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


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Last night my wife Rosemary and I went to Kidd Pivot's Lost Action at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. This was the first time Rosemary has ever seen dance that is not ballet and she was a bit overwhelmed. She is not a veteran as Rebecca is who would not have been fazed in the least by the almost brutal and constant movement of the 7dancers for one hour and twenty minutes.

We noticed among all the people that I know (many from the dance community ready to check out the latest from Kidd Pivot's Crystal Pite, left) Arthur Erickson (83, below) who helped by his driver Ray managed to find himself a seat in the balcony.

When I greeted him after the performance he gesticulated enthusiastically with his hands and said, "Wonderful!"

Because it was opening night there was food served. They had some special corn mufins that packed a bang as they had jalapeƱo peppers inside. But Rosemary, who noticed all the construction (part of the millions of dollars renovation of the old Methodist church) particularly in what used to be the parking lot (there is a big hole), asked me if the place would remain as it is. I asked Heather Redfern (top left), the present Executive Director who calmed us, "You won't notice anything but the toilets will flush!" This comforted us. The Vancouver Cultural Centre has entertained us, thrilled us, challenged us (just think of Chick Snipper's Slab) all these years.

I particularly remember the Modern Baroque Opera's (please come back!)production of the 120 Songs for the Marquis de Sade which like last night's Lost Action was an ALCAN Award production. This opera had elements of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra playing on the floor next to the performers.

The theatre has no orchestra pit. This meant that not only were we able to see the singers but also musicians. It was a wonderful and intimate combination. "No, we are not going to put an orchestra pit," Redfern said to us. I did not raise the issue with Redfern as to how it felt being on the front row with a naked Marquis de Sade (Michael Douglas Jones with Christine Duncan as the Countess) swinging it back and forth not four ft away.

The second person I ever photographed inside the VECC (I photographed the first Executive Director Chris Wooten sometime in 1978, inside and outside as seen here) was a broadcaster who had just arrived to Vancouver via her old home in England. Her name was Vicki Gabereau.

Something very special about the VECC is that they are perhaps the only cultural institution (besides the Firehall Theatre) that features and caters to dance, theatre, music and the visual arts regularly. The lobby always has some sort of show of paintings or sculpture. I have heard many concerts of new music. It was here that I discovered the virtuosity of jazz man Brad Turner who in an avant-garde piece played his trumpet (accompanied by a percussionist) for almost 6 minutes without ever really playing a note. He made noises with the valves, etc while hiding his face with a brimmed hat.

I was in 2001 that the VECC started a tradition. The Electric Company Theatre's Dona Flor's And Her Two Husbands premiered with Carmen Aguirre, the extremly funny faux basoonist Don Adams and actor Ty Olsson who in all his time on stage (most of the time) wore absolutely nothing and dangled. Halfway through the production Aguirre made it equal time and shed her clothes.

True to this tradition, VECC features full nudity or partial nudity at least once a year. To this day when I cite Chick Snipper's Slab (2003)in the presence of Rebecca (she was 6 then) she says, "They wore nothing." In the photo below that's Kathleen McDonagh, Ann Cooper center back and Susan Elliott, centre.

As we went home last night I thought that Vancouver without the VECC would be a very poor place. And thanks to the VECC's existence it is that much better. I then caught another VECC memory, those four microphones decorated with pink ribbon. Does anybody remember?


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