Dance, draw and love music at The Drive

Can dancers, artists and musicians inspire each other? The "Bringing Artists Together" project at Linda Arkelian's "Ballet on the Drive" class at Drive Dance Centre allowed those from different disciplines to collaborate while experiencing each other's crafts.  

Dancers move to Ron Radar Stelting's percussion and vocals at Drive Dance Centre. Photo by Karen Chan

Can dancers, artists and musicians inspire each other?

Linda Arkelian has literally been "Bringing Artists Together" this summer in her ballet classes at Ballet on the Drive. Throughout the summer she has invited artists, photographers and musicians to collaborate and co-exist while practicing the disciplines they love in the same space.

This multidisciplinary project, "Bringing Artists Together," lives up to its name. As dancers arabesque to live musicians, artists wander freely amongst them to observe, photograph and paint the interaction. The inspiration has flow both ways: from the dancers to the artists and then back again to the dancers. Andrea Taylor, painter, muses: "At Ballet on the Drive I hope to capture a bit of the energy of dancers in motion...in space and time...in and out of chaos." I personally have a fascination with human movement as an artist and a kinesiologist--movement frozen in a photo or painting is still dynamic in its beauty. It is amazing to experience the energy of the class: to photograph the dancers responding to the music and Linda's passionate and entertaining presence. All I wanted to do was paint canvases of physical expressionism when I got home.

This project also has allowed for artists, musicians and dancers to share the creative wealth. At Drive Dance Centre studio, I met Masha Levene, an artist who melds traditional illustration with digital media such as the iPad, and Laura Baiani, a dancer, who gamely volunteered to model/dance in a photoshoot for me. Yvonne Chew, a local photographer believes "maybe all of us have the ability or are already multidisclipinary...being a musician, dancer, painter may unify us more if we all unified by the term artist." Mixed media artist Joy Ann Kirkwood used her guest appearance to draw inspiration for her upcoming exhibition at Place des Arts. "I seek to bring something of [the dancers'] energy, passion and grace to the sketches that I’ll be making." She plans to "create mixed media, figurative pieces to symbolize the qualities distilled from the experience" to exhibit in two upcoming shows. This summer series has given artists of all sorts the venue to inspire each other. 

Together with David Cooper, an acclaimed dance photographer and arts advocate, Linda Arkelian initiated the series, "Bringing Artists Together." Arkelian is the resident ballet instructor of a weekly drop in class, "Ballet on the Drive", at Vancouver’s Drive Dance Centre on Commercial Drive. She is a former professional dancer who has danced with internationally recognized companies such as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company. Also a visual artist: she tours an innovative "Creative Artists in Schools" project teaching art to students. Her workshops focus on endangered species and environmental concerns. She was a designated banner artist for the Olympic year. Hundreds of her BC Salmon design banners hung from the light poles throughout  Port Moody. David is known for his images that capture the inner strength of dancers, be it in action or through an impressionistic glass. Both saw the need to create venues for such sharing.

Linda Arkelian. Photo by Yvonne Chew

There are not enough opportunities for like-minded creative people to inspire each other. Why cannot artists learn from dancers, or even scientists?  The success of Linda's collaboration with David Cooper inspired Linda to continue to pursue her vision by inviting other artists.

Other guest artists throughout the summer have included:

Afro Cuban percussionist, Russell Shumsky who guest accompanied her contemporary class. He shared 24 years of professional expertise playing marimba, djembé, dunduns, bodhran, and congas.

Yvonne Chew, Vancouver dance photographer captured an event featuring guest artist Andrea Taylor, painter and prolific printmaker from Dundarave Print Workshop on Granville Island. Chew also documented a collaboration between photographer Josan Pinon and Ballet on the Drive dancers where the dancers were immersed underwater.

Jon Snow and I photographed a contemporary class featuring SFU's Ron Stelting on percussion while digital artist Masha Levine sketched the dancers.

Coming this fall to Drive Dance Studio are Redgy Blackout Band members Scott Perrie and Jeremy Breaks. They plan to introduce the class to music from their recently launched CD "The Leap".

I am very thankful to Arkelian for the chance to fulfill my goal of capturing the grace and strength of dance in art and envision a collective exhibit to show the fruits of the collaboration of creative minds from this summer. "Bringing Artists Together" at Drive Dance Studio, is a wonderful concept that breaks down barriers separating individuals in different disciplines. I find myself surprisingly tell Linda that I would love to try one of her classes. Who knows, perhaps the dancers will borrow the photographers camera's and artist's brushes next.

Drive Dance Centre is located at 1839 Commercial Drive at East 2nd Ave in Vancouver. Linda Arkelian is a special contributor to the Vancouver Observer.


Malaika Gunn from an underwater photography series. Photo by Josan Pinon

Ballet on the Drive. Photo by Jon Snow

Artist Joy Kirkwood drawing at "Bring Artists Together". Photo by Rueben Prensky

Ballet on the Drive dancer Danielle Gardner who's currently on So You Think You Can Dance. Photo by Rueben Prensky

Ballet Flat, mixed media sculpture by Karen Chan

"Celebrate" by Joy Kirkwood, mixed media artist

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