May 02, 2009

Tango time

I started taking tango classes again a while back. I lucked out this time: my class is gender balanced, equal number of girls and boys. The class that started last week is “close embrace”. It’s currently a popular form of dancing. I knew little about it before the first class. My memories of close embrace dancing are from high school, and those are the good memories.

Close embrace in tango, however, is another story. First, I’m not with a date; my dance partner is whoever is next in the line of dance. It could be, as it was last week once, someone I've never met before. Second, the position of the follower (or in this case, female dancer) is one of leaning into the leader (or male dancer). It means giving all your weight to your partner, trusting he won’t let you fall. It was, at first, very scary. But with practice, I got the hang of it, more or less. If I tensed up at all it was uncomfortable. So it is a good lesson in relaxation.

Meanwhile, I’m avoiding my studio. Except to go over the paintings I will be shipping soon to Denmark (for the exhibit in June) with a heat gun. As there is wax in the medium of the oil bars I use, I find it helps the many layers meld together. And it is definitely a good idea to send dry paintings.

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October 05, 2008

Orpheus and Eurydice

I went to see Compagnie Marie Chouinard from Montreal Friday night. They danced Orpheus and Eurydice to a full house. The performance was perfect. A beautifully integrated piece using voice, body and costume (accentuating the bare essentials of body) along with great movement, amazing music, exquisite lighting. And lots of fun.

I enjoyed this performance much better than the one last year's bODY_rEMIX/gOLDBERG_vARIATIONS. This was more human. Less props.One of the more fascinating elements (for me) was seeing one of the male dancers with a less than perfect body, with a soft belly. Very nice, very human. That seems to sum up the entire piece for me—very human.

Posted by leya at 07:56 PM

September 23, 2008

Dance dance dance

I went to a dance concert Friday evening. I was not sure I wanted to go but because I have a seasons’ subscription and don’t like wasting a good ticket, I went. It was Martin Belanger from Montreal. A dance piece called Grande Theorie unifiee. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it. I laughed, giggled and basically was mesmerized by all the clever antics and beautiful dance moves. The performance included everything: funny talk, adroit acrobatics, campy acting and singing, outrageous innuendos, and I could go on. And it all went together. My biggest complaint with modern dance is when the elements don’t work well as a unit, and especially when the arms are out there dangling on their own, don’t feel attached to a body, or speech feels like an intrusion. Not here. All was well integrated.

When leaving the arts centre, I met a friend and said, Wasn’t that wonderful! No, he said with a very sour face. I told him I laughed so hard I thought I’d split. Usually I fall asleep halfway through these things. He said he wished he had. Well, maybe it wasn’t all new, cutting edge, cultural breakthrough High Art, but I had fun!. It was a great performance.

Posted by leya at 07:40 PM

May 19, 2008

Why we need each other

I went to see Tedd Robinson perform his piece Redd Thursday evening. It was billed as his last solo performance and was a memorable experience. It was a humorous, profound, delightful, imaginative, rich performance. Needless to say, I liked it. The images, movements and words were seamlessly sewn together.

He is called a dance artist. He talks, reads, mimes, jests and moves with limitless grace. In one section he was talking about his neighbors in the country who keep coming over and giving him advice, seeming to be concerned with his isolation. Then he said he came to understand love and why people couple. You need, he said, someone to hold the ladder when you go up to fix the roof.


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January 21, 2008

What remains

I went to a dance performance Saturday night. Louise Bedard dance troupe from Montreal. The dance was based (very loosely) on Hannah Hoch’s collage pieces. For the most part it was enjoyable enough. But, like most of the modern dance I have seen recently, it went on too long, far too long. And it could have used a more healthy dose of influence from Hannah Hoch. Her collage work is so fascinating.

As it is dark in the theatre I often nod off somewhere in the middle of these long, repetitive dances I watched my friends watching the performance and no one seemed to be sleeping. But afterwards, one person said he was sleeping with his eyes open. Of course, it was hard to imagine. Although I must say, I do it regularly. It was documented at an early age. Somewhere around six, I remember faking sleep on the living room couch. But my mother said, no, she’s not sleeping, her eyes are closed.

When I lived in New York, I used to go see Merce Cunningham at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. His performances consisted of several pieces, each distinct from the other. Other of the major modern dancers of that time did the same thing. It makes more sense to me. I never fell asleep in those, even with my eyes open. But then, . . .

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October 16, 2007

Lost & Found

I went to a dance concert Friday night. Crystal Pite. Premiere performance tour of Lost Action. The dance was unique. The dancers movements used the total body. Too often I feel modern dancers focus on arms to the loss of the torso. But here there was a repetitive, rhythmic, often jerky use of every part of the human body. The movements were constantly repeating, with variations. The repetition was to underline the ephemeral quality of dance. Just when I felt I had seen enough jerky gestures, the movements became lyrical for a while.

In the program, she says

Dance disappears almost at the moment of its manifestation. It is an extreme expression of the present: a perfect metaphor for life. Dancers sculpt space in real-time, working inside a form that is constantly in a state of vanishing. We have no artifacts. I find it strangely beautiful to be creating something that is made of us—made of our breath and blood and bones and minds. Something that is made of the space we occupy and made of the space between us. We embody both the dance and its disappearance.

I’ve often thought of the differences in art forms, how music only exists when it is heard. How writing also exists in the reading although a book “exists” to be read. With painting, the painting is there whether someone is looking at it or not and the act of looking takes less conceptual thought, perhaps, than reading. It’s something that can be glanced at, passed by, be used as background or as a piece for contemplation. I need repetition in painting because there are so many possibilities of the same combination. It’s not about vanishing, as in dance, but still, it is about embodying space and time.

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January 16, 2006

Dancing close

This past weekend I put Her Puppiness in her crate and went to a Tango weekend workshop taught by Margaret Spore. This one was on Close Embrace & Milonga. Close embrace is a style of dance where the couple looks like they are madly in love, regardless. It provoked a lot of lively conversation. A warm fuzzy atmosphere. And I found it easier to tell where my partner was leading me.

I’m short and the first man I danced with is tall. I told him I was glad I liked the color of his shirt. During the class, I discovered the variety of smells of many armpits. Rather enlightening! And fun. One person; four legs.

Milonga is a dance style, based on African Tribal rhythms. It’s done stepping on each beat. A heavier step. Very different from classical tango, but with many of the same moves. It can go very fast (the music, the dancing) and I was very pleasantly tired after the classes. Too bad Lila can’t dance yet.

Posted by leya at 08:08 PM

December 03, 2005


A couple of weeks ago, after coming out of the magnificent, overwhelmingly beautiful and deeply moving dance performance by Compagnie Marie Chouinard, in which the dancers used metal crutches and walkers as part of their dance, my friend who accompanied me asked: “Do you think someone who had a real disability would be offended by this dance?”

Quite possibly. It would depend on the person’s relationship to their disability. Some people are comfortable with their handicaps. Some people wear their illnesses and handicaps as a badge. To others, it is such an insult that the relationship is more of anger or shame. But the dance itself elevated the possibilities of human bodies, realigned the misuse, disuse, abuse of limbs to a level of unlimited beauty.

In A Million Little Pieces, James Frey quotes a Taoist saying that helped him through his difficult times recovering from addictions:

If you want to be whole, you must first be partial. If you want to be straight, you must first be crooked. If you want to be full, first become empty. If you want to be reborn, you must first die. If you want everything give everything up. If you don’t display yourself, people will see your light. If you have nothing to prove, people will trust you. If you don’t try to be something, people will see themselves in you. If you don’t have a goal, you will always succeed.

The first dancers came on the stage with one toe shoe on one foot, the other foot bare. And hobbled across the stage. At another time, toe shoes were on the hands as well, a four foot walk on point. Or dancers scooted across the stage leaning into a walker. And all with magnificent grace, displaying love for the human body in all its manifestations. If we could only feel that within ourselves every day, there would be no more prejudice. Life would be quite fine.

Posted by leya at 05:41 PM

November 28, 2005

A long day's journey

I’m writing this sitting in the lounge of the St. John, New Brunswick airport (although I will have to post it when I get home. There is definitely no wi-fi here, nor do I have it on my computer--yet). I have a four-hour layover on my way home from Montreal. When checking in I first asked the agent in Montreal if I could get an easier flight, but all other flights to Halifax were overbooked already. Then she said they had my name backwards. I said they often do. But she had confused the names and had Leya as the last name, as, I said, people often do. She apologized profusely but I really am used to it. What does get me a bit miffed is when someone says: “Are you sure?” when I tell them Evelyn is the last name.

When I asked her about getting an easier flight selection, I also said they probably have a good bookstore in the St. John airport. She smiled. Now I know why. There are two gates here, one lounge/luncheonette-restaurant/shop and only a few (very small) planes in and out each day. The Halifax airport (which is quite large now and still growing) was not much bigger than this the first time I arrived in it, twenty-some years ago. It feels nice, friendly, but I still wish I didn’t have such a long wait. And I wish there was a bookstore here. But Jessica lent me an interesting book (The Shadow of the Wind by Carolos Ruiz Zafon) so as soon as my airplane headache calms down, I will read it. (It will be far better than the constant CNN program on the (large) TV here repeating itself over and over and over.)

After a wonderful four days in Montreal, it is hard to go home, yet I’m looking forward to getting back to painting and going to visit my puppy. I have some pix in my camera and will unload them tonight. None of the tango classes though. That was a very intriguing few hours. Brigitta Winkler (from Germany) is an excellent dance teacher. Her enthusiasm is expressed best in her body language, appropriate for tango, what tango is essentially, a communication of bodies. There were people at the classes from all over: Bolivia, Quebec, Toronto, Maine, New Haven, Halifax and even Buenos Aires. I plan to look up some tango places when I go to New York in December. It’s an interesting community, spreading around the globe. Aaron said it is a known pick up place for singles in Montreal. It was easy to tell who was looking around for dates. I found the more advanced dancers were more accessible as dancing partners, felt they just wanted to dance. I mentioned to one (excellent) dancer I was partnered with for a while (we rotate partners often) that I am a good dancer when I have a good partner. He said that is so true for all of us. Yet some of the more advanced dancers make it so easy to follow, to feel the intentions of the leader.

The first class was one of seeing the dance as taking flowers from a bouquet (literally and figuratively), learning the many possibilities of movement, learning to choose this or that, or this and that. The second class was about the musicality of the dance. Brigitta had us walking around the room in alternating rhythms, counter to our partner, then in tune with the partner and also adjusting the volume of our dance, from normal to loud to whispering. I am hoping that our little tango dance community in Halifax will start growing more. It is good but still too small. The energy in Montreal was really different. Our Halifax group is still like the little engine that could (but still trying). Although I must admit, my idea that everyone in Montreal was a great dancer was a bit off. Everyone has to start somewhere. Yet, it is true, when they are good, they are very very good.

Posted by leya at 07:08 PM

October 31, 2005

Another tango weekend


Another Tango weekend! This one was with Tomas Howlin (who has been here previously), an Argentinean living now in Montreal. By the end of Sunday, my feet hurt, but otherwise, it was a totally exciting and worthwhile weekend.

Well, to be honest, there were moments when I felt my whole life walking before me. What I mean is: We rotated partners every two dances. There was an uneven (not to say odd) number of people which meant that someone did not have a partner. And, as I am not a very assertive person, for the first dance it was me, of course, who was odd one out. When Margaret, my teacher here in Halifax, explained we would take turns not having a partner, I just said “It’s the story of my life!” After that, it was okay.

Tomas presented a slide and video show Saturday afternoon. Tango was not the norm in Argentina when he was growing up there, not like it is now. Someone asked him how he became involved in it, He said he was studying philosophy and music at university and his instructor said he wouldn’t teach Tomas to play the Mozart flute sonata until he understood contemporary pop music. After all, Mozart’s music was the popular culture of his time. This lead Tomas to explore pop music, then blues, Jazz and eventually tango. Now tango is a major export of Argentina, even taking root in Nova Scotia, thanks to the industry of Margaret Spore, who brought Tomas here from Montreal.

And I’m going to Montreal the end of the month and hope to take some classes there. I can envision a string, like a paper chain, of tango dancers around the world.

Posted by leya at 08:27 AM

June 20, 2005

Still more tango!

Another Tango weekend, this time with a visiting teacher from Montreal, Clement Lafond. We learned some fancy footwork:


And watched Margaret and Clement dance.




It is quiet here in my home but I can still hear the music and I feel as if I am still dancing. I learned so much this weekend, especially that I need to dance more. Clement said over and over that tango dance is 95% practice. Ive been taking beginner classes since October. This was the first time I have had a chance to dance with more experienced dancers for such a prolonged time. I can see what I have been missing, the flow of the dance, putting it all together. Time to move on, take more classes. Learn more. The tango is such an amazing experience.

Posted by leya at 10:49 AM | Comments (1)

June 04, 2005

Deleted Scenes

Thursday evening I went to one of the best dance performances I have seen in a long time. Verve Mwendo are at the Neptune Studio Theatre tonight (at 8 pm) and tomorrow (Sunday at 3 pm) in a piece they call Deleted Scenes (as in "out-takes from a movie"). Performing are Jacinte Armstrong, Cory Bowles, Christine Finley, Dani Oore and Sageeve Oore. It was a clever, strong, poignant, funny and profound performance. Beautiful dance and fascinating music. If you can, do see it!

Posted by leya at 01:06 PM

April 23, 2005

More tango

Ive been taking a tango workshop this weekend with Tomas Howlinan Argentinian from Montreal who has been here before to teach. Its been wonderful. There seems to be more and more people interested in learning the dance. About thirty people in the beginner level. Hes a great teacher. Uses a lot of cute, smutty jokes to help us understand the posture and get in the mood for this very sensuous dance with its elegant form. A dance of one person with four legs! He called it a conversation in music and movement.

The only problem was, I was wearing new shoes. Ouch! I should know better!

Posted by leya at 06:07 PM

February 20, 2005

Just my opinion here; no harm done

I went to a really bad (in my opinion) dance performance the other night. I had seen the dancer once before, several years ago, and hadnt liked her then. But I am always willing (I think) to give someone a second chance. Just not a third!

In this case her personality was stronger than her dance moves. And her persona was not pleasant, inviting. The music however was exceptional. Worth sitting through the uninspired moves on the dance floor. Most of the time I was sitting there choreographing possibilities from some of the pieces of the performance that did appeal to me. But overall, I was not impressed with the performance (other than the music).

But Halifax is such a small town that it is hard to express opinions here without offending. Too bad. You never know what and how a comment is going to come back to you. But I just didnt enjoy the dance. Thats all.

Posted by leya at 08:15 PM

January 10, 2005

Untangling tango

I went to another tango workshop this weekend, this time with Margaret Spore. During lunch on Saturday she explained some of the history of tango and showed us some videos of professional tango dancers. The most fascinating was the one of two men dancing together, frequently changing roles from follower to leader and back again. Typical of classical (textbook) male energy, it seemed like a contest: oh, you can do that, well then, watch what I can do! And back and forth, getting more and more challenging. A dancing duel.

As Margaret explained:

The tango of the poor barrios and brothels of Buenos Aires gave expression to the sexuality, combativeness, melancholy and frustration of those living at the margin of society. A city teeming with too many working men, and a dance which was not considered "polite" for women, led to men often dancing with other men, a tradition that still appears today, though often in an updated version, with men and women learning both parts.

Seeing these men dance together helped me to understand the underlying tensions and complexities that make this dance so fascinating to do. A truly amazing and definitely fearless dance.

Posted by leya at 08:52 PM