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.