An Arts and Culture Celebration

Yesterday was my last day at Pine Ridge Art. Though it was more sad than I expected - there I was crying while standing up in front of people receiving my parting gift (a gift card to an art supply store, so very thoughtful) - it also felt a bit joyous, like any new beginning should. I told them that I have been very lucky to have had the position I did and that I was even luckier to have  had so many creative learning opportunities my whole time in the stationery and gift industry. Better yet, a great group of people to help me learn and grow that have supported me all the way, even up until the day I departed. Not everyone is as fortunate as that. Alas, it has come to an end and a new journey is beginning.

In about a week, I start my new job at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. I will blog more about it later on.

Last night, to celebrate, my dear friend (and date/travel companion extraordinaire) Jenn Shadbolt and I went out on the town for an evening of arts and culture. Jenn and I always have a good time together at events and while on trips. We share a love of raw seafood, walking everywhere, and any cultural institution. We also share a dislike of epic films such as Titanic and Star Wars. It's the JS club, and so far only two of us are in it. 

Jenn, being the young tyke she is, was able to procure tickets to the Mad Hot, A Russian Seduction Gala at the Four Seasons Centre through the DanceBreak program.

(all pics by Jennifer Shadbolt)

The Four Seasons Centre is a lovely venue. I've been twice now, seated in two very different levels, and I can confirm the venue's claims to there not being a bad seat in the house. Last night, we were in the very last row in the very highest level. Our view, though dramatic, was excellent. The inside area of the building is filled with light from outside and is thoughtfully put together for events such as these. We were able to easily find a ledge for our drinks for example (which makes noshing on appetizers much easier) and the venue, though sold out, never really felt crowded.

The Gala was to support the National Ballet of Canada, and had already raised over a million dollars before the night began. We didn't purchase ourselves a $25k table, but we did get free passes with our tickets to a taping of So You Think You Can Dance Canada for later this summer. Hopefully it won't happen mid-day on a tuesday! I really admire the National Ballet for supporting that TV show, as dance is dance and I think they see that it's beneficial that people are excited about dance again, even if it is just for a reality TV show.

The performance last night, as you could likely guess, was inspired by the classical Russian tradition of ballet.

From the program welcome address by Karen Kain,

"The Russian influence on ballet is undeniable. From legendary dancers, choreographers, composers and producers, the names are familiar and distinctive: Nijinsky, Pavlova, Fokine, Petipa, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Diaghilev are just a few."

The evening was a showcase of the dancers from the National Ballet in a range of works. The performance started with a piece called Musings, a lovely performance featuring 4 female and 3 male dancers, joined on stage by a group of strings and a clarinetist. Amusing and beautiful, the piece was a lovely start to the evening.

Following this was a tribute to the classical Russian tradition - the ballerina in the classic white tutu - the pas de deux from Jewels by George Balachine called Diamonds.

My favourite performances of the night however were the next two, as they were contemporary. I really enjoy contemporary ballet, I get chills when I watch them. The first, As Above, So Below featured a piece of music I adore, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata

As you could guess from the music, the piece was dramatic, unique and fully captured my attention with unusual movement mixed with graceful classic poses.

 Next was an excerpt from Polyphonia, an inventive and daring piece choreographed by British-born, and former NYC Ballet resident choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.

This video shows samples from Polyphonia. The excerpt we saw last night was a pas de deux, as the second section of the video samples.

The emphasis on the two dancers, the connection between them and slow, methodical movement was what made it interesting and unusual to me. Though I love ballet an dance in general, I can't say that I can write about it with any critical expertise. However, I do think that I am a contemporary fan, and that I should make an effort to see something by Christopher Wheeldon in the complete format.

The last performance was another pas de deux from act 1 of the full length ballet Onegin. Onegin is being performed this summer by the National Ballet. It is based on the verse-novel Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin and features music by Kurt-Heinz Stolze and Tchaikovsky.  This ballet is one of tragedy and drama, and the section we were able to see featured Tatiana, a young woman impassioned by a meeting earlier in the day, a first love. She dreams of him and writes him a love letter, that is later delivered by her maid. You can watch a performance of it here.

After the performances completed, we were treated to delicious beverages - I tried one that had ginger beer, vodka, mint and tea in it - and appetizers by Whole Foods. We wrapped up the night by heading down the street to The Rex, to catch some jazz and have a bit more to eat.

 Over a Mediterranean platter we found ourselves talking books. It was in that moment the the idea for this blog entry was born. Feeling mighty cultured and artistic, we toasted my entry into the world of fine arts and to working in the cultural field. Recently I have found myself in conversations with parents of teens who are first entering the arts field, and trying to find their way. It isn't easy, and it's never obvious where you'll end up when you decide to go to art school. The thing is, you don't go to art school to be a millionaire. (Even if you specialize in graphic design;-) You might be one of the lucky ones to strike it rich - but those are rare anomalies in any field. It is more likely you will work very hard for little money for a fairly long time. Companies are slow to put fiscal value on creatives, but we are invaluable, and in time, many companies recognize that. That said, I know so many people who have succeeded and are happy and comfortable with the living they make in the arts. It is a hidden industry - every corporation, even banks and finance companies have creative types working for them - but the jobs are there.

The beauty of the career field is that if you stick with it and work hard enough, you can succeed and best of all, love what you do.

Here's a toast to a fresh start in the fine arts.

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