A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Grant Strate - The Perfect Glass of Dry Sherry
Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wine can clear
The vapors of despair.
And make us light as air.

John Gay

On Saturday, December 8, I photographed for the Georgia Straight, dancer and choreographer Grant Strate who is celebrating his 80th birthday today. There is a big party for him at the Vancouver Dance Centre. Both the Georgia Straight and an article in today's Vancouver Sun describe this man's past as one of the founders of the National Ballet of Canada. There would be no mandate or perhaps space to emphasize Strate's views on dance now.

Strate has a bit of problem walking but braved the stairs to my studio. I had given him the option of not coming and I would have photographed him where he would have been more comfortable. I had a chat with him and even though there is lots of laywer influence in his background (he was one) he had some startlingly candid opinions on dance now. I can understand why Wen Wei Wang would consider him an important mentor. When the session was over and I accompanied Strate downstairs, Wen Wei Wang was there to take his beloved teacher to his next press assignment.

This morning I thought about Strate. I had been moved not only by Strate's presence in my studio but seduced by piercing blue eyes as good as Peter O'Toole's.

I thought of the solera system for making dry sherries and my favourite pale yellow and dry manzanilla. This system has a relation with dancers handing off their experience to a next generation. I searched these blogs to find out that I had already had the idea before here.

This idea that no matter how you dilute an old and perfect sherry, there is a bit of it in the generations of sherry that follow, can be compared to watching such wonderous dancers as Desirée Dunbar (below, left) dance in Vancouver. I think about it every time I watch her dance.

Her teacher and mentor Judith Garay (below, right) studied under American choreographer Martha Graham. There is some Graham in Garay and some of that was passed on to Dunbar. Garay in her position in the faculty of Simon Fraser University in the School for the Contemporary Arts surely has met up with Grant Strate.

There is a little of Grant Strate in Garay. In my original piece on Strate and sherry here there is a photograph of Strate with dancer choreographer Katheryn Ricketts. She and Strate collaborated. I think of Ricketts teaching my Rebecca jazz dance at Arts Umbrella (she did) and I am excited to know that there is a little bit of the original fine (fino) dry sherry seeping down into present generations of Vancouver dancers who will transfer it to future generations.

As old dry sherries go, Grant Strate was (and is) a good year.


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