ARTSY CODA BY LUELLA CHRISTOPHER TO REVIEW OF DAKSHINA’S “ENERVATED, ELEGAIC AND ECCENTRIC” NIGHT AT DANCE PLACE WITH PITHY REFERENCES TO FAMILY
An addendum to DAKSHINA/DANIEL PHOENIX SINGH DANCE COMPANY at Dance Place.
Dancer and choreographer Sylvana Christopher labeled “Magritte, Magritte” a farce upon soliciting my dear daughter’s opinion. I mostly admired the artwork, but would rather OWN exotic or whimsical depictions of Mayan symbols and creatures from one of the last portfolios (oil/collage) by my artist/brother-in-law John Blair Mitchell (1921-1999).
No offense, Monsieur Magritte. John Blair (as we commonly called him), faculty member and intermittent chair of the Art Department at Towson State College/University for several decades, was inspired in his formative adult years by Magritte’s presumed compadres, among them: Spain’s Pablo Picasso, Germany’s Max Ernst, and Holland’s Karl Appel. I delighted in absorbing the works not just of the “old masters” but these contemporary visual artists in 1965. I was on scholarship that summer via The Experiment in International Living to the Dutch cities of Groningen, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, as well as the Belgian city of Brugge and outpost of Woumen in rural Flanders. Zut alors, I’m an honorary Walloon and can let loose with convincing gutteral sounds in Dutch, the Flemish dialect and even French, since the Behner wing of my family originally hails from a region of Germany near the border with France and Switzerland.
(Ask on another occasion about my enchantment with Nice on the French Riviera that halcyon summer. Arrived the exact day of my passage to age twenty-one! One girl in our group borrowed my I.D. to gamble at the tables in Monte Carlo. Ever the nerd, I merely hit the beach each day and kept journaling. Nearly forty years later, some close friends and I dispatched Sylvana to OffJazz, a multi-genre dance festival in Nice, to honor her newly minted BFA in dance performance and choreography from a nationally renowned “flagship” dance department where Anna Sokolow once taught. [Indeed, Ohio State can boast a conservatory environment in the mold of Juilliard with a reputation for the highest rate among the country’s departments of employment for its graduates.] Back to Nice, though. . . Cavorting with Italians and even “condescending” to learn tap-dance at OffJazz [which she now sometimes teaches at Joy of Motion] impacted Sylvana’s nascent career upon returning to the D.C. metro region. She also became an avid Francophile like her mom.)
You can google visual artist/teacher John Blair Mitchell – attached to the Christopher wing of our family – to view several full exhibitions compiled by my artist/sister Marge Courtney Mitchell (who attains her 76th birthday today) and Towson faculty. Grantin’ myself permission to dub John Blair a “heavenly collaborator” with Dakshina’s mounting of multifaceted Sokolow works culled from her vast repertoire. Most assuredly, Dr. Mitchell fostered MY understanding of pioneering but serious (though not necessarily somber) visual art, which I nominate as worthy, eternal companion to post-modern choreography for just about any recent decade.
Final pièce de résistance: The author of the Dakshina article notes that daughter Sylvana at the age of fifteen took a master class taught by Anna Sokolow at Maryland Youth Ballet. (Mom watched with awe and reverence.) Sokolow, as I recall, remained seated throughout the class and only arose with the help of a cane. The legendary dancer and choreographer was approaching the age of ninety at the time! Will Tony Powell – D.C. area dancer, choreographer and friend – please print a few of the still photographs he took that day prior to the Millennium and forward same to me? (Hint, hint: The author was born on August 22, 1944, a few days before the liberation of Paris.) Unlike many dance moms, I’ve never erected a shrine to my daughter of dutifully posed portraits or videos, but would certainly welcome some album-ready pictures of Anna Sokolow coaching Ma Petite Fille.
*Copyright © 2014 by Luella Christopher, Ph.D.