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


Three Muses & Four Young Men
Monday, May 04, 2009

Since Rebecca started taking ballet and dance lessons at the Arts Umbrella in 2004 I have watched the older girls and boys in other classes grow from one year to another. Then in May 2007 I convinced Editor Bob Mercer to run a piece in his magazine, VLM called The Manly Art of Ballet. I wrote of the extraordinary boys who were part of the Arts Umbrella dance program. Around October 2008 I again convinced Bob Mercer (his magazine was floundering by then) that what he needed was youth but with some content. This involved me taking pictures of three young and beautiful girls who were in the Senior Company of the Arts Umbrella Dance Program. But the picture never ran nor did my interview with the three as Mercer ceased publication of his magazine (re-named My Vancouver) in March.

Last Saturday I attended the Arts Umbrella Expressions Festival 2009 that featured the Apprentice Company Dancers (one year behind the Seniors) and the Seniors in one extremely long (three hours) but exhilarating string of performances. Rebecca, Lauren and I managed to sit where we wanted at the Vancouver Playhouse. We sat centre, front row. Our purpose was to be able to hear the dancers breathe.

I had seen these dancers grow up as had Rebecca. Rebecca did not receive all the encouragement she should have at home so she decided to abandon both her dance and her piano lessons. I was able to find a way of saving the latter but not the former. It was my hope that Rebecca would get excited at seeing her ertswhile Arts Umbrella dancers and just might want to return. But this was not to be. Only Lauren (6) is enthusiastic about learning to dance at the Arts Umbrella this fall.

As per usual the performances were top notch, choreographed by noted choreorgraphers D.A. Hoskins, Chengxin Wei (Ballet BC Dancer), Gioconda Barbuto, Roberto Campanella, Joe Laughlin, Francisco Martinez, Sidra Bell, Lina Fitzner (I saw her backstage on Saturday night and she looked absolutely stunning, but then I love red hair), Donald Sales (ex- Ballet BC dancer) and Azure Barton.

All those young girls that I had last seen as the Apprentice Company Dancers, now as the Seniors where to my delight all grown women with bodies to kill for. But I have to confess here that this inveterate Latin man who has always been interested in the female form had his eyes mostly for the boys who were now men. These were the boys I had written about for VLM. Only one was missing, Jeremiah Kennedy (a red head!) who had the best smile of them all. In the picture here Jeremiah is upper right. Upper left is Michel Issa Rubio, bottom left is Jed Duifhuis and bottom right Scott Fowler.

My favourite female dancer, seen in the picture with the four boys is Nina Davies. She had the ambition to join Cirque du Soleil. She was uncommonly flexible. But a year ago she suffered from a back injury so she has not been able to dance since. She is now 18 and her parents are sending her to Europe.

The boy (now a tall young man) on the left, Michel Issa Rubio has a style that is all his own. It is part macho Mexican (he was born in Mexico) and part street fighter/hip-hop. While I am no expert on dance I was able to determine that his style is so personal and unique that he must continue with dance. Bottom right, Jed Duifhuis is very tall and strong and he is a solid partner to the increasingly taller dance girls of our century. I can see him being recruited by all kinds of dance companies. Scott Fowler, bottom left, reminds many of an extremely young Mikhail Baryshnikov. When I last saw him he was a virtuoso little boy. That is no longer the case as he is no longer tiny and has gained meny inches in height. He is but somehow he is not yet a senior dancer. He is much too young to graduate. This means we will have another opportunity to see him next year! The young man I saw perform on Saturday night is what I would call a fenómeno a Spanish word reserved to label all those with unexplained talent.

But from the first moment of the first dance, D.A. Hoskins’ Fruit, my eyes narrowed down the field to watch senior dancer Alex Burton. When I talked to him a couple of years ago he told me that he wanted to be an architect (like his father) and that he loved to explore buildings as spaces for dance. The thought he could combine both professions.

I am sure that one of his mentors at Arts Umbrella, dancer Emily Molnar (on the left with Alex in the middle and Arts Umbrella Dance Director Artemis, Artie, Gordon on the right) would not be surprised in the least as she has repeatedly told me how dancers have intimate knowledge of space and how to work within its boundaries. I am sure that our very own architect, Arthur Erickson would not quibble if we defined that as architecture.

Every time Alex Burton moved on stage I could not look at anybody else. And it was like that for me until the end.

But I did notice the girls and in particular these three in the top picture that would have appeared as the Three Muses in the VLM essay I was going to write. On the top left it’s Alex Parrett, bottom left it’s Alyson Fretz. On the right is Caroline Kirkpatrick. I have a special fondness for both Caroline and Alyson as when they were young girls they were “helpers” in Rebecca’s first ballet class with Andrea Hodge. Rebecca had a tendency to daydream and Caroline or Alyson would set her straight. Again without any much knowledge on dance matters (except I have seen lots of it) I see Caroline as a future choreographer of note. Wherever she goes she is always the centre as she is in my picture. Parrett danced her heart out all night. I would believe that she did not wake up until very late the next day. She was all energy and grace.

For some reasons on the Saturday that we went (there was another performance the day before) there was not all that much of Alyson. But when Alyson was on stage, she was the only one who managed to steer my eyes away from Alex Burton. At last year’s Arts Umbrella program at the Playhouse I watched Alex and Alyson dance together. I don’t remember seeing so much electricity between dancers before. I itch to see them soon in a future performance Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet. Where are you John Alleyne when we need you?


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