At some point in their artistic journey, an artist, author, dancer, or creator will receive the question, “Where did you get your ideas?” In essence the questioner is attempting to obtain the recipe for creative inspiration as if a mythological cookbook might capture a list of ingredients that can be mixed together and replicated by the masses. Creative inspiration works in a different way and sometimes the best answer is another creation. Decades ago, the task to answer “Where do your dances come from” was posed to Moses Pendleton, the celebrated dancer, choreographer, artist and creator. He wrote a page long list of phrases, some that rhymed some that didn’t but all holding a lyrical quality. With a deadline approaching he reached out to his friend, Phil Holland, an author, teacher, and voice actor, for assistance in putting the work together. Twenty seven years later, the answer has come to fruition in a new book, which is sixteen cantos and an epilogue married with Pendleton’s superb photography. “The Dance Must Follow” is a beautiful work of synergy between the two creators who seamlessly meld poetry with the photography of nature and dance and provides a unique portrait of a dreamer who gardens, dances, and creates.
I met the author, Phil Holland, at the Five Points Gallery during the artist talk for “Moses Pendleton Photographs and Takes Long Walks in the Country”. Surrounded by Pendleton’s giant images of sunflowers and dancers, Holland and I discussed his then upcoming work. I mentioned that during my interview with Moses Pendleton I noticed that he speaks with a lyric quality and often uses poetic imagery when discussing the creative process. Pendleton studied poetry at Dartmouth and his thesis was about Shelly’s “Ode to a Skylark” so this comes as no surprise. Holland understood what I was describing on such an intrinsic level I now realize I was stating an obvious fact that was just new to me.
Holland has crafted an answer to the question posed to Pendleton by creating cantos which are accompanied with photographs from Pendleton’s voluminous collection. At the end of each canto, the year in which the work was written is inscribed (1983, 1986,1990 etc). We can see the passage of time through Holland’s eyes, through Pendleton’s photographs. Some of the poetry is whimsical. The Pimm’s Canto for instance is a fun description of the sensory experience of enjoying a Pimm’s for the first time. “The Long Hot Summer Canto” creates the frenetic energy of a gardener whose field may perish without immediate action. Like the gardener he describes, Holland tends to each verse, to each word with care and feeling.
In Rebecca’s Canto we see still images of a video Pendleton was creating while Holland’s poetry celebrates the moment
“Rebecca in slow motion lifts
Her eyes up high, and higher
To face the moon while stretching
Her bright body to the fire”
-(from Rebecca’s Canto by Phil Holland)
Today on Saturday 5/23/2015 at 4pm Holland and Pendleton will hold a book launch celebration and sign their collaborative work “The Dance Must Follow” at the Hickory Stick Book Store in Washington Depot, Connecticut. At the book launch celebration, the featured photography will be projected onto a screen while Holland will read cantos and Moses Pendleton will share his thoughts and comments on the work.
I would not be surprised if later on a video project is formed as a continuation of this work. Holland has a youtube channel that showcases poetry and his narration and the visual element of Pendleton’s photography can be breathtaking in any form. However for now I am happy the poetry and photography is in its current form, within the pages of a book. Videos have a tendency to create the desire to binge-watch, to complete in one setting. For me, “The Dance Must Follow” invites the reader to take time with it, to enjoy each Canto on its own, to read it and set it down. To read the next canto with a new story on a different day and set it down. With each visit we are invited to savor the iambic tetrameter and ballad meter and enjoy how the photographs are married to the message, to the story that is conveyed. “The Dance Must Follow” is a must read for poetry lovers, for dance lovers, for gardeners and for those who love to create.
Saturday, May 23, 2015 – 4:00pm
Hickory Stick Bookshop
2 Green Hill Road
Washington Depot, CT 06794