We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.
To this day I remember that day that as a very young boy (8) I grew up. I grew up because my imagination failed.
In our Buenos Aires back garden we had a shack (we called it a galpón). There was a large wooden crate without a top. I would get inside it and with four bricks (one leaning on the other at 45 degrees) they were my brake and clutch pedals. With a broom stick and an old tricycle wheel I had a steering wheel. I would sit on a bench. It took a few seconds before my crate became one of Juan Manuel Fangio’s racing cars and I his surrogate. I, we, won man races.
On that day the crate did not magically turn into a Fangio’s racer. It was a crate. This was my first step in growing up.
Now at age 72 I have (in my heart) become a youth thanks to the dancers of the Arts Umbrella Dance Company and in particular because of five boys.
At age 72, a married man with two daughters and two granddaughters, my sexual preferences are not suspect nor do I believe that I should make any complicated explanations as to the why I love these boys of the Arts Umbrella Dance Company. I must state that tonight after the second performance (I went to the previous one on the 21st and a dress rehearsal) knowing I could not attend the last show on Saturday night, I felt a sense of loss in that three of the five would be gone by the end of June (two will remain in the Company until next year). I gave them all a hug and for a second, while not being Fangio, I was a young man greeting and saying goodbye to what felt like lifelong school friends.
The whole Company is aware (they smile, when they see me, what are they thinking?) that I have a preference for the Spaniard Albert Galindo. The other four boys are spectacular, too, and many of the young women are excellent, glamorous and in many ways my faves. Many of the girls and the boys I saw years back as young boys and girls. They (the Senior Dance Company) have matured. They are women and men.
There is something about dance (like sound) that is so ephemeral. My blurry photographs of these dancers’ movements while music to my eyes, they also tell me that those blurs will fade to nothing and what will remain will be fond memories.
I can remember that sometime in the late 70s the Alvin Ailey Company came to Vancouver and with my wife and two daughter we witnessed a dance that featured white costumes (dresses and suits) and white parasols. To my ignorant amazement all the dancers were black. What I remember is sort of like my dance photo blurs with a tinge of summer blues and heat.
Many of the 15 dance works performed by the Arts Umbrella Dance Company at this year’s Season Finale at the Vancouver Playhouse were brand new especially commissioned for the Company. I know that with rare exceptions many of these will blur into memory and probably will never be revived again.
That is the tragedy of dance. Some assert that it also makes dance exciting.
Few in Vancouver know of the protocols involved in mounting the works of well-known choreographers. For one you usually must pay a royalty fee just as you would to produce a musical such as West Side Story. Good things are not free nor are they cheap.
In dance protocol the choreographer or a representative has to be present during the early rehearsals. If the choreographer lives in Europe you must pay air fares and put the choreographer in a good hotel and pay for transportation and meals.
Few in Vancouver are aware that in some cases deals can be made if there are connections with the choreographer to lighten fee deals. I would believe that John Alleyne who showered us with wonderful William Forsythe pieces during his tenure at Ballet BC might have had connections not only through his personal talent but through Ballet Frankfurt (years ago it was Forsythe’s domain) and two alumni, Crystal Pite and Emily Molnar who both danced for that exalted company.
I cannot begin to guess what pull Artemis Gordon and her Arts Umbrella Dance Company have to not only bring famous choreographers to Vancouver but also what she does to convince them to design a dance from scratch for her boys and girls.
Of the fifteen dances I saw my favourite in the end was one I only saw once tonight. It was James Kudelka’s Study for a Dance in the Future.
In the 90s I loved Kudelka’s 15 Heterosexual Duets. One particular duet featured Lauri Stallings and her red hair. The dance was choreographed (almost like a woman’s shampoo commercial) for flowing long hair. In a brilliant (but I still did not like it) ploy Alleyne cast Acacia Schachte (an alumnus of Arts Umbrella) to dance that duet with her short cropped hair! Another duet had Andrea Hodge and Miroslav Zydowicz knotting and un-knotting each other virtually without moving from one spot. Read below about R.D. Laing’s Knots.
Kudelka’s Study for a Dance in the Future feature all 25 dancers of the Senior Company. They were all dressed in black. My 12-year-old granddaughter Lauren Stewart (who has been dancing at Arts Umbrella for 5 years) informed me that Kudelka eliminated for this dance the legs of the stage. I did not have the faintest idea of what Lauren was talking about. It seems that her teacher Lina Fitzner (an ex-alumnus of Arts Umbrella) in a class explained the workings of a dance stage and that for Study for a Dance in the Future Kudelka did without what I thought were called the black wing curtains of the stage. They are legs! This made the stage much larger and it enabled us to see all what was going on at any minute.
The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.
Kudelka’s dance featured my fave male dancer Albert Galindo in a work that instantly reminded me of the black cover of R.D. Laing’s 1970 book Knots. Laing was (he died in 1989) a Scottish Psychiatrist. The Kudelka physically had the tangling and untangling of human knots and chains with Galindo going here or there seeking humanity, a human touch in what increasingly is a world without it. The word that came to mind tonight was one that I have not pondered about for years, alienation.
Galindo’s narrow face and sunken eyes reinforced the idea of the frustration that people must feel in this 21stcentury.
There is no doubt in my mind that Galindo and his four male cronies (not to mention all those women) will circumvent the frustrations of this 21stcentury and all will find their place in the sun, most probably on a dance stage.
Some of us know that after the Season Finale it’s not all over. In June not only the Senior Dance Company and the Apprentice Dance Company but all the rest of Arts Umbrella Dance family will be performing (including my Lauren). This means I can prepare myself for the eventual (and I hope only internal)tearful goodbye to my boys (and yes equal time) the girls, too.
For my money Ms. Gordon (Artemis Gordon) you could not do better than to include Study for a Dance in the Future in June. I will be there.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.