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


Friday, February 15, 2008

While enough has been written on how Antonio Vivaldi's Le Quattro Stagioni has been recorded to death and I have observed that Vancouver restaurants have a tendency to play either the Four Seasons, Billie Holiday or the Gipsy Kings, nothing can be done to modify my perception that the Largo: la pioggia of L'Inverno, is one of the most beautiful compositions by any composer ever. I would even enjoy it (tolerate?) played by Ornette Coleman on his plastic saxophone. Last night's performance of the movement by Ballet BC's Chengxin Wei (with "artist resident in cahoots" Tiko Kerr) has left me thinking about my tolerance.

I feel fortunate that I am not a dance reviewer and that my blog is an outlet for fun. This means I can write about anything I want, in whatever way I want and I don't have to be complete in the when, where and how department. But it is unfortunate that today I will break ( I may have broken it before) my commitment to not insert photographs with nudes. Children including my granddaughter Rebecca (although she has seen my nudes aplenty) might lurk in these pages.

A true snob (fortunately I am not one) would have left with companion (Abraham Rogatnick) after the first dance performance, Dominique Dumais's a/way inside. It featured the tall and cool (like my favourite Southern style unsweetened iced tea) Edmond Kilpatrick (his swan song for Ballet BC as he is leaving to free lance) and the electric Alexis Fletcher (a product of Arty Gordon's dance program at Arts Umbrella). They did not disappoint. This was pure dance unudulterated by anything. It just was.

But John Alleyne's The Four Seasons (fortunately Rogatnick and I stayed) was a wonderful three-ring-circus of surprises.

Dancer Makaila Wallace, a combination of Teflon, grace and femininity, packed tons of charm in her tiny package. We may walk but Wallace prances. She was the delightful unifying presence in Alleyne's work. And Jones Henry was her elegant and unruffled foil.

In composer Michael Bushnell's Musical Prelude and Postlude (I was not aware that word existed) Alan Storey's "Machine" tracked dancer Wallace inexorably. The "Machine" hovered over the stage and it looked like a spider cyborg from hell. At the end of the night the machine lowered itself (does it rely on humans?) and showed Wallace's tracks on paper(?). Even during the various curtains calls every movement that Wallace made was recorded by the "Machine". After the performance we went back stage to inspect the "Machine". Alan Storey gave us an explanation and then retired, probably to transmute some base metal into gold.

But it was the Vivaldi Winter Largo that left me speechless, troubled and in the end satisfied by Chengxin Wei's (below) completely out of context (to me, anyway) movements. The movements, jerky but full of passion, were softened by Tiko Kerr's smile behind the lucite screen on which he doodled with marking pens. The glowing and cheerful colours foretold the promise of a coming spring.

And John Alleyne again proved that there are plenty of surprises to come in his bag of tricks as he pushes the boundaries of modern ballet in Vancouver.

As for the picture above here is the explanation. In 1998 Nuvo (a magazine for those with hefty pocket books) comissioned me to recreate photographically Édouard Manet's Le déjouner sur l'herbe . To avoid possible problems with the police I chose the little known Shakespeare Garden (right next to the Vancouver Police's horse stables) in Stanley Park. I had friend Helen Yagi to pose undraped and Ona Grauer to pose draped behind. My friend Tiko Kerr (at right in picture) immediately volunteered and somehow persuaded art dealer David Heffel that his reputation was not at stake if he posed for us.

The picture represents for me the always cheerful personality of Tiko Kerr and how we are lucky to have him with us in Vancouver. Kudos to Alleyne for seeking his collaboration as well as Storey's and Bushnell's.

And I must not forget to mention the bonus of being able to see the senior dancers of Arts Umbrella. My eyes were only for the most flexible and tall Nina Davies.

If Alleyne does not create a dance that will exclusively feature brother dancers Connor and James Gnam next year I will be disappointed.


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