Acacia Schachte — That Exquisite Singularity

James Russell Toth & Acacia Schachte in a still from Clancy Dennehy’s Tangere

New York, USA Works by Shechter, Ekman & Pite Performance Dates + Times: Friday, September 28 2012, 8:00 PM Saturday, September 29 2012, 8:00 PM Vancouver Playhouse Through their daring, athletic movement and integration of classical technique into contemporary and popular forms, the dancers of Cedar Lake take audiences on a choreographic journey that explores the infinite possibilities of movement and multimedia. The company’s emphasis on commissioning new works from the hottest choreographers on the planet has made it one of the most exciting dance ensembles working today. These performances include three works: Violet Kid by DanceHouse favourite Hofesh Shechter, Tuplet by Alexander Ekman, and Crystal Pite’s Grace Engine; repertoire that shows off the company’s downtown edge and personality as featured in the film . Visit the Cedar Lake website

Acacia Schachte & Terri Gardener

You might not know about the above as our much reduced arts media does not seem to trumpet too loudly about truly significant events that connoisseurs like me (I will trumpet my elitism here!) are plainly aware of. Our much reduced arts media, if you consider the as part of the paradigm, does not even have (any more) a full-time dance/visual arts critic. My awareness of this Friday and Saturday night performance of the New York modern dance company Cedar Lake left me with insomnia last night. I dreamt of two names, Acacia Schachte and Abraham Rogatnick. I will explain the connection between these two names further down. Ballet BC, since I began attending performances in 1992, has had as string of stellar performers. One cannot but think of at least two, Emily Molnar (the present Artistic Director) and that ex-Ballet BC dancer now artistic director and choreographer, Crystal Pite of Kidd Pivot. The latter is one of the featured choreographers in the Cedar Lake program this Friday and Saturday at the Playhouse.

Crystal Pite & Emily Molnar

But there are three other dancers (all female, none of which are in Ballet BC’s company today) who in my amateur eye have transcended those stellar roles by being one-of-a-kind virtuosos so utterly different that they stand out almost in an awkward-from-another-world or planet way (while still being most graceful). I have been very lucky in having photographed all three, and two of them together. I have delighted in watching them dance. The three are Lauri Stallings, Sandrine Cassini and Acacia Schachte. Schachte is in the Cedar Lake Company. Lauri Stallings was so different that I could watch her from the ankles down and know she was the one. It took lots of effort to only watch her ankles. She had baroque, curly red hair. One of her most memorable performances involved the work of the then artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada; James Kudelka’s. His made my head turn and finally made me an unabashed fan of dance. These duets (as danced by dancers of Ballet BC in several remountings of this work) featured 8 couples showing the variety, delights and conflicts of human love and interaction. One of the dances featured a woman with long hair (except once when John Alleyne cast Acacia Schachte, a short-haired woman, in the part!) who in her movements with her male partner magically swirled her hair swirled not unlike (but please discount my crass comparison!) a very good TV shampoo commercial. Kudelka in this particular duet had almost played God and choreographed hair to his bidding! Stallings was stunning.

Lauri Stallings

Of French-born Sandrine Cassini I have written at length and many times in this blog. Even when she walked she was different. Both Cassini and Stallings somehow did not fit in to a local cookie-cutter conception of blandness and uniformity trumping virtuosity. Acacia Schachte graduated from Arty Gordon’s Arts Umbrella and perhaps may have been the first of what now in retrospect has been an avalanche of talent from that school. Schachte was hired by John Alleyne, and he first time I saw her dance, my wife Rosemary who likes little fell for Schachte as I did. It took me a bit longer. Schachte can be as quick as anybody else but when she dances, time seems to slow down and the dancers around her are frozen in some sort of Einstein time warp. It did not take long before she was whisked away by those crafty Americans who know something very good when it is very good. And she was gone. It was a Vancouver loss as was the loss of Stallings and Cassini. It is now where I will connect Schachte to my friend architect Abraham Rogatnick via the Argentine Tango.

Acacia Schachte, Edmond Kilpatrick & Sandrine Cassini

When I was taking tango lessons with Carlos Loyola in the beginning of the 21st century one of the women I danced with (I never did have an official dance partner) was Vancouver Symphony string bassist Patricia Hutter. In those years Argentine tango was a phenomenon in Vancouver and Hutter joined a tango band which was briefly called Banda Paradiso and then changed to Tango Paradiso. It included bandoneon player Doug Schmidt, guitarist Budge Schachte (Acacia’s father), and violinist (there were two in the two times I photographed them), Rebecca Whitling and Jessie Zobot.

Abraham Rogatnick in Clancy Dennehy’s Tangere

Because of Hutter’s connection with the Symphony we were able to get permission to shoot pictures in the Orpheum. We did this with Argentine tango master Carlos Loyola and partner Yanina Perez.

Tango Paradiso (1998) Patricia Hutter, Budge Schachte, Carlos Loyola Yanina Perez, Jessie Zobot & Douglas Schmidt

It was sometime around 2002 when artist videographer Clancy Dennehy made a video of the band playing one of Doug Schmidt’s compositions (with assistance by Budge Schachte) called . It premiered to critical acclaim at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. I may have seen a rough copy (a very good one is linked below and just posted by Dennehy in YouTube) before in which I noticed an old man in a bar. The old man was Abraham Rogatnick, a friend of Dennehy who had worked with the architect in various projects some of which included documentaries on Arthur Erickson.

Budge Schachte & Patricia Hutter Clancy Dennehy’s Tangere

The other striking fact of this exquisite video is that there is a narrative of a hooker and her john. The slim, short, cropped hair Acacia is she, and her john was Ballet BC’s James Russell Toth whom we all called Rusty.

Chengxin Wei, Justin Peck & James (Rusty) Russell Toth

The video captures you see here, I took with my iPhone from Hutter’s TV monitor (she is a neighbour). But those reading this will now thanks to Dennehy be able to see the video here. I must warn you that in the performance Acacia Schachte never does wear a tutu and at one point even less of one. While I am no dance expert, I do believe that Carlos Loyola must have indeed taught Schachte and Toth to dance the Argentine Tango very well. What the couple do in Dennehy’s video they do it with the kind of feeling that Spaniards call duende. What do to this Friday? It should be evident.

James Russell Toth & Acacia Schachte in Clancy Dennehy’s Tangere
Still of Acacia Schachte in Clancy Dennehy’s Tangere
Acacia Schachte in Clancy Dennehy’s Tangere.

Tangere Clancy Dennehy’s video on Youtube. Budge Schachte’s band, Van Django

Link to: Acacia Schachte — That Exquisite Singularity

Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at:

Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at: