Tag Archives: victoria

Poet active on Victoria’s Flamenco Scene

By Garth Martens

Flamenco derives from the south of Spain, a distinctly gitano or gypsy phenomenon with Moorish, Judaic, and Catholic influence. An innovative art form requiring practised improvisation as well as craft, it was passed down through oral transmission rather than sheet music.  In fact, efforts to set it down on paper reduce its complexity. Flamenco’s rhythm structures are assertive, the singing voices rough as salt, and the dancing marked by intensities of emotion, the killer look, and sections of percussive footwork that rap like thunder on the floor. Dancers imitate manoeuvrings of the bull or the matador with dramatic arm gestures and little flores of the hands.Flamenco isn’t about looking sexy, but about passion: a passion inflected with anger, love, dread, cheekiness, grief, and pride. Always pride.

Six years ago, I began as a student with Alma de España, Victoria’s singular water-shed for flamenco dance, guitar, and cante, founded twenty-three years ago by Veronica Maguire and Harry Owen. My priority then was to study the singing and immerse myself in the rhythm as a palmero, someone who supports the basic accents, an articulate clapping, while the dancers or singers are free to weave their syncopations.

I was hooked within my first year of study, but only in the last year have I felt, for the first time, like a dancer.  Some intervening blockage has slipped away so I learn the choreography much faster — my ear and my feet in alignment. As well, this discipline gives me personal sustenance, transforms a troubled emotion into a brightness, not by sweetening it or simplifying it, but through a rightful sweat. Many dancers I know admit to confronting inner obstructions in every new choreography. Some of them, to tune themselves to the particular piece, will draw on archetypes, images that ride within their bodies as they dance. Flamenco cultivates the vast inner multitude and favours the intricate over the reductive.

I’ll be working with Alma de España this winter in preparation for Pasajes, a major production slated for July 12, 2014, at the Royal Theatre. Canadian artists include Veronica Maguire (dancer), Gareth Owen (flamenco guitarist), JoAnn Dalisay (pianist/composer), and me(poet). Among those coming directly from Spain are Domingo Ortega (dancer), María Bermúdez (dancer), and Jesús Álvarez (flamenco guitarist). While this is Veronica’s personal story, it’s also mine and yours, resonant with shared passages of life, death, and regeneration. I’ve been contracted to write original English-language poetry, which I’ll perform live as part of the show. Advanced student dancers and singers, accompanied by guitarist Gareth Owen, will also perform in intimate in-studio shows in February, May, and June. I’ll perform in two of these as a dancer. Alma de España runs classes September to June at all levels in flamenco dance, guitar, and cante. For tickets or inquiries:  1.250.384.8832  /  info@almadeespana.com.

Garth Martens won The Bronwen Wallace Award in 2011, a national prize for the best writer under thirty-five who has not yet published a book. His first book will appear with House of Anansi in April, 2014. You can hear him read his poem Dreamtime here: https://soundcloud.com/prism-mag/dreamtime-by-garth-martens.

David A. Jaffe’s Music at Open Space

Lafayette String Quartet, Andrew Schloss, Scott Macinnes, Trimpin, and guests present: the Music of David A. Jaffe

8 p.m., November 8, 2013 

Open Space

admission $15 general/$10 students, seniors, members 

Related event: 

November 9, 8 p.m. Uvic Faculty Concert Series: Guitarworks. Alexander Dunn with David A. Jaffe and guests. Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, University of Victoria

Poetry book fine travelling partner

The Book of Places

 By Yvonne Blomer

Black Moss Press

2012, 95 pages.

Reviewed by Arleen Pare

            Book of Places is a neat little square of a book that would fit into most back pockets, most backpacks, most travel bags going most places in the world.  It’s a fit travel companion too, covering not only geographic space, but also psychic space. Adulthood, for instance.  The Past.  And Japan, Thailand, Wales, England, Rhodesia, Canada, Nevada.  Exile.  Sorrow.

But first, full disclosure: the author of The Book of Places, Yvonne Blomer, is a friend of mine. And while it is generally agreed that friends should not review the books of friends, in the case of Blomer, this becomes difficult.  Blomer knows almost all the poets and writers in Victoria, maybe in BC, and many are her friends. She has served as representative for The Federation of BC Writers, continues to host of one of Canada’s most successful reading series, Planet Earth Poetry; and she teaches writing at Camosun College. She knows writers.  Who possibly could review this book without sharing some writerly connection?

The Book of Places is Blomer’s second book of poetry. Her first, a broken mirror, fallen leaf was short-listed for The Gerald Lampert Award in 2007.  Her third, As if a Raven, has just been released.  She has published two chapbooks, has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, and co-edited, along with Cynthia Woodman Kerkham, the recent Poems From Planet Earth, itself a stunning anthology.

Places is divided into three parts, with each section occupying a slightly different landscape.  In the first section, for instance, Blomer offers the reader a range of physical places: a field with a woman in it; a desert with a man in it; a road with a boy on it.  All beautifully rendered: in the desert, the “light is pixilated / feather-patterned through dust.”   From “Woman in a Field:” The sun so bright, almost / bright enough to hold her there.”

And “Packing to Leave,” a travel poem, begins with the advice: “Take nothing. All this is someone else’s,” and ends with: “Take your toothbrush / Whisper into the hollows of the house / leave your name.”  Poetic advice, and haunting, the advice of a poet who knows her craft and who has left home.  Blomer is also an avid, no, make that a passionate cyclist. When she writes “Cycling home, Norwich,” she creates a cadence, a tone so true, so convincing, the reader is on the bicycle with her:

the way I let it soar and fall

around each aching corner. How

I barely look up at church, Medieval

stone buildings, the city hall

and falling down, dropping now toward taxi stand, market

I roll: body still, arched, ready

to spring loosely over bumps and bricks I know

are coming.

I must recommend this slim, squared volume, the perfect travel size.  The perfect trip.  And though Blomer has travelled much and far, about places, she admits, “I never knew/ how to leave/ and stay, all the same,” touching on one of the basic conundrums of life, whether in this place or that.

Arleen Pare is a Victoria poet and novelist.

Cleese kept crowd engaged

By Curran Dobbs

A master of black humour and vocal critic of “mindless good taste,” British actor John Cleese was nonetheless a class act in his one-man show, “Last Time to See Before I Die” at the McPherson Playhouse recently.

The show, while continuously infused with Cleesian wit, wasn’t strictly comedic. Regaling the audience with his life story, starting with how his parents met, walking the audience through his childhood and his pre-Python days, and movie career, Cleese offered bittersweet moments as he remembered with fondness friends and family who had passed on.  When Cleese recalled David Frost,  he started to tear up, infusing the show with some pathos and creating a humanizing element that would have been absent had the show been strictly comedic (or strictly dramatic).

Admittedly, throughout the show, Cleese didn’t seem too energetic, but after all, he is 73. Nevertheless, the time flew by;  when he announced that he had kept us for about an hour and it was time for an intermission, it came as a surprise. Considering my tendency to fidget and check my watch constantly when sitting for long periods of time, I was impressed.

The second half of the show was mainly a discussion of offensive or black humour.  Cleese talked about it being passed down from his mother, and explored reactions from audience members, mainly to Fawlty Towers and A Fish Called Wanda. Cleese reported that during the test screen for A Fish Called Wanda, the three bits the audience identified as the funniest bits were also the  bits that were identified as most offensive.  He also made much more use of video clips in his second act.  Many of the clips were familiar to Cleese fans, from the previously mentioned shows as well as Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Showing the clips took some of the strain and effort out of filling up the second half while entertaining the audience. Again, I sat through the second half without checking my watch.

The show ended with a standing ovation, with members of the audience eventually clapping in rhythm to The Liberty Bell song from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The man hasn’t lost a thing at 73 – except the usual, youth, original hair colour . . . I would certainly recommend this show for anyone who appreciates dry humour.


Curran Dobbs is a local reviewer and comedian.  

Hank Angel Pays Homage to Rock and Roll

Hank Engel

Hank Angel (Extended Play 45)

Produced by David Jeffrey and Dave Lang

Reviewed by Chris Ho

Victoria musician Hank Engel’s self-titled EP is a nostalgic gem that brings you right back to the feel-good rockabilly vibe of the 50’s. Engel pays homage to the underground music scene in Edmonton in the 1980s, and more specifically to one of his favourite bands, The Draggnetts. Although this band had recorded much of their material and were admired for their musicianship, they ended up disappearing into obscurity. In an interview with Drive-in Magazine, Engel said, “We idolized those guys. Not only did they play great music, but they lived it, in an old house with rebel flags and velvet paintings and overflowing ashtrays. Empty bottles all over the place, a bust of Elvis on the mantle. Their girlfriends walked around looking like Betty Page and Marilyn Monroe. Their band was like a gang, like every band ought to be.”

The idea of living out the music that you write and express is essential to a lot of rock and roll — something that you don’t see as often these days. Many bands don’t have the luxury of being signed and consequently need to manage their own careers. Likely, it would only hinder productivity in that regard if they were to live out that kind of lifestyle – (talk about a buzz kill). But this isn’t the sort of genre that lends itself well to being focused on marketing, and making sure you tweet frequently enough. It’s a genre that’s about the music and the lifestyle. It reminds us that, when all is said and done, it’s the whole package that counts: sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.

Hank Engel’s EP reminds us of this. The production isn’t flashy, and the vocals aren’t tuned to perfection. Many of the tracks sound as though they were recorded live off the floor, which gives it that old-­‐school rockabilly feel. And regardless of how polished the EP may be, one has to admire this decision to record the songs in this way. Hank Angel could very well have recorded these old tunes in a more mainstream, or polished way, but instead he stays true to the rockabilly roots.

Producer David Jeffrey clearly has a good understanding of Hank Angel’s genre, and has recorded and mixed it in a way that harks back to that early vintage rock-­‐ and-­‐roll sound. As a result, the EP gives you just the right amount of crisp guitar tones, non-­‐intrusive drum rhythms and raw vocals. Hank brings a new life to the songs of Art Adams and The Draggnetts, although it’s a shame that he doesn’t include more of his original material. His song “A Guitar and A Broken Heart” is a great opener for the EP since it has many of the elements that make a great song, including the catchy vocal melodies, tasteful guitar riffs, and simplistic drum rhythms. But instead of developing this, along with his own sound, he decides to resurrect a couple of great rockabilly tunes, obscuring his own path as a musician.

Nonetheless, his motives are pure, and the songs have come together very well. And who knows, maybe we’ll get to hear more original rockabilly releases from Hank /Engel/Angel in the future.

Chris Ho is a UVic  graduate, musician and closet cookie dough eater.

A triumph of battlefields and bed sheets


 At Theatre Inconnu

 Starring Clayton Jevne

 Adapted by Clayton Jevne from Robert Nye’s novel

 Oct. 4 – 19th


Reviewed by Leah Callen


 Sex!  And now that Falstaff has your attention, let the laughter guide you somewhere unexpectedly divine.  Clayton Jevne is incredibly authentic as he fills the boots of John Fastolf, a lusty English knight who is said to have inspired Shakespeare’s Falstaff.  As he tells us tall tales about his wars and whores in rich detail, this one-man confession had me laughing, blushing, and crying.  With characters such as Pistol and Shallow, you’re bound to crack a smile. 


This storytelling is unapologetically profane, but surprisingly sacred and poetic at the same time. As Fastolf relives every sexual exploit of his life from the cradle to old age, we hear episodes that are both pornographic and beautiful – from a young woman’s creamy breasts and cherry nipples, to the butterflies that magically burst out of a bishop’s hand.   Just when one may get too uncomfortable with all the innuendo about his “soldier,” “in a flash of sack” the story takes a soulful turn.  Don’t let the prim music at the start fool you, though.  Hold onto your seats!  I felt my cheeks glowing in the dark.


Fastolf shares an intriguing point of view on some of the most famous medieval battles, witnessed from the edges of history. Audience members can get a little lost on this history map if they don’t have a built-in compass for it, but the accounts are so vivid that it doesn’t matter. While he miraculously conquers the French by throwing jewels and herrings at them, philandering Fastolf is conquered by chaste women. The saints slay his heart. Jevne paints a stunning image of Joan of Arc that is beyond human and, to me, the most bewitching part of the narrative. 


Jevne’s full costume reminded me of a naughty Puss in Boots.   The character certainly tries to spin his life in magical proportions, moving from the mindless thrusts of youth to the far sight of age.  But Fastolf travels a touching arc from a hyperbolizing hedonist to one humbled.  We see both a public and private persona in this play – a man embellished with bravado and the bare soul hiding inside him.  As he spins these far-out tales, Jevne creates an iconic pose, his lower half leading the way.  It suggests a character led by his worldly appetites.  But he is reduced to his knees before God, turning away from the audience.  The faceless humility of that pose is striking. 


Though the protagonist is larger than life, Jevne’s masterful acting never fell into caricature.  There was a natural flow to all his facial expressions and gestures that made the whole show feel genuine.  It was enthralling, watching him light up with lust and melt gently into tears.  Perhaps this play’s final wish is for us to be more promiscuous in our compassion and love for other human beings.  When our lives fade out, which will be the most powerful memories left behind: our selfish joys or our random acts of humanity?


Leah Callen is an MFA student at UVic.




Hot August Nights at Russell Books

Russell’s Reading Series presents Hot August Nights
with Amanda Leduc, Yausko Thanh and Lee Henderson
August 20

On the hot evening of August 20th join Russell Books, Victoria BC, in a cool vintage area for an evening reading with visiting author Amanda Leduc, and local authors Yasuko Thanh and Lee Henderson.

In The Miracles of Ordinary Men Amanda Leduc weaves the stories of Sam who wakes up one day to find himself growing wings, and Lilah, who has lost her brother to the streets of Vancouver, and who seeks penance under the harsh hand of her boss.

Journey Prize-winner Yasuko Thanh’s collection of short stories Floating Like the Dead, a sharply observed and erotically charged debut collection, immerses us in the lives of people on the knife edge of desire and regret, hungry for change yet still yearning for a place to call home, if only for a little while.

The Man Game, Lee Henderson’s epic tale of love requited and not, begins on a recent Vancouver Sunday afternoon, when a young man stumbles upon a secret sport invented more than a century before, at the birth of his city.

RSVP to the event at: www.facebook.com/russellbooks/event

Film reminds: Pride is a global movement

Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride
Directed by Bob Christie
Reel Queer Film Festival, Vic Theatre, Victoria
June 30, 2013

Reviewed by Andrea Routley

It was a quiet evening at the Vic Theatre, not surprising for a Sunday night in Victoria. Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride was the final screening at the first Reel Queer Film Festival, organised by the Victoria Film Festival. I almost didn’t go because I was sucked into a TV series on DVD. But I thought, “Do I want to watch HBO actors call women cunts all night, or deepen my understanding and appreciation of a global human rights movement that has secured my legislative freedoms?” Yeah. I should go.

In this feature length documentary, director Bob Christie follows Vancouver Pride Parade director Ken Coolen, along with several VPS colleagues, as they travel to places where Pride is still steeped in protest, and even where queer sexualities are still criminalised. The group experiences first-hand the violent threats of anti-gay protestors in Warsaw, Moscow, and Budapest, and witnesses Equal Ground’s kite-flying Pride action in Colombo, Sri Lanka, an event which is only advertised after it has happened in order to protect those brave enough to attend. In Sri Lanka, homosexuality is still punishable with up to ten years in prison, and “curative rape” is a “common practice.”

Beyond Gay connects the Pride celebrations in cities like Toronto and Vancouver to a wider global movement with a call to action to support human rights around the world. Ken Coolen, a likeable big guy with a gentle demeanour, meets courageous activists around the world. In Moscow, he praises the group, led by Nikolai Alekseev, for their bravery, asserting, “You are not alone” as he shares a binder full of signatures from Canadian government officials for the Declaration of Montreal on LGBT Human Rights. The fear is palpable in many scenes, especially the action in Moscow where secret locations and meeting spots were necessary simply for a small group of people to stand outside the Tchaikovsky Conservatory with rainbow flags, and then walk 120 feet before dispersing to avoid violence. The anti-gay protestors and media showed up at the decoy location. Violence erupted when a Pride organiser responded to a media question by affirming that he was with an LGBT organisation. He was immediately pushed, and beaten.

The film is full of these heart-breaking struggles and testimonials, as well as awe-inspiring triumphs. Energetic club music scores much of the film, suggesting urgency while also evoking the intensity of Pride celebrations, and its origins in Stonewall. The music was at times heavy-handed: sombre piano music scores moments of reflection, which causes them to verge on campy. In these scenes, I think a “moment of silence” in the music would have been more effective, an austerity to convey the coarse reality of the human rights violations.

The motivations for the film are easy to understand. Pride celebrations in North American have come under much criticism for their commercialisation, which many feel demonstrates how we have “lost our way.” I often hear people cite A&W’s visible parade sponsorship–a restaurant that assigns heteronormative gender roles even to hamburgers– as an example of all that is wrong with Pride today. This year in Victoria, one group responds to the current state of Pride by hosting Alt Pride Community Festival, which was “formed as a reaction against experiences of oppression, exclusion, and lack of accountability during pride events and within queer communities.”

I’m not sure how I will feel about Pride this year. Things have changed a lot since I first marched in a Pride Parade. It was 1997, and I was sixteen. I walked behind a float blaring “We Are Family,” a drag queen in a purple spandex gown and silver wig waving to the crowds. But the cheers always swelled for us, the youth group, the only LGBT youth group I knew of, one which met at Bute and Davie in Vancouver’s West End Friday nights. (To attend, I had to travel for three hours on public transit, with no way of getting home before the buses stopped running.)

That was the first and only Pride Parade I marched in. This right to assemble and celebrate our diversity is one that many of us take for granted.

Andrea Routley is the editor of Plenitude Magazine, Canada’s queer literary magazine.