Poetry written and spoken by:
Graham Jackson

 

Costume Designer:
Denis Joffre

 

Lighting Designer:
Ron Snippe

 

Premiere Date:
September 19, 1980

 

Premiere Location:
Winchester Street Theatre, Toronto

 

Cast:
Dancers -- Grace Miyagawa, Charles Flanders; Poet -- Graham Jackson

Frost Watch

Like the red leaf in autumn
the human heart cannot bear
too much violence.
Outside my window
a wintry wind
tries in vain
to break this silence.
The midnight moon
bathes the floor
in ice.
I am already frozen with grief.
The irises you picked for me
just yesterday
on the banks of the Naniwa River
have also turned to marble.
Was your body as white
when it mounted the crest of the waves
like a lover?
Did you laugh then?
As I walked in
the pink garden
I heard cries falling through
the drifting petals.
I did not suspect they were yours.
Like the red leaf in autumn
the human heart cannot bear
too much violence.
-- Graham Jackson

Journal: Saturday, September 20, 1980

The debut of Frost Watch with text, costumes and lights was last evening. It must mark a moment of real achievement in my work. I can't believe how it unfolded -- in so few days -- with so little conscious preparation. Grace, in this work, becomes the most evolved artist in the company. Chuck's role doesn't allow the range that Grace's part does, but he is the solid core around which the piece revolves. They are devastating together.

After the impact the piece had a week ago -- performed in silence, work lights and practice clothes, I was worried about the addition of words. Yet, the text is splendid and makes even more of the piece. Graham spoke it last night. It was very moving.

I was equally doubtful about the costumes, but they have turned out to be original and very beautiful. The colours are both sombre and rich overall -- but flashes of brightness animate the still moments.

Interview with David Earle, September 26, 2002

In 1979 and 1980 TDT experienced financial instability, bad press and dancer layoffs. Frost Watch was presented at a time when the dancers were so divided in their focus and their values that they couldn't do my work the way it should be done. I was trying to overlook this because I admired them as dancers and loved them as people, but there wasn't enough belief and unification to support my vision. I realize now, looking back, how many of my works were presented inappropriately. Even Cloud Garden (1987), which was beautiful at Banff, suffered from the cynicism of the company dancers.

My motivation to create Frost Watch was triggered by the loss of a number of people who I loved -- my parents, and various lovers from the past -- and I wondered how anyone could endure losing someone with whom they were passionately involved and devoted to. That kind of intimate loss would be very particular. What intrigues me about the structure of the piece is that I decided to do it in a Japanese style -- very formal, archetypal and full of halts and empty spaces. The man enters, puncturing the space where a woman grieves over a body. What happens is very ambiguous. At the end, the man has replaced the woman beside the body and sent her out of the space. Whether he has seduced her and banished her for her sake or for his own is unclear. Perhaps he had taken on her grief; perhaps the body was that of his lover; perhaps the man and woman were parents of a dead child. It could be read any way. All the characters could change as well -- it could be three men, three women or any combination of three people. I liked the look of the piece -- the forms and the progression of action. It's one quintessential statement of my individual vision of theatre and dance. I consider it a personal classic.

Chuck Flanders was a great, muscular presence that was a wonderful foil for a woman and he was a stupendously conscious and conscientious partner. In **Frost Watch**, Chuck was always there to work with Grace, to support her, to help her to be the vessel of the pure passion that she was. He was a very conspicuous presence in every work he performed -- not just in my repertoire, but in Trish's and Peter's as well. Chuck died in 1987 in New York days before my Banff opening of Cloud Garden. His partner told me that in the days preceding Chuck's death he spoke of extraordinary visions and light, and at the moment of his death there was a change in the atmosphere and Chuck was gone. It was the first death in my experience where I felt some kind of inspiration -- if anyone could give me this it would be Chuck.

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