A Pleasant Silent Dialogue @ The Initial Gallery
Saturday, June 20, 2015
|Initial Gallery, June 18 2015|
I am an amateur of music, dance, theatre, photography and
other forms of the arts. I am not an expert nor did I ever study any of the
above disciplines. But in using the 19th century (particularly and English one)
definition of an amateur I can assert that while I am not an expert in any of
them I love them and having seen a lot of it I know a good thing when I see
I wrote the above for a recent blog here
. I thought it still
applies to my reaction this Thursday at the opening of the Bjornson Blandy
Carter Collective at the Initial Gallery
on 2339 Granville Street. An
explanation (of sorts) on the art displayed on the walls of the small gallery
Bjornson Blandy Carter Collective
June 18 – July 18
Opening reception: Thursday, June 18 6-8 pm
"Early in 2014, we proposed an exhibition of “finished”
works in conjunction with pieces recorded during production that may not appear
in a “final” image. We recognized that moments occur as we work through our
process that may be uniquely developed, fragmented and embellished. The results
express past and present “verses’, and are intended to be experienced as
separate, albeit related, pieces.
Verses is a
continuation of our collective activity. This exhibition was preceded by solo
exhibitions of our individual practices. Each show offered insight to the
elements that are evident in the collective collaborations, often elusive but
present nonetheless, leaving high-energy constructs with many fatalities and
injuries. We work within shapes and textures that are only partly our own
By this method we continue to carry on the silent dialogue,
weaving together our individual observations, syntheses and responses to
The Bjornson Blandy Carter Collective
The Collective members include
Michael Bjornson, Kitty Blandy and Geoff Carter.
Not explained above is the fact that the most interesting work
displayed (all of it) is somehow the work of all three artists Michael
Bjornson, Kitty Blandy and Geoff Carter. I was going to ask the silly question, but I didn't dare,
“Who begins? Who does the middle part? Who finishes?” This is not their first
show with this focus. There were three different ones of which I saw the
My first reaction to the show was one of unadulterated
jealousy as until 2001 I, too did collaborate work with Argentine painters Juan Manuel Sánchez
and Nora Patrich
. They moved back to Buenos Aires
and since then
I have felt that I am living in isolation. My photography peers seem to be
extremely happy posting to social media photographs taken with their phone.
While I do own a digital camera I shoot a lot with film and process my b+w
rolls in my darkroom. Again there is this feeling of going at it alone.
The show coincidentally (and by this I mean by sheer
coincidence) had three works that featured what looked like a red two-cornered hat
They reminded me of Napoleon’s hat
and the opening, June 18 happened to coincide with the 200th
of his defeat at Waterloo. Also evident in a most whimsical way was the black tail of dog's posterior. The smiles on the three artists reflected a most unstuffy and fun approach to art.
|King Wow - microporus polyester film (backlit)|
As I enjoyed the show and the milieu (and I don’t drink so I
had no wine) I thought that there was an unlikely possibility that I might read
about the opening in the media.
In Mexico many refer to their loving partners in
affectionate deprecation, “Mi pior es
nada.” Pior is a popular derivation of peor
( worse) and the expression means, “My worse than nothing.”
Thinking back to the heady days of arts coverage in our
(and consider that the Vancouver Province
for many years paid Art
Perry, now a teacher at Emily Carr, to cover the arts). It is a disgrace that our second daily, that previously-Art Perry-tabloid replaced him with three pages of comics.
One of the critics for
the Sun, Michael Scott wrote about the visual arts and about dance. There were
rumours that he had been taking courses at Emily Carr to spruce up his arts
knowledge. He was controversial (perhaps all arts critics should be so) and was
either hated or loved. Once he was let go from the Sun (I don’t know of the
circumstances) I asked Lloyd Dykk (the Sun’s classical music critic) for Scott’s
whereabouts. His answer was, “I hope he is in the lowest level of Dante’s hell.”
|Geoff Carter, Kitty Blandy & Michael Bjornson|
I only had one situation, not all too pleasant with Scott. From then copy editor
Larry Emeric I had found out that Sun arts writer/editor Max Wyman
collection of ballerina slippers. I had an idea so I reached Wyman and
suggested he write about his dance obsession and that I would illustrate it
with my photographs. At the time the Vancouver Sun had a very nice Saturday
magazine/sheet. It had replaced the Saturday Review
(once edited by Wyman) by
, a splendid idea by David Beers who went on to found The Tyee. Wyman and I
approached the Entertainment Editor (Scott). If you know anything about Wyman’s
professorial presence and his gentle demeanour, you would be floored on how
rude the younger man, Scott, dismissed our idea. We waited a few months and we
eventually got our way.
For a while after Scott left a pleasant and less
controversial Kevin Griffin
the beat until the Vancouver Sun put him back as a reporter. Since then the
arts have been covered by writers on contract (no dental plans for them so they
write with a definite lack of bite). Coverage is sparse and for me inconsequentially
boring. There are persistent rumours that the Sun gives arts organizations the
choice of either a review or a preview but not both.
A Fine Comedy With No Errors - Sexy, Too!
Friday, June 19, 2015
If you are expecting a short and sweet review of the Bard on
the Beach opening of William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors
, directed by
on June 13 do not read on. This is going to ramble on.
In 1956 my family and I lived on Calle Shakespeare
(corner with Avenida Lafayette) in Colonia Nueva Anzures in Mexico City. We
took cabs and we had to pronounce thusly the name of our street –shack –s-phe-ar- eh. My mother thought
this very funny and the fact that the complete name of the street was Guillermo
Shakespeare. My mother was a snob.
She and my father took me to a theatre in the round
production of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo Galilei in Buenos Aires when I was 8. My
father and mother were snobs.
In 1960 my mother took me to an in Spanish production of
Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan
in Mexico city with Dolores del Río as top
billing. My mother was a snob.
She called herself (and she include me in this) “gente fina”. It translates to a sort of
blend between highbrow, well educated and genteel. She even went further by
saying there were few people like us around. My mother was a snob.
But to cite a contrarian opinion on this from this
erstwhile highbrow I must point out that at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, while
the noble people sat in the balconies, the common masses stood in the middle,
eating and talking if the play was not to their satisfaction.
The same would apply to opera until late into the mid 19th
century. It then became rarefied alongside Mahler and Wagner.
I could also assert that Shakespeare can be “done”
anywhere, in the nude, underwater, in any period of history as long as it is not mimed. Shakespeare’s
words are essential.
One of the best “partial” productions of Shakespeare’s
happened at the English style The Diner
years ago. There was a party given by architect Abraham Rogatnick. One of the
guests was Christopher Gaze. After a few requests, Gaze stood up and recited
(ever so beautifully) Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech. I believe Rogatnick and I had recently seen Gaze as King Lear.
In my total ignorance some 28 years ago I saw a proto-bard-on-the
beach production of Richard the III
. People who were murdered early
in the play kept coming back to my total confusion. I did not understand the
fine tradition then of frugality in acting. Gaze’s performance was the best
Richard III I have ever seen.
An earlier production of The Comedy of Errors, not too
many years ago had Gaze dressed in drag as Queen Elizabeth. By then I knew of
the confusing gender benders in Shakespeare’s time. My grandmother who wanted
to sing opera with her fine coloratura soprano at the end of the 19th
century in Spain was not allowed as her father told her that only whores sung
But by mid 20 century until now, opera, Shakespeare,
new/contemporary music, classical music, ballet and the visual arts (with the
exception of the almost thriving Vancouver genre called Lowbrow Art) are all
seen by many as elitist and are wrapped around that awful word culture. Why would anybody in his or her
right mind want to listen to the very fine Paul Kennedy on Ideas on CBC? Could that be why
the CBC if falling fast?
Most would agree that culture is good. Many will say that
they have little time for it because they are busy. If you live in North
Vancouver you have the problem of the bridges. If you live in the outskirts,
there is the slowed down freeway or that tunnel.
Our conventional media does not give us “everyman”
explanations on pointers to watch out for in a particular play or dance.
Reviews are useless if they don’t inspire.
This finally brings me to The Comedy of Errors directed
by Scott Bellis. This play has the following little gem:
Antipholus of Syracuse. What is she?
Syracuse. A very reverent body; ay, such a one as a man may
not speak of
without he say 'Sir-reverence.' I have
but lean luck
in the match, and yet is she a
Syracuse. How dost thou mean a fat marriage?
Syracuse. Marry, sir, she's the kitchen wench and all grease;
and I know not
what use to put her to but to make a
lamp of her and
run from her by her own light. I
rags and the tallow in them will burn a 860
if she lives till doomsday,
she'll burn a
week longer than the whole world.
Syracuse. What complexion is she of?
Syracuse. Swart, like my shoe, but her face nothing half so
clean kept: for
why, she sweats; a man may go over 865
shoes in the
grime of it.
Syracuse. That's a fault that water will mend.
Syracuse. No, sir, 'tis in grain; Noah's flood could not do it.
Syracuse. What's her name?
Syracuse. Nell, sir; but her name and three quarters, that's 870
an ell and
three quarters, will not measure her from
hip to hip.
Syracuse. Then she bears some breadth?
Syracuse. No longer from head to foot than from hip to hip:
spherical, like a globe; I could find out 875
Syracuse. In what part of her body stands Ireland?
Syracuse. Marry, in her buttocks: I found it out by the bogs.
Syracuse. Where Scotland?
Syracuse. I found it by the barrenness; hard in the palm of the hand. 880
Syracuse. Where France?
Syracuse. In her forehead; armed and reverted, making war
Syracuse. Where England?
Syracuse. I looked for the chalky cliffs, but I could find no 885
them; but I guess it stood in her chin,
by the salt
rheum that ran between France and it.
Syracuse. Where Spain?
Syracuse. Faith, I saw it not; but I felt it hot in her breath.
Syracuse. Where America, the Indies? 890
Syracuse. Oh, sir, upon her nose all o'er embellished with
carbuncles, sapphires, declining their rich
aspect to the
hot breath of Spain; who sent whole
caracks to be ballast at her nose.
Syracuse. Where stood Belgia, the Netherlands? 895
Syracuse. Oh, sir, I did not look so low. To conclude, this
diviner, laid claim to me, call'd me
Dromio; swore I
was assured to her; told me what
privy marks I
had about me, as, the mark of my
mole in my neck, the great wart on my 900
left arm, that
I amazed ran from her as a witch:
And, I think,
if my breast had not been made of
faith and my
heart of steel,
transform'd me to a curtal dog and made
me turn i' the
The above is rendered intact in this Comedy of Errors with Ben
Elliot as Antipholus of Syracuse and Luisa Jocic as Dromio of Syracuse.
To me this little dialogue has shades of my Spanish
grandmother who used to recite El Quijote to me instead of telling me I had
done something wrong. I did not know then that they were aphorisms, courtesy of
Sancho Panza. My grandmother would say she had to go to the doctor because she
was not well in “los paises bajos,” or lower countries. I have no idea if there
is a tradition that may have begun with Shakespeare’s citing of Belgia and the
Netherlands for women’s ills and parts down
Bellis’s The Comedy of Errors has Shakespeare’s words
(almost) intact. There is one whopper “okay.” I asked Bellis after the
performance and he told me that when it was first said nobody complained so it
So if you listen to The Comedy of Errors it is
Shakespeare at its best. There is no complaint from this erstwhile highbrow.
But if your eyes are wide open then the show has an additional wow
factor (I will do my best not to use the word mentioned by so many reviewers)
as the play is set in an alternative history/universe of the 19th
century. If you want a further explanation look here
To those who some years may have seen ( I went twice it was
that good) the Electric Theatre Company’s production of Studies in Motion – The Hauntings of Eadweard Muybridge
which was choreographed from beginning to end by CrystalPite
there is now a fine tradition in this city for choreographed plays. The
choreographer here is Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg
. I must digress here to say
that she once appeared in Dances for a Small Stage
as a mermaid (complete with
fish tail!) and her performance on the stage floor involved only movements from
the waist up.
In short this Comedy of Errors is a whopping visual delight
that does what more Shakespeare should do. This is to make it accessible to the
uninitiated youth and the not so youthful uninitiated. I mentioned this to
Bellis whose reply was one word, “Bingo!”
I cannot write more eloquently about the fine acting but
I must point out two fine performances and one more.
The first two are Ben Elliott as Antipholus of Syracuse
(to be fair his part has juicier lines to Jay Hindle’s Antipholus of Ephesus).
After having seen him in A Broken Sex Doll
at the Cultch a few years ago I know
he has a fine eye for babes. And in this Comedy of Errors he gets the babe. More on her later.
The real fantastic actress (an actor who is really played
by an old fashioned actress who is playing an actress playing an actor) is Dawn
Petten. She is the only local theatrical
performer ( to avoid that actor/actress muddle) who could make more money
between plays in a Joe-Job as a stand-up comic. She is terrific. Petten has
that instinctive talent of knowing when to talk and when not to.
In the beginning of the play she wheels in a scooter (the
ones that were the rage some years ago. When she gets off she maneuvers into
place a miniature kick stand. The audience roared. I asked Petten about the
kick stand. I am happy to report that this was her contribution.
Now to the more difficult but perhaps more fun mention of
that third performer. That is Lindsey Angell
(the babe who falls for Antipholus of Syracuse) who plays Luciana sister to
Adriana, Sereana Malani.
Costume Designer Mara Gottler in a dream appeared to me
and asked me, “What would you like me to do with Angell?” I told her, "Dress her
up to look like an alternative history librarian with glasses and a short
skirt so I can see those legs and more from here to Elsinore. Make sure she is wearing fishnets. I want to be able to go to the front
desk of her library and ask her, ‘Do you have a copy of Lady Chatterley’s
Lover? (in an alternative universe D.H. Lawrence would have written it in the
Had Bellis showed up in that dream, too, I would have said
to him, “Make sure she has a cutesy voice like my Rosemary’s when she talks to
her cat Casi-Casi.” When she first appears on stage with those round and dark horned-rimmed glasses (and those fishnets) my heart accelerated and I noted a stirring in The Hague.
This Comedy of Errors is fun, still Shakespeare,
interesting to watch and best of all, sexy. My mother who was a snob would have liked it.
In an alternative universe Bard on the Beach would stage The Taming of the Shrew
like this: Katherina would be Lindsey Angell
and Petruchio Dawn Petten. Imagine that!
No Vancouver summer is so unless it is a warm night and you are walking back to your car after a fine performance at Bard on the Beach. This June 13 wasn't as warm as I would have wanted to but I know that it will be so when we go this Friday to King Lear.
A Gentle Prod To Ballet BC From A Dance Amateur (That's Me)
Thursday, June 18, 2015
|Nicole Ward, Albert Galindo - Photograph Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
I am an amateur of music, dance, theatre, photography and
other forms of the arts. I am not an expert nor did I ever study any of the
above disciplines. But in using the 19th
century (particularly and
English one) definition of an amateur I can assert that while I am not an
expert in any of them I love them and having seen a lot of it I know a good
thing when I see one.
Since December 1995 when I first saw Evelyn Hart
became interested in dance. Through assignments from the Globe & Mail
and a shooting-star of a magazine called VLM
(run by another
amateur, editor Bob Mercer) I have been to a lot of dance and seen many dancers
and photographed a legion of them. I have been reading NY Times Dance Critic Alastair Macauley for 15 years in my daily delivered (hard copy) NY Times.
Of late living in a city where the laid back lifestyle
promotes lazy mediocrity I have been near-obsessed with the dancers and the dance
program of the Arts Umbrella Dance Company.
There is none (of that mediocrity) to be found there.
My eldest granddaughter (now 17) danced there for five years
and quit (perhaps because of a lack of encouragement from her parents). We
pressured her to then go to a school on 4th
Avenue and both my
Rosemary and I were appalled at the lack of professionalism of the institution
which was an amateur (the bad meaning of the word) fly-by-night operation.
Without proper and insistent prodding my granddaughter finally quit for good.
My younger granddaughter, 12, has been dancing now at Arts
Umbrella for five years and I must admit that there is a tad more parental
|John Alleyne, right, left Todd Woffinden & Crystal Pite - Photograph Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
I am happy about this because the Arts Umbrella Dance
Company promotes excellence and they push their dancers beyond high-school
dance standards. Any program produced by the Granville Island-based company is
sure to be exhilarating one. I remember one in particular. I wrote about it
. I finished that blog with a gentle prod in the direction of then Ballet
BC Artistic Director, John Alleyne. I did not mention in the blog that Alleyne
was present (at the back row) at that Playhouse performance and that on my way
out I went up to him and directly mentioned Alexander Burton and Alyson Fretz.
To my surprise both were shortly hired by Ballet BC for that
coming dance year.
In that spirit I again write this blog gently prodding the
powers that be at Ballet BC (yes, Emily Molnar that’s you)
that Spanish-born Albert Galindo
Ward should be immediately swooshed into the company.
I remember so fondly the first time I saw Emily Molnar dance
with Ballet BC. She had come from William Forsythe’s legendary Ballet Frankfurt
(and sort of changed directions with Crystal Pite who had left Ballet BC for
Even as the amateur that I am I know that there are two
qualities that dancers must have. One, obviously is skill and grace. The second
quality is more in the realm of something you cannot quite touch but you will
know it’s there when you see it. Molnar on stage had presence.
|Nicole Ward - Photograph Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
She was close to 6ft tall and in one of those early
performances she wore a blood-red dress. Dance critics of the time (worse now)
were too politically correct (not willing to offend) to mention that here was a
very tall woman with a body in proportion to her height. It is my guess (I
never asked Alleyne) that only one male dancer in the company could lift her.
This was Edmund Kilpatrick. I further guess that when Alleyne choreographed for
the company he had to consider Molnar’s size. Since then as they say the rest
is history. I feel awfully lucky to have had the privilege to see this dance
Now both Albert Galindo and Nicole Ward are skilled.
Skilled, because they have been through the training of all those Arts Umbrella
instructors including Artemis Gordon. But I must point out that this pair have
a presence in spades. Both are tall. In particular I see Ward as a proto-Emily
So, from this amateur to you folks in Ballet BC (and yes,
that’s you Emily Molnar) there is this gentle prod that you should scoop up the
pair before someone else does.