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


Perpetual Motion At The Kay Meek Centre
Monday, October 20, 2008

On Friday Rosemary and I went to the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver and saw Karen Jamieson Dance in a 25 year anniversary performance of Jamieson's groundbreaking Sisyphus. We also saw the world premiere Of Agon with dancers Ron Stewart and Brian Solomon. This work had music composed by John Korsud and Cris Derksen. While dancer/choreographer Byron Chief-Moon may have been an inspiration for Agon (with contribution by Ron Stewart) the final choreography we saw was Jamieson's. In some way I have written about most of these performers and of the works:

Jay Hirabayashi

Karen Jamieson

Cris Derksen

Byron Chief-Moon

As Rosemay showed visible anxiety at the intensity of Jamieson's works I thought of a couple of things. For one Rebecca, our granddaughter has seen much more dance than Rosemary and as a dancer she would have appreciated the heavy duty movements that seemed non stop or involved carrying for long periods of time. The music of Agon was demanding but pleasant to me because I am a fan of Cris Derksen and her music but people of the 21st century are still uncomfortable with music that has little melody. If you play them music by Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg or Anton Webern they might leave the room even if you tell them that the music is almost 100 years old.

Feeling Rosemary's discomfort as I enjoyed it all made me think and wonder how people took Jamieson's Sisyphus 25 years ago. Even today it seems to be (to use that perennial baseball term) out from left field. I found the work as I saw it on Friday as modern as anything and more so than most contemporary work.

Consider the fax machine. Here you will find out that the fax machine (state of the art in my home back in 1987) was invented in 1843!

Jamieson's works, timelessly cutting edge, are like that fax machine of mine which scanned my 11x14 b+w prints and which helped me obtain work by whisking them to magazine art directors to peruse.

As I have written here before Jamieson's choreography seems to me (from the isolation of living in BC and not knowing what other choreographers may be doing in other provinces) the only one that incorporates extensive elements of Native Canadian dance, art and myths and does it so in a contemporary mixture that pushes it forward as an exciting new medium. While I can tolerate and even enjoy native dance performance at the Museum of Anthropology I feel that Jamieson's brand expands, unlocks and rejuvenates it. While my point of view is obviously based on my ignorance, more than anything, I believe the the Museum of Anthropology form is native dance performance set in stone.

Jamieson is not the only liberator. I revel at watching Byron Chief-Moon's solo performances and some of his choreography that I have seen in Bravo. And this Rennaisance is not only happening in dance. It is happening in music with Cris Derksen, with exciting Native Canadian opera singers like Clarence Logan and Melody Mercredi , in theatre with playwrights like Kevin Loring and in art with the funny, contemporary Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. I believe that the Vancouver Opera's traveling and very Native Canadian costumed Magic Flute by Mozart is another harbinger of things to come.

I think that eventually Rosemary will come around and meanwhile I will enjoy the memory of Jamison's past performances with the good news that her oncoming project The Sysyphus Project (found here)which will give me the opportunity to revisit her past while enjoying fresh new and demanding new works.

Two other works delighted me. One was Solo From Chaos which featured dancer Darcy McMurray (with strong and shapely thighs to die for) on a ladder and percussion musician Joseph "Pepe" Danza on the microphone. The other was Man Withina work that I had seen before danced by the same performers Caroline Farquar and Brian Solomon. Since the very tall (and soft-spoken and very sweet) Farquar had to carry Solomon for most of the performance I repeated my Karen Jamieson joke to Rosemary.

The phone rings (you are a dancer). You answer it. It is Karen Jamieson. You instantly hang up. You do not want to carry someone for a great length of time, have someone step on you or to be expected to dance like a perpetual motion machine.

My only two regrets on Friday were that I did not see either Jay Hirabayashi or Byron Chief-Moon, seen above, top left, with Karen Jamieson. It made the evening almost perfect, but not quite.

That Jamieson's The Sisyphus Project was first seen at West Van's dazzling Kay Meek Centre is a coup and a shame for Vancouver in not grabbing it first.


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