Ferraris, Maseratis or other exotics. To me they were all efficiently functioning Audis. The boys (or should I say young men) were all about the same size and shape. More than ever I saw a group of girls and boys that have worked together for years, attended the same special school program at Magee Secondary School. They worked well as a unit, well oiled, efficient, graceful and excellent.
I have seen most dancers before as they grew up from children. But I must point out two (boys), Paxton Ricketts and Christof Von Riedemann and one more who is more recent, Ryan Genoe. I was delighted to see these three and in one number, one of the best of the night, Azure Barton’s Les Chambers des Jaques Excerpts. Ricketts was impressive dancing solo to a Giles Vigneault song, as was Von Riedemann who followed. There is a part where Ryan Genoe kisses and or pats the Brazilian dancer (he is tops) Joa Pedro De Paula (if his parents had been attending they would have washed his mouth with soap!) and there is a furious anger shown by De Paula that made me laugh.
My only sadness, is that here is a graduating class unlike any other graduating class of a local Vancouver high school class in which their separation into what would seem excellent dance companies around the world would seem to me a tragedy. I would like to see this class continue.
Some years ago I watched Alexander Burton and Alyson Fretz dance at a year end Senior Dance Arts Umbrella Company. They seemed to me to be the perfect Romeo and Juliette. I spied the then Ballet BC Artistic Director John Alleyne and wrote in my blog the next day that if there was any justice in the world those two should be snapped immediately by his company. I was glad to see they were.
Now what organization could possibly hire this year’s whole class?
To prove that her dance school has a very long bench, Arty Gordon and her other choreographer/teachers conspired to give us a finale centered around Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in which several classes from the graduating class, the senior dance and intermediate dancers dance together and by the end there were 35 dancers on stage. The Arts Umbrella Dance Company could easily mount a complete Swan Lake and do it very, very well.
But then what can one expect from Arty Gordon and her school, if not just that?
Many repeat the fact that dancers from Arts Umbrella are able to get into Ballet BC with certain ease. But not much is ever said or written that the road goes both ways. Ballet BC Artistic Director, Emily Molnar has frequently worked with Arty Gordon both as a teacher and as a choreographer. It was most pleasant for me to enjoy on Friday night Simone Orlando’s Folia. It was superb. Another choreographer/teacher that must be mentioned is Marquita Lester (also ex Ballet BC) whose Senior Pointe Dancers danced like souped up Audis, with precision and panache.
I do believe that Arty Gordon and company could be dispatched to a US Marine Corps boot camp on Parris Island and make those marines not only excel but do it with grace, too!
I live with the deepest disappointment and regret that my eldest granddaughter Rebecca dropped out of the Arts Umbrella Dance Program but there is solace in knowing that her sister Lauren is in good hands.
Kiera Hill Dancer