It’s March already and each winter term, I see how quickly our time with our Edna Staebler Writer in Residence zooms by. Our 2016 Staebler WIR, fiction writer and playwright Drew Hayden Taylor, has been at Laurier since mid-January and will give his second public talk on Thursday, March 10, in The Hawk’s Nest at 7:30 p.m. Many people remarked after Drew’s first talk in January that he is a remarkable performer, speaking entirely without notes about his start as a writer, his years with Native Earth Performing Arts, and writing for film and television.
Don’t miss this second talk, which will feature Drew’s discussion of his writing process.
And for the origin of “stone soup,” check out the folk tale:
Dr. Mariam Pirbhai presented the 100 year old history of South Asian immigration to Canada and noted the importance of the Komagata Maru for this community. She has recently edited a special issue on South Asian Canadian writing for Studies in Canadian Literature.
Aboriginal playwright and author Drew Hayden Taylor discussed the challenges of being half-Caucasian and half-Ojibway and growing up in the small community of Curve Lake First Nations. He says that as a child, he escaped from the limitations of his community by reading comics and adventure books, and is now writing more genre fiction, such as his Aboriginal vampire novel, The Night Wanderer and his forthcoming book of native science fiction.
Creative Writing at Laurier
Prize sponsor Doug Heard presented Danielle LeDuc with the Chris Heard Memorial Writing Prize. The prize was established by the Heard family for Chris Heard who was a student at Laurier who loved to write.
Danielle LeDuc read her amazing story, “War: A People’s History” which was surprisingly not about the kind of war you’d imagine.
Dr. MacDonald and several other students from Dr. MacDonald’s creative writing class read the following short pieces:
Anthony Haslam, “Shaman’s Brew”
Dan Douglas, “Fact”
Jenna Galluccio, cento song: “Tired Lovemaking” and poem “Snap, Crackle, Pop”
Jenna Hazzard, “King of Pool”
Dr. MacDonald, “Very Wide Awake,” a poem about the space race and Planet of the Apes
Dr. Maria DiCenzo introduced three alumni who graduated from English or the Film Studies Program.
Andrew Baechler (BA English 2007) played football when he was at Laurier and has now combined his love of reading and his communication skills with sports at his current job. He is the Media Relations, Communications, and Sports Information Officer at the Athletics Department at Guelph University.
Ron Butler (BA Film Studies 2012) loved studying films and even made films for the Fringe when he was at Laurier. He is a cinematographer and filmmaker at Final Frame Productions.
Hanna Burnett (MA 2013, BA EN/FS 2012) says that her MA year at Laurier was the best educational year of her life. She is the Coordinator, Program Services at the Toronto International Film Festival and had entertaining anecdotes about the challenges of classifying and rating films for TIFF.
English Student Association
The English Student Association, represented by Daniella Cavallini, Beniah Lanoue, and Chris presented a PowerPoint series about the association, including aims, benefits of joining the ESA, and events planned for the Winter term, then held a short meeting with prospective members.
The 2016 Winter term started off with a treat for students in Dr. Katherine Spring’s brand new course FS 258: Musical Film. Not only did they get to learn about the classic 1930s musicals starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but they also had a chance to see some of the energetic dance styles of the era performed live in class by one of Laurier’s Film Studies professors, Dr. Sandra Annett!
Dr. Annett and her dance partner David Barth, both regulars at the Hepcat Swing dance studio in uptown Waterloo, made a special guest appearance in class on January 19, 2016. Together, they demonstrated some popular dances from the 1930s and explained how those dances were adapted in the movies.
Dr. Annett put the dances in context by noting that “When you watch a musical with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, like Top Hat (1935) or Swing Time (1936), what really stands out is how they make dancing look so easy and natural. Their dance seems to evolve spontaneously from the situation and perfectly express the character’s emotions. But in fact, that natural quality was far from spontaneous; it was highly choreographed. Astaire and his choreographer Hermes Pan would plan all the moves and the timing in advance. Astaire and Rogers would rehearse the numbers together, and finally they would film the dance, sometimes doing dozens of takes to get it right.
When audiences watched that performance on the screen, they might think ‘Oh, that looks so easy. I want to go out dancing!’ And many of them did, since it was a normal part of an evening’s entertainment in the ’30s to see a movie and then go out to a nearby dance hall. At the dance hall, though, nobody choreographed their moves in advance. They did what is called social dancing, where both partners, the lead and the follow, know some basic steps beforehand, and then they improvise the dance together based on the swing jazz music that was popular at the time. The dances they did to swing jazz were collectively called swing dancing. It was like the club dancing of the 1930s!”
To bring this old-time dance world to life, Dr. Annett and Mr. Barth demonstrated three kinds of dancing. The first dance was an example of improvised social dancing in the swing style, including moves from the Lindy Hop and the Charleston, set to a lively Big Band tune called “Make Love To Me.” The second dance was an example of a choreography called the “Shim Sham Shimmy,” which uses a set of predetermined moves from solo jazz and tap dance. Finally, the couple demonstrated the more elegant and upright style of ballroom dance used in the Astaire and Rogers’ paired dance scenes, waltzing to Doris Day’s classic “Que Sera, Sera.”
Nothing like those fine dance steps to liven up the winter!