Art and emotional integrity

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I had the great opportunity to go to the Heart Mind Conference this weekend at UBC. It was presented by the Dalai Llama Centre for Peace and Education. 2 days of emotional education, stories and tools on how to bring the heart into the classroom. It was incredible and I am wiped out now because of it.

The greatest lesson of my artistic training for me was “art is of the self” and I feel I have really put effort towards that ideal with Message in a Bottle. Taking my childhood trauma and shaping it into a theatrical piece that will engage students with artistic mediums that will capture their attention to show the emotional journey of bullying of the bully. It was a great achievement for me.

The post show goal is to provide an emotional platform for teachers to talk with the students about the cycle of bullying to educate about the power of forgiveness. My challenge has been to offer the tools for teachers to make it as easy as possible. The Heart Mind Conference had many like minded people and made me feel like I will have allies in making my presentation the most effective it can be. Most of the attendees were educators.

Some of the moments that really stuck out for me was the speech by Freedom Writers creator, Erin Gruwell. You can watch a TEDX version HERE. It is heavy and many of us were crying. If you ever get a chance watch Freedom Writers. Truly inspiring. We rented it from Itunes last night.

Erin’s speech gave me  hope that teachers can make a difference. It also made me think about several key teachers in my life that helped me. Not only my high school drama teachers because I felt accepted and motivated to focus on activities that fed my soul but also Mrs. Attadia at Maywood Elementary (around 1978). I remember not wanting to go home at the end of the day because I felt safe in her class.

The next speech that really stood out for me was by Felix Warneken about children’s’ innate altruism. This started off very academic and then he had the videos of the toddlers helping without any prodding. It is our HERE is a TEDX version.

This really connected with my own experience and what I talk about in the show. Children aren’t born bullies. People are bullies because they don’t feel safe and feel that dominating another person will change that for them. They don’t know any better and if they knew better they would make different choices. I believe this is the same for every person that makes choices that are selfish, violent or evil. Felix’s research and presentation confirmed this for me. Thanks Felix.

I had the opportunity to also meet and sit in with the Random Acts of Kindness foundation. A very nice group of people with a great mission. The name says it all. The greatest part is that they have resources for teachers. Just what I was looking for.

I have to thank Farah for this great gift. It was her idea for me to attend. The course was proof that I am not alone. There is a whole community of people that are pushing for the same evolution of heart based learning.

Integrity is so important for me as an artist. I need to be true to my story and how my gifts can be used best to captivate the young audience within a context that they will connect with. Then there is what the teachers and institution require of me. Educators look at my work with different eyes and this conference gave me the tools to give to them to help their work.

Message in a Bottle just got even better!

The long Voyage to professional piracy – Part 16 – Making friends….the hard way

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If you are just tuning in…Thanks! This blog is a haphazard auto-biography of how Dustin Anderson discovered the treasure of performing for children as the Purple Pirate….now on with the entry!

It was exciting to step off the plane and into famous Miami. I didn’t see Don Johnson but was impressed by the heat. I was put up into a hotel for the night and then boarded the Royal Majesty the next morning. When boarding a cruise ship you give your passport to an officer to hold while you are on board which was a  little strange but I overcame it. The ship did 3 and 4 day cruises to Nassau, Key West, and Cozumel.

I remember briefly meeting the other dancers as they went about their lives on the ship. That night I would watch the show to see what I would be doing and then learn it over the next couple weeks. I was filling in for an injured dancer that had to leave.

I had just spent the last two years of having my mind burst open to the potential of self expression through the medium of modern dance and considered myself an “artiste”. Cruise ship shows are put on for their clientele which are not generally art connoisseurs and mostly not dance supporters. They are many people that are looking for the security that cruise ship companies promote. If the previous two sentences didn’t sound pretentious enough…I was a bit of a snob.

I watched the show that night with my room mate who was dating one of the female dancers. He asked me what I thought about the show and I replied almost…almost word for word “It sucks but I will do it”. I would choose a different course of action at this stage of my life but I do laugh at my incredible lack of tact and compassion. I have learned a lot since then.

Needless to say that my fellow cast members heard about it and didn’t like me. The dance captain, Karen, was quite kind and helped fit me into the show.  Most of the dancers were from England with the exception of Steve, a Kiwi. At first he really didn’t like me but we became very good friends over time. I signed on for a seven month contract and it was starting out pretty rough.

The other male dancer had to leave  and I didn’t know much of the show so Steve was dancing most of the numbers. It was fun to watch him stress during his very fast costume changes. I would laugh. Over time I got into most of them and the pressure was off him a bit. There were some fast costume changes and one night I went on for the curtain call and there were a bunch of passengers laughing and pointing at me…or rather my crotch as I had forgotten to zip up my pants and my shirt was poking out. A funny moment for all involved.

There was a real sense of powerlessness at times when we would be forced to perform in poor weather. Politics on ships is strange. I was dancing a latin number and my partner, Claire, was turning and the boat rocked causing her to fall over and sprain her ankle. Not knowing what to do I picked her up and took her back stage. The music was reel to reel and had to play through on a dark stage.

Another big seed was planted when I met a great magician Shawn Farqhuar and his lovely wife Lauri.  I had never seen much magic before and this man is now a world champion and very generous and kind human being. Thanks Shawn! Check THIS out!

I had mixed feelings about the experience on the first ship as I really enjoyed the climate and it felt a little glamorous to be dancing on a ship. The biggest challenge was that I knew that it was a dead end job like fishing and the work was uninspiring for me….and way too many sequins.

In the circus show I would do back handsprings between the rows of passengers, walk on balls and walk down stairs on my hands. Steve and I started a hand balancing act while onboard as we both wanted more money and status that we were getting as dancers. We could do some crowd pleasing moves and really enjoyed it.  We had our sites set on bigger ships. He had a contact on Costa and set himself up, jumped ship and got me an audition. I got the gig…I must have done a back flip. :0)

Overall I last 11 weeks of the 7 month contract…Then to Europe on the Costa Romantica….

The long Voyage to professional piracy – Part 15 – Toronto…concrete and art

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If you are just tuning in…Thanks! This blog is a haphazard auto-biography of how Dustin Anderson discovered the treasure of performing for children as the Purple Pirate….now on with the entry!

Toronto is a big concrete jungle!

Before I left Edmonton, Brian Webbs’ , manager told me to call a former National Ballet dancer, Micheal Downing, that did had his own dance company, Dance Front. I called him when I got to Toronto and he had a show coming up and hired me over the telephone. He was interested in the tricks and gymnastic training.

The gig itself was great. It was physical and fun. Some very skilled dancers involved in the work as well. I felt like part of the community right away. Rehearsals were difficult as I had to learn the choreography from the side. I surpassed my expectations of myself and learned everything.

I stayed with my mother for a short period of time when I first arrived but it was uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to connect with my mother at that time. I still didn’t understand the sacrifice and struggle she had as a single mother. She welcoming and helpful but it wasn’t ideal for anyone. With the help of a friend, Marie Jose Chartier I got to sublet an apartment from another dancer that was out of town. It was 122 steps west of St. Laurence market…an awesome location.

I found Toronto exciting, welcoming and intimidating all at the same time. There was a lot of great dance happening and I was both inspired and insecure about my skill and place in that community. I felt like an outsider and felt that if I made a mistake I could wind up on the street as I had no safety net there….and there were many homeless people on Younge street.

I got a part time job at a swank restaurant on Bay St. but that didn’t last as I needed schedule flexibility to perform.  Working for minimum wage has never appealed to me so I started to look for work as a costume character like I did as a teenager. I contacted agencies and connected with a man named Birthday Party Doug.

I was impressed that Doug Tannahill was earning a great living performing for children’s birthday parties. Doug would hire me to perform with him as a duo and performing with him for a children’s audience was fun. The seed of performing for children was planted….

Doug was/is kind, funny and taught me my first balloon dog. He gave me my purple Doc Martin shoes and even planted the seed about children’s’ fascination with pirate. He was/is flamboyant and loves Anne Murray….I mean really loves Anne Murray.

I was still growing up emotionally and when I was acting childish and angry he would ask me “is it better to be right or to be kind? ” It took until about 5 years ago that I truly understood the power and accuracy of that statement. It is liberating to be comprehending these valuable life lessons.

The looming grayness of an impending real Canadian winter and fear of an Ontario deepfreeze is clear in my mind. It might have been that I was missing the trees and green of my home but none the less it was intimidating. My sublet was also coming to an end and I didn’t know what to do. A friend of mine told me of an audition (des ja vous!) for a cruise ship based in Miami so I showed up. I was injured at the time but did what I could finished it off with a back flip. Maybe there is a grand lesson about backflips and success because I got the gig….hmmm.

In 2 weeks I would be flying out of a Canadian winter and to the sunshine of the Caribbean….with many more life lessons to learn….


The long Voyage to professional piracy – Part 14 – bruised not broken

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The last semester of the program was really difficult. I eventually recovered from my calf tear which was a relief.  The workload was high but the pressure (self imposed?) was extreme. The inevitable departure from the safety of the program which was an incredibly positive, mind expanding, experience was coming to an end. Terry Crawfords’ aunt and uncle, Donna and Wayne Blosky were two key people in my success at Grant MacEwan. Their kindness, generosity and support important to me making it through my couple years in Edmonton. Donna would take me out and we would go watch Kris Craig play at the Commercial….in the dead of winter. Wonderful people.

My self confidence was still shaky. Many men start dancing late and most are not nearly as technically strong as their female counterparts. There seems to be more work opportunity for male dancers because there aren’t nearly as many of them. This was spoken about by my classmates and because I didn’t have the technical base that they did I had a feeling of unworthiness. I would struggle with learning and flounder…still!

Towards the end of the year I didn’t even want to be watched by the first year students as I felt like I was being judged. I was a mess and caused problems with the first year male student. Luckily the campus councilor, Bob, was a glorious human being and helped me through.

One of our final assignments was a choreography piece and I was lucky enough to have 4 very strong dancers in mine. I also got the help from 6 musician friends of mine to play percussion. The dancers were/are awesome and the live music really took it to the next level. The piece was called Final Quartet and in writing this blog post I watched it and laughed at how I pushed them. Jodi, Krista, Nicole and Karen did a fantastic job and I am still grateful.

The end of year came and I graduated. The ceremony was at the big campus and we were a small group of dancers to receive our diplomas with all the business students etc. When I got mine I did a back tuck. It got a reaction and then it played on the campus promotions for a while after. Quite funny.

I got a contract with the Brian Webb Dance Company to back up Tom Jackson at an awards event in Edmonton. Tom Jackson is a very nice man. It was a really fun gig. Brian is not normally hired to do backup as that is more of the realm of commercial work but he did great. So did Jamie Viveros, Karin, Jodi and myself.

He also contracted me for the Emerging choreographers show in the fall. I stayed in Edmonton and hired Krista and Jamie to dance with me. My choreography is inherently very physical and we were all battered and bruised. It was a really fun piece, Three, Trio, Trois. I wasn’t brave enough to watch myself dance before but now I can appreciate the effort. I made many choices that I like.

It is really nice to reconnect with this very important redirection of my life. I am very lucky to have had the courage (or naivety) to have chased my dream…It has worked out fantastic.

Next stop…Toronto.


The long Voyage to professional piracy – Part 13 – A memorable Christmas Break

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Returning to Grant MacEwan was a little scary as I wasn’t sure about a couple relationships but I really enjoyed the Jasper Place Campus. It was like FAME. Musicians, Actors, Visual artists, art management students and dancers. Lots of natural light in b big orange space ship building full of creativity and hope.

I needed male friendship as I was the only man in my class. Guitar virtuoso, Kris Craig, and I connected and are still friends to this date. Hearing this man play the guitar has always been inspiring for me. My other friend was a neighbor, Tyler “Bankshot”, Hamilton. A visual artist enroute to a big career in Tatooing.

The pressure was on in the second year. We had many choreographic assignments as well as daily class. I felt like a machine. I lived across the street so I didn’t have to go far to get to school. It was perfect. The pressure and fear of entering the real dance world was looming. In a short time I would be looking for a paying gig as a dancer and my self confidence was shaky.

From time to time there were moments of hope as I was recruited to audition for Decidedly Jazz Danceworks in Calgary. Vicki paid for my bus ticket and I got to dance with the company in rehearsal. It was fun and exciting. If you ever get a chance to see that company take it. It is a really joyful expression of dance.

I needed to finish my training so I gratefully declined. A bigger factor was that I really identified with the artistic mission of some of the modern dance companies I was exposed to. The “artsy” stuff that I was judgemental of was now in my heart and I knew what I wanted. Leading up to Christmas break was very difficult. I was pushing hard and wasn’t very disciplined with my rest or warmup. I tore my left gastrocnemius and hobbled into the break. I was nervous about recovering fast enough.

My friend Terry was studying at UBC and was going to drive down to Mexico for the break. I jumped on that idea and got a ride with another dancer, Chris Duban, to Vancouver. We then drove for 24 hours non-stop to Tijuana and then to Mulege. We slept on the beach, drank tequila and hung out with some other northerners for a few days and drove back. It was a good trip. We were very careful about water drinking and vegetable consumption for the whole trip….until Terry ate some street food in Tijuana.

He was driving north and started to suffer so we switched and I took over. The driving techniques from the fishing days were to wash a couple caffeine tabs down with a Coke…and I did. Terry started to really suffer and we had to stop on the side of the I5 a couple times. Then he called it and we pulled into a hotel. I was wired from the caffeine and couldn’t sleep so I watched low grade stand up comedy for the evening and into the morning as Terry suffered…It was memorable New Years Eve.

In the morning we headed north and I drove the entire distance home while he tried to sleep it off in the hatch. This 6 foot, 200+ pound man sleeping in the hatch of a 1980 Chevette. When he would roll over, more like flop, the car would shift.

I jumped on a flight back to Edmonton to get ready for second term.

The long Voyage to professional piracy – Part 12 – learning to really dance

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Choosing to go to study dance at Grant MacEwan University was one of the greatest choices I have ever made. I burst open my world view and showed me the possibilities of what my life could be….and what I had always dreamed of.

I came to the program with lots of physical ability but quite unrefined by dance standards. Over the first few months I noticed a real change in my coordination and physical confidence. Dance training is amazing for spinal alignment. I felt like a machine.

Over the first year people left the program. It is very challenging not only physically but also emotionally. Facing failures of the physical kind daily is very hard on the self esteem. Professional companies would come in and both inspire and humble me.

My biggest challenge was my need to prove that I was heterosexual or tough by lifting everyone over my head on stage. I would choose to jump as high as I could with very little regard for aesthetic in the air or landing. It was quite challenging for my very patient instructors. Watching my videos from then is difficult. :0)

One of my instructors, Heidi Bunting, was an incredible teacher. Proud of her time in New York she embodied much of the brashness of that culture. She was tough!…to say the least. If she liked you she could both be tougher and very supportive. We had a tumultuous relationship that I am most grateful for. Heidi planted some amazing seeds of professionalism and quality.

Heidi Bunting’s choreography was incredibly fast, challenging and mostly over my head…but she was kind enough to allow me to stay in her dance pieces for year end shows. What I loved most about working with her is that she worked with my strengths. This allowed me a confidence that I belonged even though I didn’t have nearly the training as the rest of the dancers.

Heidi lived in Hinton, Alberta and had a ballet school there. At the end of the first year Heidi was putting on a production of Coppelia and needed a male for the role of Franz. There were 3 men in our program and I was the last to be offered the opportunity and luckily was available.

It was a great chance to train further with this great teacher. I lived in her home and trained at her school with her students. It was very challenging as we both have strong personalities but it was a great experience over all.

Then I went fishing for the summer which was fun. A good change from all the seriousness. I returned to Edmonton in August to do an intensive with one of my favourite dance companies, Dance Makers. The company were skilled, fun and really nice people. Truly inspiring.

Then second year began….

The long Voyage to professional piracy – Part 11- The artiste!

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Living… Learning…Learning…Living

I love performing Message in a Bottle. I had the opportunity to ROCK West Bench Elementary in Penticton yesterday. It is incredibly fulfilling to have put this much artistic effort into something that is meaningful for me. The gratitude and enthusiasm that I receive is also very rewarding.

For the first time since I have been performing as the Purple Pirate I feel like an artist. I believe that art should be accessible and feel like I achieved that ideal with this production. Creating programs for the kindergarten to grade 7 audience is challenging. The maturity and different stages of intellectual development are vast and it is common for part of the audience to feel alienated. I put focussed and conscious effort into connecting with the entire audience. There is great feedback from all grades. I have succeeded!

This audience first needs to trust and connect with the performer. I achieve this through magic. Magic is a fantastic artistic medium for this purpose. I prefer the international silent act style which is popular in Europe, Asia and most places outside of North America. I had the privilege of sharing the stage with Junge Junge, Kevin James, Nicholas Knight and Juliana Chen  in Shanghai in 2001. What these great performers achieved planted a seed.

My previous exposure to magic and illusion was what most North Americans are exposed to. Silly puns, an emphasis on the “trick” and very little if any effort into narrative. The acts in Shanghai were all international stars of magic and most had a theatrical component that really appealed to me. At that time I was Juliana’s assistant/choreographer and didn’t have the confidence to try that myself. I also wasn’t interested in performing for an adult audience.

Now, with alot of effort (about 500 hours), I have created something that is inspired by this artistically sound style. More importantly, I am exposing this young audience to a theatrical experience unlike anything they would have had the opportunity to see before… with the important message of foregiveness.

I was told by Robert Baxt, a successful performer from the US, a few years ago that “if you want to send a message use UPS”. This means that entertainment and message don’t mix. There is some truth to this but I can’t go against my nature. I need to say something meaningful in all areas of my life.

Much of popular media has ridiculous messages. Young people are exposed to messages of violence, infidelity, and fear in a glossy package. I believe that positive messaging can also be presented in an exciting way. It has to, as the competition for mind space in people will be won by the most engaging. What people are expecting has increased in expectations of production value.

I was, in fact, inspired by Hollywood to create a powerful soundscape and use a sub woofer…and boy it works awesome. Dynamic sound effects, panning and base! My father suggested I try pointing the sub at back wall to use the building as a transmitter for base. I did it yesterday for the first time and it was awesome! During the scene when my character  was about to walk the plank the base engulfed the entire space. Incredible! and the audience really responded.

Creating an artistically sound piece with commercial appeal was a dream…that has now come true! I am feeling blessed.

The long Voyage to professional piracy – Part 10 – art is of the self

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I have loved being physical since I was a child…more accurately….it has been my escape from a dysfunctional childhood. When I would run and play I would forget that I was living with my single mother and that when I went home she could be drunk or getting ready to go out and get drunk. Overall I was a happy child but I was constantly on edge as I rarely felt safe.

My mother did the best with what she had… as every parent does. My mother grew up in foster homes and never felt loved. She was abused and turned to smoking and alcohol to mask the immense pain. In her early 20s she met my father and he overlooked the alcoholism because he loved her and probably a bigger factor was…. his mother didn’t like my mother.

My mother and father married and then conceived me. They divorced when I was one year old and the first time I remember meeting my father was when I was 14. Until that time my mother felt powerless and would demonise him constantly. She would go to discos (literally –  it was the 70s!) and come home with strangers, turn the music up really loud and smoke. I would try to hide under the covers to escape but it wasn’t possible. I would ask her to turn down the music and she would then turn it back up again. Many times it was on school nights.

I carried this razor sharp edge of  fear with me for a long time….and into my dance training as well. Dance is incredibly personal and will bring up the demons from the past. My physicality was pure uncontrolled energy and ballet is about precision and beauty. I struggled, fought the process at time and beat myself up for not getting it right. I had several great teachers that had much skill and knowledge…and they had their own issues.

I can’t remember the exact statistic but it was like 70 percent of contemporary dancers have had major emotional trauma in their lives. When I heard that it started to put some pieces together for me. It affirmed that I wasn’t alone. At times I would trigger some of the women in my program.


I have a vivid memory of a rehearsal in my first year with a guest choreographer and we were sitting down in a circle.  I said a sentence using the word “girls”, referring to the female dancers in the piece. A second year student, Wendy, said “women”. I was confused and said “girls” – she said ” they are women” – I said ” ladies” – she said “women!”. It had to be explained to me later but it was a huge learning about respect for women in my language. Wendy warmed up to me and we had a great time dancing together later in the year.

I loved training. Once I got into the swing of the program I loved it. I really loved how Brian approached the creative process. “Art is of the self”. I really resonated with that and really came to love modern/contemporary dance for its freedom of self expression. I personally believe all great art is an expression of the artist. How else can a person go to the depth of their piece unless they have a personal connection to it.

My latest show, Message in a Bottle, is my greatest work because of this. It is a dramatisation of my childhood. I have a difficult audience for a heavy subject of growing up in the home of a violent alcoholic but I have a found a way to touch on the subject with an engaging performance for children by drawing upon that experience. The grand message being forgiveness. It took me a long time to truly understand where my mother came from and her success as a mother. I forgave her and now we have a great connection.

I believe that it is the obligation of the child to be the evolution of the parents. They did the best with what they had. It is our job to see where they came from, learn from their mistakes and forgive. It took me a long time to understand this but it is the only way to get free.


The long Voyage to professional piracy – Part 9 – Middle aged man in underwear

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Let’s get some context of where I came from… I did one year of post secondary acting training and some low level dance classes, I fumbled into my first professional dance job, did some commercial dance work, dreamed of being a cruise ship dancer, then worked as a commercial fisherman and logger and have enrolled in a contemporary dance program….

One week before I arrived in Edmonton I was covered in fish blood on the west coast. I was rough around the edges and luckily my instructors were patient with me. The huge culture shock was overwhelming and I put up a barrier. I was one of two men with a class of 35 women around me. My initial response was one of excitement with my good fortune because at that time I was driven by my lizard brain as many young men are. It got me into some trouble and lucky enough I was tolerated and forgiven by my classmates.

I was way out of my comfort zone. Classes discussed the artistic process and history of dancers and dance companies that I had never heard of and didn’t connect with. I wanted to dance. I was a kinesthetic person and wanted to be dancing on cruise ships. I had signed up for some “arty” nonsense. I was interviewed for the college magazine and was quite open about it.


I was physically powerful but way behind most of the women in technical training. It was emotionally really difficult. I didn’t learn routines or combinations as fast and I felt foolish. My brain hurt more than my body. At that time I didn’t know how to learn and would be really hard on myself.

The chair of the program, Brian Webb, and I almost instantly bonded in a strange way. We were in two seemingly diametrically opposed realities: I was blue collar macho and he was/is flamingly artistic. A few weeks into the program he had a show and the students went out to see him. I come from the west coast and would infrequently participate in rituals common here. I thought if I would prepare myself in this way I could better understand this “arty” performance.

I got lost downtown Edmonton and when I entered the performance space I saw my middle aged instructor rolling around on rocks in his underwear. I was waaaay over my head. The performance included circles with sand, him carrying a large metal chain with a cross on it and he made many references that I didn’t understand. I later learned that is was related to his catholic upbringing but at the time I was very confused.

The final scene had him sitting in a chair talking about the fear of whether he had AIDS or not while a nurse took his blood. A woman passed out near me and I couldn’t tell whether that was part of the show. It was a serious moment about how his life partner Bill, had AIDS and how he dealt with his own fear every time he got his blood checked. It was heavy to say the least.

After the show he struts (Brian mostly swaggers) up to me and says something like “That ain’t like being on the fishboat isn’t it??” with a big grin on his face. He knew it was a mind expanding experience that I didn’t understand. I replied “It was fine but what does it have to do with what we are learning?”. “It doesn’t” and he swaggered off.

We have been great friends since.



The long Voyage to professional piracy – Part 8 – Epiphony

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I eventually got the job I wanted on the same boat as Terry but he didn’t want to fish so I was with his captain on my own. The captain bought another boat that had to finish a Halibut quota and I hopped on to help out. Myself and two men I never met before went up to the Haida Gwaii. The other deckhand was a good worker and very experienced. I struggled and dreamed of dancing.

We were long lining. It is just like it sounds. One very long (2-5 kms) line with thousands of hooks on it with bait which was normally herring. When it was hot, the bait would start to rot, combined with the swell of the ocean and smell of the diesel could bring on sea sickness…I am getting queazy right now just thinking about it.

Sea Sickness is brutal. At the beginning of my fishing days I worked on a very small boat with a couple legendary brothers, The Martinellis. I didn’t get sick for quite a while and then we would come in to deliver and would talk to Terry. He would get really sick and negative. I took his feelings on and started getting sick.

The boat was the Viking Princess. Out on the ocean is magical in some ways. We started one morning at 4 am off the north west coast of Langara Island…and worked until 3 am the next day. The entire day was  a struggle until a gray whale breached right beside the boat to have a look at us in the middle of the night.

I was studying Aikido at that time and brought a book by Morehei Ueshiba onboard. The men I was working with were uncomfortable with it. At one point on deck I dropped into the splits and was ridiculed. Granted, it was a strange thing to do in that environment but I really didn’t want to be there. I needed to dance.

I hated fishing. The lifestyle and the pecking order of the men that fished were toxic. I had to dance. Mrs.  Cleric told me of a dance school in Edmonton called Grant MacEwan…Des ja vous!. I called the chair, Brian Webb and he encouraged me to apply. In between openings I videod an audition tape and sent it off…..

The boat changed hands and my skipper took over and we went salmon fishing in the Haida Gwaii again. Salmon trollers are(were….I don’t think there are anymore on the west coast of Canada) odd people. Someone might be catching fish a somewhere else and that creates a huge desire to “pick up the gear” (pull all the hooks (up to 100) and line out of the water) and rush (not really rushing as a small fishboat will only travel 6-7 knots per hour approx. 10 kph) to where there could be fish. The captain of the boat I was working on was tortured and we spent quite a bit of time going between spots. Poor fellow.

One day we had a large amount of fish on deck, dieing to be dressed (gutted). I could “dress” a salmon in under a minute. First you insert the knife in the sphincter and cut to the chin (gills). Make two small cuts around the throat (gills) and if done correctly you can pull the entire intestines of the creature out in one action. Then cut along the spine (blood line) and scrape all the blood out with a spoon. Fish would shutter in pain when I did this. Connecting to the fishes pain planted a seed deep inside me.

Holding a beating heart in my hand one day I had an epiphany. If I could do this so efficiently and humans are not a very intelligent species (ie. we kill each other and ruin our own habitat) there must be another creature smarter than us that could this to us.

Weeks after sending off the audition tape I called Brian Webb…I got in! I was elated. I had a future that I had dreamed of and fishing would come to an end.

I worked hard. I wasn’t the greatest deckhand but I could work. I lost gaff hooks over the side when trying to drive the spike through the fishes skull to bring it aboard. This was cause for ridicule. But I worked.

We had agreed that I would stay until a certain time and the captain wanted me to stay another week. I didn’t want to miss that opportunity so I left. He didn’t like it and it was not ideal. I missed out on money but I didn’t care. I wanted to dance.

I through out my fishing clothes and drove to Edmonton with Terry and Harry. One week later I was in my first ballet class!

My life took an awesome turn….

wheel and head

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