Saturday May 25, 2013
Dancing Through Two Generations...
Tim King Salem-News.com
Verla Benson of Salem, who is 62-years old, is rehearsing Sylvain Émard's Le Grand Continental. Special thanks to photographer Carolyn Campbell for the accompanying images.
(SALEM) - It is not an everyday story, not by any means. Verla Benson of Salem, who is 62-years old, is rehearsing Sylvain Émard's Le Grand Continental, with incredible support from family; one of whom is proclaimed as “one of the strongest, hottest contemporary dancers of his generation" by dance critic Lewis Segal.
One of Verla's twin sons, Jamie Benson of New York, has dedicated his life to dance and could not be more pleased with Verla's achievements. As an accomplished dancer who clearly does not forget his Oregon roots, Jamie Benson is ushering this state into the international community of Le Grand Continental. "To share this global, dance glory with my family & home state is a real thrill," he said.
Without question both he and his mother break boundaries and defy barriers. It's nothing new however for Jamie, who was the first male to receive an Oregon Dance Scholarship.
"My mother is defying her age & location by being cast in Le Grand Continental & I couldn't be more proud of her. She, along with my talented twin Casey, are commuting from SE Salem to the Portland Expo Center 2 to 3 times a week to rehearse with our new 'Le Grand' family. All 160 dancers will take over Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square to perform an ambitious, 30 minute line dance.
Jamie said, "She's pushing her body to the limit. She's also quick to tell me that she hasn't danced or performed for over 40 years & yet is undaunted by the challenge. It's totally inspiring."
Benson says it is an exciting project with so many stories involved, and as rewarding as it is motivating. A New York-based dancer and Oregon native, Jamie is the Rehearsal Director for this dance marathon & staying with his mother as they get the show on it's feet (so to speak).
As a dancer and choreographer, Jamie is Alumnus of Cornish College of the Arts. Benson first garnered critical attention originating the role of “Eldon” in LATC’s Ovation award winning production of Shag with a Twist in 2005. Back Stage West heralded Benson as “the most Chaplin-like” of the wordless production. Benson has also performed in the Film Rent, McDonald's Mario Art commercial, Rei Aoo's Dance Planet, on the television series Dance360 & as a member of the Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble. For more visit jamiebenson.com
As anyone can imagine, preparing for such a physical endeavor of this nature would take a lot of time and energy. To make challenges more interesting, many years have passed since Verla last danced at the level she is pushing herself toward now.
Hesitation and fear are regular guiding factors for most people but this Salem woman is here to show us that everyone isn't paying attention to those nagging hangups that prevent so many people from following their dreams.
Jamie said, "I appreciate her willingness to take a risk, when others her age & younger wouldn't & not surprised at all by how well she's doing. She's been an invaluable addition to the cast & I hope you all make it out to see her put on a great show!"
Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Emard first distinguished himself as a dancer working with renowned choreographers such as Jean-Pierre Perreault, Jo Lechay & Louise Bédard before forming Sylvain Émard Danse, in 1990.
A proponent of the commingling of genres, Sylvain Émard navigates with ease from one milieu to another – film, theatre, the visual arts & opera, as seen, for example by his collaboration on Lorin Maazel’s opera 1984, directed by Robert Lepage & presented on the celebrated stage of Covent Garden in London in 2005, & again at La Scala in Milan in 2008.
When Jamie contacted Salem-News about this exciting achievement, he explained, "I worked as an assistant for the New York version of Le Grand & think your audience will by inspired by how it brings a vast community together through the common denominator of dance. Le Grand Continental is traveling around the world. This will be the West Coast premiere."
Local dance presenter White Bird is producing this special event as a way to celebrate their 15th anniversary & thank the people of Portland for supporting them for so long. Le Grand Continental is slated for 2pm & 4pm performances on September 30th, 2012 at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans; he's covered British Royal Marines and in Iraq, Tim embedded with the same unit he served with in the 1980's.
He holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and was presented with a 'Good Neighbor Award' for his reporting, by the The Red Cross.
Tim's years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions; he has rallied for a long list of cultures and populations and continues to every day, with a strong and direct concentration on the 2009 Genocide of Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka. As a result of his long list of reports exposing war crimes against Tamil people, Tim was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, in July 2012. This is the largest annual gathering of North American Tamils; Tim addressed more than 3000 people and was presented with a traditional Sri Lanka ‘blessed garland’ and a shawl as per the tradition and custom of Tamil Nadu, India.
The notorious list comprising Tim's ancestors includes Pedro de Alvarado, the lieutenant of Hernando Cortez of Spain; King Phillip IV, Eleanor of Aquitaine and William the Conqueror. Perhaps most interestingly, King John; the dark force in the story Robin Hood, and also the last Spanish governor of California, a real person fictionalized as the arch rival of the character in Zorro, are in reality both Tim's multiple-great grandfathers.
Others include a Confederate officer in the U.S. Civil War and a decorated 'hero' of the Mexican-American War and the so-called 'Indian Wars'. In fact on the east coast, Tim's lineage with the Slaughter and King families, pre-dates the Mayflower and several members of his family were soldiers in the Revolutionary War. He says his family's past; some of which is very dark; some quite chivalrous, presents a certain responsibility, and that in part drives his desire to see that people in today's world are not exploited or allowed to suffer in silence as victims of Human Rights violations, as people of previous times were.
In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005. Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 23+ countries and regions.
Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide; and maintains that the label 'terrorist' is ill placed in many cases; specifically with the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where it was used as an excuse to slaughter people by the tens of thousands; and in Gaza, where a trapped population lives at the mercy of Israel's destructive military war crime grinder. At the center of all of this, Tim pays extremely close attention to the safety and welfare of journalists worldwide. You can write to Tim at this address: email@example.com. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)