Local dancers make waves on canvas
It was somewhat of a surreal scene, stepping into Art Central on Feb. 27.
The space wasn’t completely transformed. The lights were dimmed and the storefronts closed. People lined the staircase and one side of the balcony, on both the second and third floor. Their gaze was locked to what was happening below, on the ground level. There was a vibe and you could feel it.
They stepped across the clear plastic covering the floor and carried a purple canvas. Positioning it between two planks of wood, they made sure the canvas wasn’t going to move. Two paint cans stood ready.
What was about to happen was art. But the crowd wasn’t gathered to watch an artist paint live. No, it was something more than that; Groundwaves, a pairing of music, art and dance.
If all the world’s a stage, then that night the stage was covered in canvas and this time it was dance that was going to make its mark.
The idea was this: Put a canvas on the ground. Take a bucket of paint and pour out a horizontal line in the center of the canvas. Dance.
The artist steps out to the canvas. He presents himself to the crowd, reacting to the cheers and claps. To further fuel the crowd he removes his shirt. Dipping his finger into the red paint he draws a line across his throat and falls to the canvas.
Moving with the beat, the dancer’s body touches the canvas — each contact a brush stroke, a physical representation of the dancer’s form of expression. It’s over quickly, in less than a minute, with all the hours it took to learn to dance a piece of art is ready to be put on display.
Covered in paint, proud, a natural standing ovation, the performer exits, his art created.
Art, dance and music. Francis Torres, Ryan Benn and Henry Raul Yu. Artist, dancer and musician.
“It’s pretty much three friends collaborating for one art project,” explains Yu. “We thought what better way when we have an artist (Torres), a musician (Yu), a dancer (Benn) — just because someone’s a dancer doesn’t mean they are not necessarily an artist. That was our idea, to transform someone’s art, one form of their art.”
It was full team behind the three collaborators to bring this event from concept to execution. Along with the three-hour window they had to set the whole thing up at Art Central, it took many hours of planning on how they were actually going to be able to dance on wet paint without having the canvas move.
“It was fun playing with the ideas and how we’re going to get it to not move, how we’re going to get it tight and this and that,” says Benn. “It was a fun process but it was a process nonetheless. You can’t just roll out and do it.”
Reggie Tenchavez, a local dancer, was aware of the process Benn went through to pull it off.
“When they first started doing it, it did not look like this at all,” says Tenchavez. “I just think that they definitely experimented with the right tools and resources.”
Familiar with the music and dance styles used at Groundwaves, Tenchavez explained further. “They’ve taken the dance aspect and the graffiti aspect and just fused it into a new way of making art through hip hop. The way that they use the canvas and their use of colour, it’s amazing!”
“For me, our purpose is to inspire someone to be creative,” says Torres. “By looking at the art, I know it will inspire someone to be more creative and to just go for what they want.”
The trio wants to challenge the current definition of an artist, put it beyond a painter, to a dancers and musicians and even further.
“This is a way to show people and inspire people that dance, or anything, if they have a craft that they’re passionate about [is art],” Benn explains, mentioning a basketball player doing crossovers or the footwork of a boxer as examples of art that could be captured on canvas.
Torres dreams of having the same people who inspire him creatively use their talents to create this form of art.
“Our vision is to get someone that is also very inspirational to us, say Michael Jackson, to do the moonwalk on a canvas. Just seeing that movement, seeing that art on canvas, for us, would be priceless.”
And it’s not just about inspiring people to be creative — it’s also a way to raise awareness and funds for charitable organizations, who like many, are suffering in our current economic situation.
“I look at an AIDS foundation,” Benn explains. “They are having trouble having a fundraiser, so just imagine if you had Michael Jackson do the moonwalk on canvas and auctioned it off for charity, what would that go for?” He asks, and then answers, “it would be insane.”
The three are quick to give credit to all the people who helped out. During the interview with the three men a small crowd joined in to listen, including Curtis Yu who had shot the video footage of the pieces being created. True to form, he shot video of Torres, Benn and Henry Yu giving shout outs to all those that helped out.
“We couldn’t have done all this with out all these guys,” says Torres, motioning to the group surrounding them. The voices of the three jumble together as they thank the dancers, their friends there and those who aren’t there. At the end of the event the pieces were put up for silent auction with the proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders.