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


Byron Chief-Moon, Devo, J.J. Johnson & A Baroque Violin
Sunday, November 18, 2007

Last year I first saw Byron Chief-Moon dance with the Karen Jamieson Dance Company. I photographed him with Karen Jamieson in my studio for a one page profile for VLM Magazine. Of Chief-Moon I wrote:

He is of the Blackfoot Confederacy. "I am not a chief, " he told me, "That was my mother's name." I started dancing at age 2. "Space is a special connection to landscape. Even when I work in my studio I am in the landscape in spirit."

Yesterday afternoon Rebecca, Lauren (5) and I went to the Scotia Dance Centre for a performance of Rosario Ancer's Flamenco Rosario, Jay Hirabayashi's Kokoro Dance and Byron Chief-Moon's Coyote Percussive Performing Arts.

Rosario Ancer had an interesting flamenco crossover, while staying true to her own art. She had both Jay Hirabayashi and Barbara Bourget contributing their butoh with Ancer herself dressed as a raven in a flamenco interpretaion of the meaning of that bird in ancestor stories of the Western Canadian Native Peoples. Listening to Antonio de Jerez sing his soleĆ” while seeing Ancer's raven was disturbing and satisfying at the same time. While Lauren had never seen butoh before she did not squirm in her seat. She calmly watched the 6 female Kokoro dancers do their excercise in apparent slow motion.

In an after performance talk I finally saw the light on at least one aspect of butoh when Hirabayashi explained the butoh concept of time. A dancer's slow movement to the eye of the bystander is plenty quick in the head of the dancer. Butoh challenges our perception of time in much the same way as Einstein's relativistic clock on moving trains. And to top it all, dancer Caroline Farquhar gave Rebecca, Lauren and me a quick lesson in butoh butterfly eyes!

But it was the solo performance of Byron Chief-Moon in Blood Alley that had Rebecca and I nodding at each other with a smile on our face. A smile on our face, in spite of a bleak prognosis on the state of man, at least as seen by Byron Chief-Moon in his interpretation of an urban aboriginal who has lost his way. He began as man/ape learning to walk, to dance, to dream and then to forget. And when the addiction set in, it was heart wrenching to see Byron Chief-Moon do a drunken interpretation of what I would call the common Indian stomp. His second piece, a projected colour video called Butte, cheered us up as Byron Chief-Moon danced in it and became one with the beautiful landscape of Southern Alberta.

Driving home I thought of other occasions where I was as affected. It began with sound.

Sound in all its glory first entered my consciousness in 1951 or 1952 when my grandmother Lolita took me to see Randolph Scott in Colt 45.

Scott plays a Colt 45 salesman and it is the sound of the gun, as it echoed (effective even before stereo and surround sound) in the movie theatre on Lavalle Street that woke me up to the wonders of pure sound. I remember seeing DEVO at the Commodore in 1979 and hearing the pure, loud sounds of new wave guitars. The sound was primal in the same way as ten years later when I heard J.J. Johnson play his trombone at the Vancouver Playhouse. During a solo, he stopped and said, "The acoustics here are very good," and he bypassed the microphone. The sound was much as the sound of those DEVO guitars. It was a piercing sound that beckoned me to some past that may have been in my genes if not in my memory. That sound again appeared for me when John Eliot Gardiner played for us a modern violin and then a baroque violin.

I cannot explain except that Byron Chief-Moon's dance went through my eyes and into my brain directly and as quickly as Keen's Mustard or those sounds of DEVO, J.J. Johnson's trombone, Randolph Scott's Colt 45 and John Eliot Gardiner's baroque violin.


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