Sculpture and photos by Lee Gass.
this story from one I
published in the Vancouver
Observer that was inspired by
Experiments, a dance production
expressing the essence of
important ways, working
on and in Experiments contributed
greatly to the quality of my life. I’ll
briefly mention one of those
ways and expand
Helping to create
a dance production expressing
my own personal experience of scientific
discovery was huge. Even realizing that it was
possible was huge. To participate in it was
not only a thrilling thing to do, but it
was transformative. It helped
it was an experience of a very
high order. It empowered all
three kinds of work
deepened my appreciation
of my daughter Susan Daniel’s dancing
when she was in high school. As a young teenager
she was a very good dancer and attended a special
Performing Arts high school, where her
peers were other committed
Several of her
teachers danced with The
Dance Theater of Harlem and other
professional companies and students worked
hard to improve their skills and perform them.
We talked every night on the phone about all
kinds of things – – dancing, schoolwork,
food, friends, living in strange
towns without parents.
I found it fascinating to
listen to Susan’s descriptions of her
experience of learning ballet. Especially complex,
demanding movements and positions she struggled to
master. As is always the case when we really go for
it, the skills she was reaching for were always just
beyond her reach, not completely part of her
and still aborning. What a wonder
that was for me to behold!
What a privilege!
Part of the wonder
of that, for me, and I think of it as
miraculous, was the clarity of her speaking
of her experience of the dance. Teachers’ perfect
demonstrations. Her own imperfect attempts.
What challenged her at the moment.
What she was talking about
was clear to me.
What I mean by
clear, here, is that her speech evoked
images in my mind that helped me see, feel,
and experience for myself what she was describing
about herself. Almost as if I, myself, were in motion
with her. Together, through the miracle of lan-
guage, we connected what I got when I
listened to her with what she
said when she spoke
Another way of
saying this is that Susan’s speech
drew me in to her dancing. Her words
made movies in my mind, conveyed kinetics,
dynamics and energies of the action. They
conveyed challenges, difficulties, hopes,
and dreams, and the sweat
it takes to make it
Momentums. Sounds. Time. Patterns
of thought and action – – all of it flowed over
a telephone line. I could see her dancing at the
other end of the phone. Those conversations
helped me appreciate the challenges she
faced and I hope they helped
her meet them.
A good example is
her description of the pirouette.
I didn’t know a pirouette from a perogy
when we started. Slowly, with nothing but words
to guide me, she helped me see her spinning on her
toes. In my body and my mind, I felt something
similar to what she said about herself.
How can that happen over
difficult position in ballet is the
arabesque, which presents different
challenges to describe and per-
form than the pirouette.
Pirouette is about
action, about momentum,
dynamic balance, and a gyro-
scopic sort of stability that lets it
spin like a top on a tiny point
of contact with the
is about coming quietly,
gracefully, and gradually into a
state of rest, also on a point of contact with
the ground, pausing briefly at the apex in
a still and static state of balance,
and moving on.
By the miracles
of long distance telephony,
pictures happened in
During my year
of dancing with my daughter
over the phone, imagining her perform
that move, I carved a marble sculpture for her
called Arabesque. That was a long time ago, and
Experiments plunged me back into the middle of
it. The understanding, those memories, and
the depth of feeling that came
with all of it, are priceless.
Here is another
way to visualize the sculpture
that came out of those
I now offer bronze versions of Arabesque
in a range of scales.
Expanded from part of an article first published in the Vancouver Observer.
Edited March 2021