Mixed Nuts For An Alternative Vancouver ChristmasSaturday, December 13, 2014
Vancouverites for a long time were creatures of habit. You drank your coffee at Murchie’s, bought your books at Duthie’s, went to Stanley Park, replaced your forgotten umbrellas at the Umbrella Shop and for Christmas you went to a Nutcracker and made sure you witnessed and sang along one Messiah.
Things may be changing perhaps with the demise of family-owned businesses not being able to compete with the American Big Box. Some changes are not of that ilk. Some of these changes are good.
Consider that a couple of weeks back I went to the Art Club Theatre’s anti-Christmas (but very definitely with that Christmas spirit) A Twisted Christmas Carol at the Granville Island Review Stage.
Second in this trend that I call the Alternative Vancouver Christmas was Saturday’s Arts Umbrella Dance Company’s Mixed Nuts. With an occasional nod to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Mixed Nuts is to The Nutcracker what A Twisted Christmas Carol is to Charles Dickens.
The last Nutcracker I ever saw (with both my granddaughters) was some years ago. We went because the Sugar Plum Fairy was the inimitable Sandrine Cassini who at the time was dancing (briefly) with the Alberta Ballet. I will have to be still alive and sentient in some far away future to take my great-grandchildren (none yet, thank God) to another Nutcracker.
The prospect of seeing old potentates sit on thrones to watch several dreary dances of ethnic origin (as imagined by a Russian) is enough to want me to jump into a time machine and escape December.
So I am happy to report that Artemis Gordon’s Granville Island-based Arts Umbrella has brought us Mixed Nuts (they have perfected it in a few past years) to a very fast evening (it is never dreary or slow) of non-stop dancing by the best talent the school has (they have an extremely long bench of talent) with fantastic costumes, good music (not all Tchaikovsky) that mixes the choreography of several good ones with ballet, ballroom and modern dance. The venue, the Vancouver Playhouse is perfect as it is intimate enough but has room for a larger audience.
But the best part is the sheer exuberance of the young dancers, many who graduate to go to the best dance companies of the world.
Any derivative of The Nutcracker that brings into the mix choreographer Lina Fitzner and Evan Christopher’s dynamite version of that fave of mine St. James Infirmary deserves to be our new Christmas routine (for a while at least). Pity that there are no more performances!
At age 72 I can get away with stating that I have a new fave dancer in this fine bunch that is the Arts Umbrella Dance Company. It’s Albert Galindo from the Senior Dance Company. I kept pointing to him to my granddaughter Lauren, 12, who has been dancing at Arts Umbrella for five years (Lina Fitzner is her current instructor) who was sitting next to me dead centre, front row at the Vancouver Playhouse. She kept slapping my hand so perhaps she might agree! And I cannot stop here without mentioning that after having seen Nicole Ward dance (second picture from top in red) I would not be in the least surprised if she is not whisked away by some foreign dance company when she graduates.