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


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Last night VLM Editor/Art Director Bob Mercer and I went to Ballet BC's Studio Series. In these events held at the Scotia Bank Dance Centre you get the privileged view of watching a work in progress (John Alleyne's The Four Seasons) unfold and then have the promise of seeing the work performed complete, in this case, in two days on Thursday when The Four Seasons open at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

The studio space is smaller and the intimacy created lends itself to making the audience feel as if they are watching the dancers under a loupe. We were sitting next to a Ballet BC fan with long tenure. It was architect Henry Hawthorn so our ballet experience was enhanced by his good company. The master of ceremonies deftly made John Alleyne drop his candid drawers so that we were able to understand how he manages a work in progress. In spite of the smiles I suspect this is serious and scary. For Alleyne, I believe, a work is not really finished until perhaps seconds before its premiere.

After watching a shortened version (but not shortened enough that we could not but notice the dancers gasping for air!) of the Four Seasona while having to leave to the imagination a couple of the promised features:

1. Artist Tiko Kerr will be painting works (sets?) during the performance of the Four Seasons on stage in an extemporaneus reaction to the action on stage. He is seen here being painted with his own paint brush by my favourite ever Ballet BC male dancer, Miroslav Zydowicz.

2. Installation artist Alan Storey has created a giant drawing machine that will react to a light on dancer Makaila Wallace's head. The device will track her movements and draw on a screen, at the end of the perfomance, the audience will be able to see it all on a giant screen. You can see Storey here by his Coopers Mews sculpture.

we listened to the dancers give us their side of the story. Not too long ago I asked National Ballet of Canada founding member, dancer and choreographer Grant Strate why it was that dancers in Vancouver seemed to be all so articulate. He told me that this was certainly not the rule. I then asked the master of ceremonies the same question. His answer was concise and an eye opener. "Ines Vancouver we don't have a hair bun and tutu tradition." From this I understood that dancers are not expected to just follow standard moves but must inject intelligence, individuality. They must think for themselves. It was a pleasure to listen to dancer Jones Henry (below) and James Gnam prove the master of ceremonies right.

I remember the first few years of Ballet BC when John Alleyne took over. There were plenty of tutus and bun heads at the time. Then slowly, surely and quietly they all but disappeard. Today's Ballet BC or Modern Ballet BC (as I would like to call it) has to be John Alleyne's legacy and we should be grateful for it.

But four men for Four Seasons might get some competition from more womanly quarters. While I am not familiar with Mark Morris's A Garden I do recommend a/way inside by Dominique Dumais (below). Her work, in all its simplicity, might just give the four men above a run for their money. And of course not to mention all the girls (women) in the band including my favourite Arts Umbrella graduate, Alexis Fletcher.

The Four Seasons
at Queen Elizabeth Theatre
on February 14, 15, 16 @ 8 pm
& February 16 @ 2pm


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