The Lee Gass Gallery
in Vancouver on the night of our
Grand Opening celebration, viewed from
the intersection in front. This is one of several
stories in the Vancouver Observer about or inspired
by Experiments, an evening-length dance production
expressing the essence of scientific creativity,
at the Scotiabank Dance Centre.
On the Genesis
of Experiments. Experiments
was born for me the night of the Grand Opening
of the Lee Gass Gallery in Vancouver, two years before the
performance. We threw a big party and invited everyone who
might be interested in my work. Guests, sculptures, photographs
of sculptures, drinks, treats, great conversations, and Lu and I
were in the middle of it. It was thrilling, really, and it
couldn’t have been more wonderful to experience.
Among many other guests, we invited Larry
Dill and Mark Winston, behavioural
ecologist colleagues from SFU,
and both came.
Independently, they told me about
a choreographic production they had performed
in that expressed the essence of their work as scientists,
and that they’d loved it. Telling their stories moved them,
listening to them moved me, and my participating
in Experiments came out of it. Here is
more or less what happened.
Larry, who has been
a tough-minded experimental scientist
for decades, is also a ridiculously funny comic,
Dragon Boat competitor, singer, raconteur, and
fascinating participant in any kind of discussion. He
almost cried telling me how wonderful it had been
to sing Waltzing Matilda, solo, in Symbiotic, a dance
performance based on his work on coral reef
ecology. I got so far into his story that I
almost cried listening to him
tell me about it.
After playing in
Vancouver, Symbiotic travelled
to Toronto and Larry went with them
and was ecstatic to have participated. I hadn’t
known about any of it, and that’s all I knew when I
saw Mark coming. I crossed the intersection diagonally
to meet him, we greeted each other with muscular, ecologist-
style hugs, then stepped back and grinned at each other. “Con-
gratulations!”, Mark said, and we turned toward the gallery
but before we got there he had started telling me about his own
work in Symbiosis. Larry Dill sang Walzing Matilda and
Mark Winston danced. His story was as powerful as
Larry’s, and as powerfully told, and it hit
me as just as hard as well.
Part of the magic
for me was that Gail Lotenberg
conceived, choreographed, and danced in
Symbiosis, it was her idea to dance about science,
and she invited Larry and Mark to help her do it.
They agreed with her that science was a lot to
dance about and they participated eagerly.
The opportunity to work with the
three of them was huge
I had met Gail
17 years earlier, when her husband
Alejandro Frid studied relationships between
mountain sheep, wolves, eagles, and grizzly bears
as an MSc student, and I liked her from the first moment.
I remembered her, thought of her often, and she evidently
remembered me as well. As soon as I knew Larry, Mark,
and Gail were working on a new production, also
about science, and wanted me on the team, I
was hooked and excited, and when Gail
called I jumped at the chance.
I said above that
while Mark Winston and I crossed
the intersection, he started to tell me about
his participation in Symbiosis. I said it that way
because right in the middle of a sentence he
branched off into another story and
finished his Symbiosis story later.
I tell about Mark’s other story
in Eternal Flame.
I can’t help mentioning
that a few minutes after Mark
Winston entered the gallery that night,
his life changed radically when he met the
love of his life, Lori Bamber. Linda Naiman,
Lucretia Schanfarber and I claim
100% credit for that.
First published in the Vancouver Observer.
Edited January 2019