QUANTUM: Contemporary dance meets particle physics, October 16-18

This is a really interesting collaboration between CERN (a hugely significant particle accelerator in Switzerland, where, coincidentally, one employee, Tim Berners-Lee, just happened to invent the World Wide Web one day in 1990 or thereabouts) and contemporary dance. CERN devised a three-year artist residency programme “designed to take artistic work to new creative dimensions by encountering particle physics”. Read more about it here: http://thedancecentre.ca/compagnie_gilles_jobin2

Cie Gilles Jobin 1 by Gregory Batardon (2)

I find the concept fascinating and exciting. I am totally against a segregation between math and literature, between art and science, between humanities and engineering. Although we make divisions of convenience, we must never forget that these divisions are artificial.

The Dance Centre presents the Global Dance Connections series

Compagnie Gilles Jobin: QUANTUM

ThursdaySaturday October 1618, 2014 at 8pm

Scotiabank Dance Centre, 677 Davie Street, Vancouver

Tickets: $30/$22 students, seniors from Tickets Tonight: 604.684.2787 www.ticketstonight.ca

Info 604 606 6400 www.thedancecentre.ca

Post-show artist talkback October 17

Art and science collide in QUANTUM, an exciting new work by Swiss choreographer Gilles Jobin inspired by his residency at the largest particle physics laboratory in the world – CERN in Geneva. Six outstanding dancers power through intricate, densely textured choreography to explore the subtle balances of the forces that shape our world: matter, gravity, time and space. The work is illuminated by acclaimed German artist Julius von Bismarck’s kinetic installation of suspended industrial lamps which are activated by the movement of the dancers, and American composer Carla Scaletti’s electronic score incorporates data from the Large Hadron Collider. QUANTUM epitomizes the adventurous, searching spirit of both artistic and scientific inquiry.

Jobin spent several months immersed in the world of scientists at CERN, who study the origins of the universe through the Large Hadron Collider, the most complex machine ever devised. “My aim was to find ‘movement generators’, principles underlying movement and emanating from quantum physics, which I could adapt on our scale,” explains Jobin. “I realized that we are not piles of matter, but that our bodies are held together by a subtle balance of quantum forces. As a contemporary dancer, trained to work with the ground and used to contact, I found this a whole new paradigm.” QUANTUM premiered in the fall of 2013 in Geneva and has toured around Europe and South America: in addition to Vancouver, this fall the piece will be presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s New Waves Festival, as well as in San Francisco, Chile, Brazil and Peru, and in Lausanne as part of a retrospective of Jobin’s work.

El Centro: A belated Vancouver Fringe review

Some plays come to the Vancouver Fringe hundreds (maybe Shakespeare) or thousands (Sophocles, say) of years old, with innumerable performances and interpretations behind them. But most of the productions you see at a Fringe festival (including in Vancouver) are recent works. Quite often these plays are seeing their first production. The playwright, for budget reasons if nothing else, is typically doing double duty as one of a very small crew in order to make the play work. At the Fringe, it’s encouraged and expected that the artistic direction of a piece may change as audience feedback comes in. Then the play may move on to other Fringe festivals, and pretty soon, you have gone from a newborn, probably rather wobbly work to a fully-grown, or at least adolescent production.

“El Centro” is in this exciting, rapidly growing stage of development. I saw this play twice, once at Havana as a preview prior to the Vancouver Fringe Festival starting, and once halfway through its run at the Firehall. Already I saw improvements, with tightened focus and increased clarity. I heard there were other significant plot changes in subsequent showings, and I would love to see where the play is now. However, I’ll have to focus on what I saw. Michael Dickson (playing the former Professor Rand Cohen) and Chris Cope (playing Alex, a sometime student) play two men who are anguished by Guatemala, for somewhat different reasons.

Digressing slightly, I have to say that Graham Greene is one of my favourite authors. I don’t know if the playwright Daniel Morton had Graham Greene in mind, but I feel Greene’s presence in “El Centro”. In fact, the Cohen character might be himself a Greene-like figure. Then add my love of Latin America (the length and breadth of Mexico is where I have traveled most there), and I cannot help but be taken by this play. I don’t know if it has the elements to achieve a wider audience; time will tell for that.

As character actors, Dickson and Cope do a remarkable job. Cope makes Alex’s ADHD-troubled character twitchy and nervous. You can feel his discomfort as you watch him. Dickson is a burnt-out case, addicted to alcohol and some nameless prescription drugs. If these characters sound unattractive and hard to sympathize with, you are correct. The playwright does not rely on mawkish sentiment to make us feel affection and empathy for these two, again following Greene.

If I have to look for weak points, the idea that Alex would track down Cohen late at night in his dingy office (or is it his home) after making a huge effort to find Cohen, and that Cohen would answer the door, might seem unlikely. But I don’t want to detract from the point that is being made here. Travel can be hugely dislocating and disorienting. It may feel like the only person who really understands is another traveler. Although I have patient friends who have listened to my travel accounts, it is really hard to get across some of the feelings of surprise, shock, and even hatred that can arise in certain difficult travel circumstances.

The play features a pas de deux between these two men. Their age is about right for a father-son relationship. And, as we learn, Cohen has lost a child, and Alex’s parents distance themselves so much from him that he is convinced they are utterly uncaring. The academic relationship as a form of paternal surrogacy is certainly a common trope, but Cohen and Alex never quite get to that level of relationship. Or perhaps they do — they recreate another dysfunctional father-son relationship.
Alex has had a bad experience in Guatemala. And he’s lied about it to everyone, as he cannot face the truth of what happened. He tries to lie about it to his former professor, who knows better. We know that something bad happened to Cohen, and we can see the wreckage of his life in front of us, as he gulps rum and pills. But what happened exactly? Alex gets Cohen to explain, perhaps inadvertently. And Cohen gets Adam to say what happened to him in Guatemala, on the outskirts of the impossibly beautiful city of Antigua. When traveling, it’s often hard to reconcile a beautiful spot, with gorgeous architecture and gardens and colors, with an immense toll of human suffering, and also with having personally horrific experiences in this beautiful place. Cohen and Alex get this discordance across.

The playwright Daniel Morton, as I discussed with the director Cecilia Davis, made a deliberate decision not to be didactic about political issues. In my case, I have so many issues memorized, and they come out almost by rote(not that I am an expert, by any stretch!). When I think of Guatemala, I immediately think of the United Fruit Company in 1954, environmental catastrophes caused by mining, an exceedingly high rate of child malnutrition, and other past and current events. I am curious how this play will work for an audience with no particular exposure to Latin America, but that is hard for me to judge. On one hand, I appreciate the playwright’s choice not to get embroiled in politics, while at the same time wondering if too much is left unexplained if none of the political background is discussed. Graham Greene is a novelist, so he has a much wider canvas in which to subtly develop political themes, so the comparison only works to a certain extent. This might be an area that would benefit from very careful development, because plays as political tracts are rarely successful as such. I see a lot of elements in this play that are excellent, and the actors have done a masterful job of breathing life into this work. I think that some twists and turns and subtle changes could make this play a masterpiece.
Off on a tangent again, but I can’t help it: Do read Graham Greene! And read Pico Iyer’s “The Man Inside My Head”, where Iyer, an acclaimed and very well-traveled writer, talks about his quasi-paternal relationship with Greene, a man he never met nor spoke to. (And if that sounds crazy, that’s because Greene has that type of effect.)

The Firehall opens its season with “My Rabbi”, October 7-18

Buy tickets: http://firehallartscentre.ca/onstage/rabbi/

Once again, I encourage people to go visit the Firehall Arts Centre. If you want to make a nice evening of it, enjoy nearby Cuchillo Restaurant (which has Latin American influences but cannot be easily categorized, has fantastic vegan options if need be, great mixology, and blue cornbread which I find amazingly compellling) beforehand. Or, one of numerous other restaurants that have cropped up in the Gastown/Japantown/Strathcona/Chinatown areas. The Firehall almost always has an art exhibition going, it’s right next to the Vancouver Police Museum (also well worth a visit), and I just love that it’s my neighbourhood theatre. It was great to attend Fringe shows there.

A reminder too — many Firehall shows have a pay-what-you-can option on Wednesday afternoons (sometimes other performances too). Season ticket options are very reasonable. Just find your way here.

“My Rabbi” started life as a Fringe production and played successfully at Edinburgh Fringe. It features Kayvon Kelly, whom I have really enjoyed watching in several recent productions, including one version of Chelsea Hotel. I don’t know Joel Bernbaum (from Saskatoon), but I look forward to seeing him.

Here’s the description:

My Rabbi looks at the lines between faith and friendship through the eyes of two Canadian boys – Arya who is Muslim and Jacob who is Jewish. Inspired by the creators’ real-life friendship (Kelly is half Iranian, half Irish and Bernbaum is Jewish), this unflinching and heartfelt comedic drama gives a uniquely personal and Canadian perspective on the complex issues around the

“The play is about the connection between two boyhood friends, but at its heart it is about Canadian identity and how that relates to the battle between old world politics and religious boundaries,” says co-creator Kayvon.

As a young man Arya travels to the Middle East in search of his cultural identity, while Jacob goes on to become a rabbi in Canada. As their spiritual journeys lead them in divergent directions, the differences they laughedover and celebrated as young boys become a source of friction. Their lives are changed forever when the age-old battle manifests in their respective communities.

I admit to a bit of cynicism when I read about a work that features intercultural peace and understanding. But given the background of these actors, I feel confident that this is not going to be treacly and fluffy and one-dimensional.

Interesting concert coming up on September 13, 6:30 PM (SFU Woodward’s)

See the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/481512925326431/



# Performances by: MADAN GOPAL SINGH with his group, Chaar Yaar (Delhi), FARIDA PARVEEN and Gazi Abdul Hakim (Dhaka), and ENAKSHI CHATTERJEE (Kolkata) !
# About the event: This event is part of a larger program (Sept 6 – Sept 20) organized by Hari Sharma Foundation with the help and support of the following:
– The School for the Contemporary Arts, KRT Fund, SFU
– Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures, SFU
– Indian Summer Arts
– Greater Vancouver Bangladesh Cultural Association (GVBCA)
– Chetna Society
– Institute for the Humanities, SFU
– Lower Mainland Bengali Cultural Society (LMBCS)
– Progressive Intercultural Services (PICS)
– South Asian Film Education Society (SAFES); and
– South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD)
# RSVP & Contact: Chin Banerjee: cbanerjee@telus.net




Review: Stroke of Luck with Jacques Lalonde, Havana Restaurant (Vancouver Fringe)

Buy tickets (show at Havana Restaurant Theatre): http://www.vancouverfringe.com/show/14PBH3/

Jacques Lalonde surpasses our expectations, and he makes everything about strokes and especially stroke recovery as funny as he does with just about everything (and when something is not outright funny, it’s usually very moving). 


Jacques spent the day before his stroke (which occurred on July 1, 2013) helping several friends move, so one reason the stroke caught him off-guard is that he thought he was just experiencing some muscle aches and tiredness from that. Although Jacques did not say this himself, we know that the goodwill that Jacques has built up over decades is what made his fundraiser and Indiegogo campaigns for recovery expenses so successful. 

Jacques talked about the therapists and rehabilitation experts and doctors who helped him so much (and about when they really failed him too). Message: Don’t be afraid to speak up to someone wearing a smock. 

Jacques periodically and lightheartedly referred to this production as a “message play”. Yet, it’s also a hilarious standup routine (how many works combine a message play with standup comedy, juggling, tennis,and gospel singing all in a natural, flowing way–I’m pretty sure this one is unique). I’m sure this presentation of a message is way more effective than a stern and moralizing lecture. If you take your blood pressure three times over a couple months at Shoppers Drug Mart, and the top number keeps going up (even past 200), pay attention and get to a doctor now (not some indefinite time in the future)! Get medical care immediately if you suspect a stroke; if treated quickly within minutes, the stroke sufferer might not even have any lasting injury.

Jacques always makes his work look effortless, whether he’s juggling, or singing, or impersonating Jean Chretien. When he is talking throughout the play, he is conversing with us in the audience. He makes eye contact with audience members and makes you feel like you are part of it. It feels fresh and spontaneous. But you can be sure that Jacques worked very hard to make it all look so easy, not even mentioning how much work he has done to recover from the stroke-induced deficits. 

This is the first time I remember Jacques mentioning science and math in a play, and he makes it fun, interesting, and accessible. I know from the experience of friends and family that the brain can recover from many injuries–it has so many pathways for recovery, and previous beliefs that a brain injury survivor had only two years of recovery time have been shown to be absolutely wrong. Not everyone who experiences a stroke will have as positive a result as Jacques has had; it was very scary for him to learn that 1 out of 6 stroke patients die. But if you do have a stroke, there is an awful lot that can be done and that you can do to make yourself better. Jacques is driving, juggling, singing, and puppeteering again.

I have always had a strong feeling of positivity from Jacques and his work. Stroke of Luck exemplifies this positivity (but not at all in a Pollyanna way or a woo-woo nonsensical way). 

So yes, go and see this play at the Havana Restaurant. So glad to see you back doing what you do, Jacques!

Remaining performances:
Tuesday Sep 9 2014   9:30 PM
Thursday Sep 11 2014  6:00 PM
Saturday Sep 13 2014  6:15 PM
Sunday Sep 14 2014  1:00 PM


Although not related to Jacques’ play, I think some might find this event interesting, if you are interested in neuroscience or want to know more about the brain:

Latest Brew in Neuroscience Research

  • Sep 9, 7-9 pm
Railway Club
Join us for a friendly and informal discussion on the latest in brain research with some of UBC’s best neuroscience students. Everyone is welcome!



Vancouver Fringe is in Full Swing – until September 14

Check out http://www.vancouverfringe.com and start attending shows. The Frequent Fringer pass is a great deal. So are the half-price shows. If you can’t decide, attend at random and open your mind to some new experiences.

Fringe shows epitomize the DIY philosophy. The stage company, which might be just the performer himself or herself, or might be a fair-sized team, puts together a production. Vancouver Fringe chooses the productions by lottery, rather than by jury, so everyone has a fair chance. Thus, you can see anything from a one-person, off-the-wall production to a full-fledged theatrical remake with expert production values. I like both types, and everything in between. (And note that many of the one-person shows do indeed have high production values.)

Hurry up, catch the end of the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival

Keeping up with Vancouver cultural events is particularly difficult around September. There’s the Fringe, VLAFF, VIFF, the Accordion Noir Festival, and I know there are lots of other events too.

Nonetheless, I recommend getting to some of the VLAFF films. I have enjoyed several so far, and I hope to try to get in some more this weekend. So many great ones, it is hard to single out any, so take a look.

Luckily, VLAFF often shows films throughout the year too, so I recommend getting on their mailing list so you don’t miss out.