Traditional Japanese


Costume and Set Designer:
Denis Joffre


Lighting Designer:
Ron Snippe after Jane Reisman


Premiere Date:
July 15, 1987


Premiere Location:
Eric Harvie Theatre, Banff Festival of the Arts



Cast for Banff Centre premiere performance (double cast): Old Poet -- David Earle, Christopher Jean-Richard; Death -- Learie McNicolls, Bernard Sauvé; First Story: Woman -- Barbara Moore, Ainslie Cyopik; Man -- Mario Marcil, Marc Leclerc; Spirit -- Yseult Lendvai. Second Story: Woman -- Lorna McConnell, Marie-Joseé Dubois; Man -- Gérald Morin, John Kellner. Third Story: Dead Samurai -- John Ottmann, Christopher Jean-Richard; Comrade -- Martin Vallée, Jay Gower Taylor; Cloud Gallants and Moon Lords -- Joel Boudreault, Paul Reich, John Kellner, Christopher Jean-Richard, Martin Vallée; Ladies of the Shadow of the Willow -- Eva Cairns, Eleanor Sande, Fiona Macdonald, Marthe Leonard, Alison Skinner


Cast list for Toronto Dance Theatre premiere, November 25, 1987. Old Poet -- Ron Ladd; Death -- Learie McNicolls. First Story: Woman -- Karen duPlessis; Man -- Christopher House; Spirit -- Suzette Sherman. Second Story: Woman -- Merle Holloman; Man -- Michael Sean Marye. Third Story: Dead Samurai -- William Elias; Comrade -- Almond Small; Moon Lords -- Christopher House, Benoît Lachambre, Almond Small, William Elias, Michael Sean Marye, Crispin Redhead*, Graham McKelvie*; Ladies of the Shadow of the Willow -- Karen duPlessis, Monica Burr, Sylvie Bouchard, Laurence Lemieux, Rosemary James, Miriane Braaf, Sharon Moore*, Coralee McLaren*


* Students of the School of Toronto Dance Theatre

Summary Note

This work is dedicated to Chuck Flanders, who inspired me in life, as in creation, and who gave of himself generously to dance in this country. -- D.E.

Program Note, Banff Premiere

David Earle is the 1987 recipient of the Clifford E. Lee Choreography Award. This award was established in 1978 by the Edmonton-based Clifford E. Lee Foundation and The Banff Centre School of Fine Arts to encourage the development of Canadian choreography. Award recipients, selected on an annual juried invitational basis, receive a cash award and use Banff Centre resources to showcase original works premiered as part of the annual Festival Dance presentation.

Choreographer's Note

The old poet hides from Death, but Death is everywhere. He is caught but escapes to see another year. Three stories are told to pass the time in the journey from Spring Blossoms to barebranched Winter. The spirit of a young bride returns from the exile of death to find her husband happy with a new love. A woman whose lover is much younger sees that she is losing her beauty. She leaves her sleeping lover in the night. A young samurai is taken from Life in the full flower of his youth. His comrade mourns his loss. As the year passes, the poet has an opportunity to choose the moment of his death, and makes it a gift.

Journal: Friday, May 8, 1987 (New York)

A major breakthrough at last -- everything has been building to it, and in the new room of Japanese Art at the Metropolitan Museum today I resolved to do a piece in Japanese style. Through the iris screens, the view of the Noguchi Fountain, and a wondrously made young man in grey pants, reinforced the realization. I will create this work in Banff and have always invisioned Banff as a Japanese creation -- the setting cries for that sensibility. I am thinking of the four seasons. This week I even bought myself The Pillow Book by eleventh-century lady-inwaiting Sei Shonagon -- “In spring it is the dawn…”. Maybe I will have my head shaved and dance in the piece. I made a list of elements while I was in the museum: masks, figures pressing through fabric, oranges, irises, rocks, pine boughs, a branch of cherry blossoms, white sheets for snow. A 'travelling garden' -- carrying on the rocks upstage left, and gradually shifting them off downstage right. Men with fabric binding women's legs -- lowering women with fabric. Sacred undressing (silhouette), lanterns. Various screens.

Journal: Saturday, June 13, 1987 (Banff)

I have a truly gorgeous display of images and forms before me. The wind brought down many little branches so I have sprays of green leaves in a glass on my table. I have my favourite postcards from Japan laid out -- buildings, interiors, scenes of nature -- and the little knife I bought with its red tassel, calligraphy on its sheath. Beyond, in the bookcase four little screens (printed as cards, all folded in three) with gold backgrounds; two wooden balls I bought in New York; two green apples; an orange; a green pear; pine cones; the stones I bought in China; candles; cards with Japanese paintings; some special pictures of friends; and one of the Noguchi Water-stone. And beyond that -- from my window -- the pine covered mountain, pure white clouds and a sky of the gentlest blue.

Article by Ena E. Spalding

David Earle: The dancers at Banff were advanced enough that the possibility of being imperfect did not threaten them. They were particularly responsive to my ideas about what part of the self is really being asked for; how developing the artist in themselves transcends the idiom. They were hungry for imagery and for the philosophy of performance and I always enjoy the opportunity to make my beliefs concrete and perceptible for them. The advantage of working with living instruments is that they have insight of their own and, knowing my nature, they felt encouraged to make suggestions. I think I helped them to find confidence in their own abilities and opened a window to some of the possibilities of how and why to dance.

I was overwhelmed when Cloud Garden came to me. I'd had so many separate ideas, then during one night I kept waking up with new pieces for the puzzle. All three stories are sad but not depressing and the structure of the dance is seasonal with a tale of love and death for each story. The Monk, the central figure, is old enough to be able to play and move gracefully with the elements of life and death. At the opening there is a procession across the stage carrying cherry blossoms and the Monk is hiding among rocks. But Death, disguised as a rock, almost catches him. The piece ends with a procession of bare branches -- a young girl falls behind the others and, when Death closes in on her, the Monk saves the child and he is taken in her place. The cherry blossoms appear again as Death pulls the Monk offstage and the Monk reaches back to the new year he won't have. He feels nostalgia for what he's leaving but knows it's only a matter of time -- choosing the moment himself is a kind of victory. For artists … life is life and death … in every moment.

-- Revised extracts from “New Work by David Earle”, The Banff Centre Centre Letter, July 9-16, 1987


Cloud Garden