Brutal Bridge-Crossing Dance @ The Arts Umbrella Dance Company
Saturday, May 26, 2018
|Wen Wei Wang|
My Rosemary and I attended the Arts Umbrella Dance Company’s
Season Finale on Saturday May 26 at the Vancouver Playhouse and I was instantly transported to my Yellow low-on the-ground
Fiat X-19 on a evening many years ago returning from Vancouver, Washington.
I had entered the Seattle freeway fast lane that is covered.
I was driving a bit over the speed limit and the lights were whizzing by. On my
tape deck (that era before CDs) was The Clash, London Calling.
It was the perfect music for driving fast in a sports car at
night. Since then I have catalogued in my mind what I call “bridge crossing
music”. It has to be fast and furious. It has to have few sonic embellishments.
It has to have a great electric guitar. In short, good punk music like in that
past, Art Bergmann, or the Modernettes.
Last night I had an inkling of an evening to come with the first
number which was Aszure Barton’s Untouched (Excerpt) with music Day Off. It was
Now here I have to go to my native Spanish. “Brutal” is a
word we use to describe something that is really good. It was so and I
particularly liked some moves where the dancers walked like ducks. It was a signature
move the took me to some years ago when I went to see the first ever (in
Vancouver) performance of Alberta Ballet’s Jean Grand-Maître’s Carmen performed by Ballet
BC. Carmen was the luminous Sandrine Cassini (now Ballet Mistress at Ballet
BC). She had a move where she ruffled her skirt back and forth to signify that
she was Carmen.
It was Crystal Pite’s A Picture of you Flying (Excerpt) that
mated minimal moves with killer industrial music by Owen Belton. It was here
that there was no doubt in my mind that dance without music is nothing (unless
of course you are James Kudelka who has been known to choreograph to no music).
Pite’s piece was brutal and she was ably aided by Katarina Nesic who has a face
to launch Greeks to war.
Then Lesley Telford’s Everything Might Topple was a gruelling
performance of male dancers dragging themselves across the floor (plastic had
been laid on the floor before to avoid skin burns) with a female dancer
standing on their back. This reminded me a bit of Karen Jamieson’s masterwork Sisyphus
from the early 80s.
But it wasn’t until Wen Wei Wang’s Fremd (German for
unfamiliar, or foreign or strange or different) with brutal music by Senking
and Olaf Bender (sung in German and it was irrelevant that I did not understand
a word) that it all clicked in my mind as to the importance of what I was seeing.
Here I was again zooming in that Fiat in Seattle. This was
London Calling choreographed by a man who has style, taste and, best of all, elegance.
He might have inherited some of the latter from his friend and mentor Grant Strate.
The men were dressed in black and the women wore eye-popping shiny black vinyl
one piece bathing suits.
Wen Wei Wang brings something to modern dance that in my
amateur consideration is a dance version of Helmut Newton’s photographs. Wen
Wei Wang’s choreography is sensual, erotic and arresting but always with that
subtle taste that Newton knew so well.
I was ready to go home but that was not to be.
James Kudelka’s The Lost Sky 3 with music by Jesca Hoop was
elegance in simplicity. It was elegance in subtlety. It was elegance in
protracted and limited moves. It was dance in slow motion. I find it inspiring
that a man of 63 seems to have so much imagination to push the borders of
dance. That he experiments with our very own Arts Umbrella Dance Company is
good luck for us and our city.
Now I was ready to go home. But it was not to be.
The last dance was Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar's (it was explained
to me that Behar is sort of like a DJ and is important to Eyal’s choreography)
Untitled Black (Excerpt).
If Kudelka was slow motion this was zombies-in-fast-forward.
I mention zombies because the dancers were fitted with contact lenses that made
them look like aliens out to get us. They were wearing skin-tight cream white
outfits. It was simplicity which again was added by the participation of the aforementioned
I had been warned by the theatre’s sound system to keep my
camera safely stowed away. Until that point I had. Now I could not.
My only consideration in breaking that proviso is that my
camera, a Fuji X-E3 has a completely soundless electronic shutter and I can
turn off all light so nothing shows.
I had to take the pictures you see here so I can surely
never forget that sometimes the best, as in that Canaan Wedding is served
While I am no dance critic but an obsolete, redundant &
retired former magazine photographer and writer, I feel I have to write about
the performances of the Arts Umbrella Dance Company. There is almost zero coverage
by the media of dance now. It may be seen as a school to keep children off the
streets as Arts Umbrella Dance Company’s Artistic Director Artemis Gordon often
says, but the obvious truth is that this company is one of many good companies
of dance in Vancouver. I must add that I consider it the best because of the
variety of choreographed works representing choreographers from Canada and
A night of Arts Umbrella Dance is a night of infinite
Jessie Richardson - A Face for the Name
Friday, May 25, 2018
This year's Jessie Awards have been posted. I wonder how many people know who she was and what she looked like. Here is a nice essay (to big to fit in my scanner so I had to photograph it) by the inimitable Vancouver Sun Arts and Music critic Lloyd Dykk.
In the early 80s when I took this photograph the art director would choose the picture. I would never look at any of the others and I would store them in my files. It was only today when I prepared this blog that I noticed this lovely secondary photograph. Also I was able to discern that both of us are reflected in a mirror behind her very much like in some Flemish paintings!
Rhodendron racemosum bids adieu & La Belle Sultane Glows
Thursday, May 24, 2018
May is a month where it is impossible not to go to one’s
garden to inspect what plants are doing. It is in late spring when you finally
find out which roses did not make it. This year our big loss was not a rose but the lovely Rhodendron racemosum
(always the first
to flower in the garden) which could not handle the dense clay soil of our
garden. I had replaced a lot of it (Rosemary told me to deposit it on the many
potholes of our back lane). One rose is struggling on one old cane. This is
Rosa ‘English Elegance’.
But all in all our garden is looking very nice as we prepare
it for a Vancouver Rose Society open garden in the first few days of June.
As per usual since some of our Gallica Roses (they only
bloom once) are bursting in glory Rosemary is worried about there not being any
roses come June. Some say roses are early because of whatever weather changes
they have observed. I try to calm her by telling her that our garden is not a
rose garden but a perennial one so she should not worry.
|Rosa 'La Belle Sultane' May 24 2018|
But as my Gallicas and other once-blooming roses show their splendour
now I am busy cutting this one and that one to scan for my records.
I have been scanning my roses and other plants for at least
15 years. I have records (lovely scans) of roses that came and went without
saying goodbye as the Spaniards say of the French. In some way my accurate
scans of these roses at least preserve my memory of them.
I could not resist today to scan that Gallica Rosa ‘La BelleSultane’
. Her claim to fame besides her purple/red colour are her intensively
gold stamens. Perhaps in years to come anybody who might be interested in my
plant scan archive will be able to discern differences in any particular rose
that I keep scanning every year and not only now but some (the ones that
re-bloom) at later in the season.
While my scans may be lovely they do not do justice to the
roses temselves with their intense fragrance and their image in 3D when I look at them
in the garden.
Bucolic Rumination in Lillooet
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
|Rosemary and Ale with Lloyd McNary|
I have some architect friends in Vancouver who in the summer
go to their cabin. The concept of having a cabin where one can escape the
tumult of living in a city seems attractive. I could never afford such a
But Rosemary and I have something close to that. We have our
eldest daughter’s house in Lillooet BC. Getting into our car and driving the
almost four hours to get there by that beautiful and winding road between
Pemberton and Lillooet makes it so that when we arrive we can almost feel (and
we do) breathing that Fraser Canyon air.
That air was nice and hot (heat is something I love) when we
visited Ale last week.
Rosemary makes it like Lillooet is Saudi Arabia’s Empty
Quarter so we take all kinds of food (probably available in town). This time we
also had a trunkful of plants and a couple of hardy roses in our back seat.
It was a beautiful day once we got to Pemberton. From
Vancouver to Whistler there was mist that sometimes turned into a thin drizzle.
In Pemberton it is part of our tradition to stop at the
Macdonald’s where Rosemary indulges in French Fries and I have a thick
But this time around the trip there was special because I
put into our little portable CD player (it connects via a USB cable to the car’s
sound system which alas does not have an internal CD player) Neil Young’s
Greatest Hits. All 16 songs lasted until we almost got to Lillooet.
I believe that Neil Young is much more Canadian than Leonard
Cohen. The latter is more universal and the world has adopted him. Young is
special for me as I am someone who came to Vancouver in 1975 and has had a time,
a difficult one, of feeling Canadian. Adopting Neil Young as my favourite
Canadian singer has helped that!
In Lillooet we planted the stuff we brought and Rosemary cut
the wild grass with scissors. With my secateurs I removed over 100 (maybe more)
dandelions. I snipped the dead wood from Ale’s Gallicas and pretty well enjoyed
tinkering in the garden.
Ale invited her 89 year-old cowboy (and miner, etc) Lloyd
McNary and Bruce and Darlene Lohnes. The latter have managed to save money
through the years so that even though Darlene still works as a teacher they
travel a lot and go on very nice cruises.
Going to Lillooet, and returning, has (in my imagination)
that feeling of going to the cabin where one can ruminate in a bucolic and
And of course our daughter Alexandra lives in the cabin all
the time. I wonder what one calls the act of doing the opposite of what we did?
|Lillooet train station|
Corrective Memory at the Toy Store
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
|Left Patrice Bilawka & Jessica Timmins Venturi - Right Max von Sydow|
I saw the Pixar film The Toy Store
in 1996 and I never saw
the connection with Max von Sydow (whom I photographed in October 1992) until a
few days ago when I thought about a photograph I took of the luminously
beautiful Patrice Bilawka (look at those photographs of Bilawka in that link and be prepared to cry!)
being made up
by her friend Jessica Timmins Venturi.
Memory is never entirely correct. Borges said that the art of remembering
I was sure that as I was getting ready (setting up my
lights) to photograph Bilawka I suddenly saw that image (vision) and I quickly
mounted a longer 250mm lens and with my Mamiya RB-67
on a tripod I snapped this (see above) shot that oozes
with a powerful eroticism. In the order that I took those photographs of Bilawka being made up it was the last shot. In the case of von Sydow it was the first one.
Of von Sydow I was equally getting my lights ready at the
Hotel Vancouver’s Sun Room when I noticed von Sydow in profile getting some
window light. I did the same with that 250mm lens and snapped the shot.
Of both Bilawka and von Sydow I have told people that it was
one of those grab shots that you take when you see them. But the contact sheets
show otherwise. They demonstrate that I took multiple shots and in the case of von
Sydow there is a fabulously accidental double exposure. My RB-67 has a very
good preventer to double exposures but somehow I pushed a little lever without
being aware and there it is.
As for The Toy Store connection just like the toys came out
to play as the lights were turned off in the store I wonder if my files (7
metal cabinets, each with four drawers) ever communicate with each other? Would
von Sydow and Bilawka discuss how it was that the grab shot was one that was
intended by my part in several exposures and not that lucky shot I have been
bragging about for years!