Dance To The Music Of Time - Arts Umbrella Dance Company
Saturday, July 08, 2017
|June 16 2017 - Vancouver Playhouse - Lynn Sheppard's The First Movers
Anybody who is here can skip all that I will write and just
look at the pictures.
In 1975 when my wife Rosemary and our two daughters Ale and
Hilary arrived in Vancouver from Mexico City we were I believe typical
immigrants who took advantage of the services offered by the city (including
that of Burnaby where we first lived). This meant that our daughters took
swimming lessons and we eventually signed them up at ballet at the Vancouver
School of Music. I also drove both daughters daily to Coquitlam to their French
The reason for the ballet is that was the thing to do, even
if I had no concept of dance or particular love for ballet. I remember taking
them to a performance of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company that featured wonderful
white costumes and parasols (it was called Revelations). It soon became an almost forgotten memory.
Classes at the Vancouver School of Music did not go well.
Their instructor only put effort in those she deemed had real talent. The rest,
including my daughters she ignored.
Both my daughters abandoned dance but the older one pursued
her guitar lessons and plays very well. She learned to read music and is quite
good at accompanying at the piano at her school in Lillooet.
My introduction to Evelyn Hart in 1991, made me, most
suddenly, a fan of dance. I have been one since.
Memories of my eldest daughter Alexandra dancing ballet as a
little girl back in Mexico City have no comparison with the professionalism of
what I have seen at the Arts Umbrella Dance Company. In fact this is a serious
dance company. Forget that they are a school.
My youngest granddaughter Lauren has been part of the Arts
Umbrella Dance Company now for 8 years. She seems committed and I believe she
dances well. She has learned poise, grace, aplomb and is what I would call a
not normal 15-year-old. As Arty Gordon the director of the Arts Umbrella Dance
Company often says, “We get them off the streets.” This she has done with
skill, love and a determination that is visible in the allegiance her students
Before I proceed to an explanation of sorts of the pictures
herein, that I took on June 16, of Dance to the Music of Time, an Arts Umbrella
Dance Recital at the Vancouver Playhouse, let me tell you a bit about the
Playhouse Wicked Witches of the West. I talked to one of them as I lined up to
enter the theatre. My camera was hidden in the pockets of my leather jacket.
My camera is a Fuji X-E1 which has two features that are
essential if one plans to take photographs during a performance at the
1. I gaffer tape the little white light that is a focusing
assist for the camera in a dark situation.
2. My camera has two viewfinders. It has the traditional back
display. I am able to shut it off and I look through an optical/electronic
This means that if I am careful and sitting in the front
row, centre (and I was) that nice woman who smiled at me as we compared notes
of dance performances at her venue) the witch will not notice me. She noticed
every other parent wanting to snap a picture of their child with their phone!
But because of the witch I was spare in my taking of
photographs. I put more effort on my granddaughter’s performance of Les
Sylphides choreographed by her instructor Sakiko Januki which are the bulk of the pictures
here. Lauren is smack in the middle of most of them.
But I managed to take other pictures. These are of my
favourite dance of the evening, Wen Wai Wang’s Fremd (Excerpt) which featured
the Arts Umbrella Senior Dance Company.
But there is one charming picture here that was from the beginning of Lynn
Sheppard’s The First Movers. I was blown away by her simplicity. I smiled. It
helps that I know Sheppard who is Artemis Gordon’s right hand woman. They both
practice a Zen-Style method of dance teaching that always points to the heart.
Will my granddaughter become a ballerina, a modern
dancer? Time will tell but until that happens or does not happen she is in good
hands with The Arts Umbrella Dance Company.
|Lauren Stewart front at right
A Ballerina - An Essence
Friday, July 07, 2017
|Lauren Stewart - July 6 2017
My 15-year-old granddaughter reluctantly brought along the
ballet outfit she wore to the Arts Umbrella Dance Company’s finale here in Vancouver a few weeks
back for her portrait. Her face showed no passion. She just wanted to get it
over with. She came into my studio with her hair down. I told her that
ballerinas always dance with the hair up. She countered that she had no ballet
pins for her hair. I showed her some bobby pins. She reluctantly did a pretty
good job and told me,”It will be fine as long as you don’t take pictures of the
back of my head.”
She posed and I snapped. She, like her older sister Rebecca,
has gone through this ordeal so many times that she knows how to pose her
hands and reacts instantly and accurately to my hand commands - to tilt a bit to
the left or to the right or to put her nose a tad up or down. I told her to go serious.
I told her to hint at a smile. I told her to look seriously scary as if I were
a boy in school she does not like.
At the end I shot two Fuji Instant b+w film shots. I deemed
them perfect and told her so. I scanned them and I became even more excited. They are here
I asked Lauren, “Do you think you dance well?” She answered,
“Yes.” I then told her that other people’s opinions were not important as long
as she knew inside that she was a good dancer and that she had passion for it.
This was my attempt to explain that every time I take a very
good photograph that I think is a very good photograph and others simply nod
when I show them, that one must ignore it all. One knows in spite of the silence
or criticism from others.
I may have lost her when I attempted to explain to her my
love for that ancient Greek philosopher Plato. In my youth I found him
confusing. In my old age Plato is constantly in my thoughts. I am always trying
to see the essence of a thing. I want to go above the mediocre copy that we as
humans (in that Platonic cave) see blurred, indistinct and incomplete. I told
Lauren that when I take a photograph I do whatever possible to remove what is
not necessary to make what is left the essence (as close as we humans can
approach that impossibility).
I told her of the pretty young girl I saw back in 1967 in
San Francisco at a Jefferson Airplane concert I had attended while living with
my friend Robert in the Haight-Ashbury district of that Ramparts time. She was
sitting on the floor at a corner staring at a little glass of what to me must
have been Crème de Menthe. I believed that she may have been high on acid and
that she was staring at the essence of the colour green.
|Bobby Fischer - Photograph - Philippe Halsman
I finished my little story by telling her that my
photographs of her were of the essence of what a dancer is. It is the essence
of a person that I pursue in my portraiture. I can never achieve the perfection
that Philippe Halsman executed in his portrait of Bobby Fischer.
I can try.
Two Granddaughters in Burnaby
Thursday, July 06, 2017
|Rebecca Stewart - July 5 2017
July 5 my Rosemary and I drove to the outskirts of Burnaby where my daughter
Hilary, her husband Bruce and one daughter, Lauren live.
My wife the
eternal pessimist became depressed when Hilary & Company purchased a house
in Burnaby a year ago. We had lived in Burnaby and Rosemary wanted to forget.
the eternal optimist was excited about returning to the Burnaby of her youth.
She does not drive so she depends solely on transit and never complains. They
are all very happy in their neighbourhood.
What made yesterday
special is that temporarily Rebecca, now 19 is staying in what is also her
house and sleeping in what is her own room.
|Lauren & Rebecca Stewart July 5 2017
We had, all
five of us (Bruce was working) lunch together and then Hilary and I went for a
swim in the splendid communal swimming pool. Lauren’s ankle was bandaged
because of a sprain so she declined to swim with us as Rebecca also did citing
that she had washed her hair that morning.
On an impulse
I asked Rebecca to pose for me in the balcony (which overlooks the pool) and
then I asked Lauren to pose, too.
say it was a perfect hot (I love the heat) summer afternoon.
A Mother & Son
Wednesday, July 05, 2017
|July 5 2017
My mother often spoke that she breast fed me. And she always
pointed out that she had been so full of milk in the hospital that they pumped
it out to feed other children.
Because she alternated in talking to me in Spanish with
English I soon learned that the verb to breast feed in Spanish is much more
efficient as it is all one word – amamantar. I know that the word for mother mamá
comes from the French as I am told by my excellent on line Diccionario de La
Real Academia Española (RAE).
'madre', infl. en su acentuación por el fr. maman.
1. f. coloq. madre.
infant. madre (‖ animal hembra).
Also interesting is the Spanish word mamar
Atraer, sacar, chupar con los labios y la lengua la leche de los pechos. U.
t. c. intr.
Mamar means to suck and particularly to suck milk from
the baby’s mother.
My grandmother often told me when I was silent about
making any preference, “El que no llora no mama.” This means literally that if you don’t cry
you won’t get what you want.
What I like about the above that via the Latin mammare and the French maman there is a
direct connection between the word mother and breast feeding. It becomes far
more elegant that the unpoetical breast feeding.
Why am I raising this subject? Perhaps it is ancillary to
showing here a photograph of a woman breast feeding her baby.
It is ancillary because I want to steer anybody who may
have gotten this far to the idea that a photographer is a good as his (her)
last shot in the same way a 19th century gunfighter was as good as
his (no her here) last duel. Second best and you were dead.
The picture you see here I took this morning. My subject
is Itzel who is the daughter of my good friend the Argentine painter Nora
Patrich. She lives in Spain with her husband Nicolás but she is presently in
town on a visit with her daughter Paika and her son (the baby in the picture)
With not too many women in Vancouver seem willing to face my camera in
my schemes to explore eroticism, Itzel “morning dew in Mayan” who has an
artistic streak inherited from her mother, volunteered to pose for me. She told
me that she wanted the photographs to reflect that she is a young mother.
The breast feeding idea came to my mind immediately. I
wanted to take a photograph that was not in colour that was not touchy feely,
that was not “gosh isn’t that nice.” I wanted a Helmut Newton approach to the
idea that a woman breast feeding can be simultaneously getting ready for a
night at the theatre.
So there you have it. This is today’s photograph and
thanks to Itzel and Elías I believe it is very good.