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Thank you Twyla Bella: Experiments Six

Hummingbird on hand-made felt.  Art by Twyla Bella.  Photo by Lee Gass

Last week, I posted a series of five articles in this space, each in some way inspired by Experiments, a dance production expressing the essence of scientific discovery.  It premiered last weekend with three performances at the Dance Centre, opening and closing its Vancouver run.  Perhaps the show will travel, and perhaps it will come again to Vancouver.  The future, as we all know so well, is yet to be seen.

One of the articles was A Story for Twyla Bella, the 6 year old daughter of Experiments’ choreographer Gail Lotenberg.  In it I told Twyla two true stories about hummingbirds trying to keep warm in a long, wet storm in the mountains. A few days earlier, Gail had told me that Twyla loved watching another hummingbird story of mine that she had on a videotape.  That story was also about hummingbirds keeping warm, and it felt wonderful to know that she liked it.  It also felt good to know that Twyla and her friends love hummingbirds, because I spent a long time studying them and I think they’re incredible.

I thought a good way to let Twyla know how much that meant to me was to tell her another story.  And so I did.  Two of them. 

I thought that might be the end of it, but right before the dress rehearsal of Experiments last Wednesday night, I got a big surprise.  Here’s what happened. 

The house lights were already coming down when I saw Alejandro Frid coming in.  He’s Gail’s husband and Tyla’s Dad, and I realized that this was probably Twyla’s only chance to see Experiments (Alejandro came back on Saturday night).  All I could see at first were his bald pate, his eyes, and a great big grin.  When he saw me, he pointed down to where I knew Twyla must be and mouthed “She has something for you!  I hope you’ll like it.”  I mouthed back at him that whatever it was I would love it.

I couldn’t even see Twyla until she was right up to me, because of her dark coat and a dark hood that completely covered her face, like she lived in a cave.  She pulled down her hood so we could see each other, looked me in the eye, and said “I have something for you.  It’s a present, and I made it.  It’s a hummingbird.  I made it in school.”

When she first pulled it out of her backpack I couldn’t see it at all.  But when we went over to a light, I saw that it was a beautiful hummingbird painted on a big, thick piece of dark wool felt, and she had made both of them in school.   It is absolutely gorgeous, in my opinion! 

Your hummingbird is a beautiful piece of art, Twyla, and I love it.   Thank you.

I know how much you love hummingbirds, and how much more you want to learn about them. That makes your painting even more special to me, because I love them too.  Doesn’t everybody?

If you want any more hummingbird stories, let me know.

Hey!  Guess what!  You gave me a surprise, so now I have one for you. 

Right after New Years, a brand new professor named Doug Altshuler will arrive at UBC.  Among many other kinds of flying animals, Doug will be studying hummingbirds.  He already knows a lot about them, just like you, and he wants to learn a lot more.

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