My sister, Gail Pickens, was born in Ponca City exactly ten years and one day after I was and she went through the Ponca City School System, graduated from OSU with a degree in geography, and went to work at the Research and Development Center at Conoco in Ponca City in the early 1980's. In 1984 she married Steve Barger and lived for several years right across the street from where I now live on Donner Ave, and her two oldest daughters, Amber and Rachel, were born here in Ponca. After Dupont bought Conoco, she and her husband, were transferred to Victoria, Texas and they eventually ended up in Port Neches, Texas where they reside today along with their son, Derek, and a new daughter Grace.
Gail's oldest daughter Amber graduated from the University of Texas last year with a degree in Business and Marketing and I am so proud of her because she followed in my footsteps and joined the Peace Corps and is now serving as a volunteer in Mongolia. She writes a wonderful blog of her experiences there and I would encourage everyone to read about how this daughter of Ponca City is living and serving in one of the most isolated places on earth.
But I am equally proud of Gail's second daughter, Rachel. From an early age, Rachel took an intense interest in both ballet and modern dance and she was so dedicated and talented that she won a full scholarship to the University of Iowa's prestigious dance program.
This last weekend my wife and I were able to make the 600 mile drive up to Iowa City and watch Rachel dance the lead in the University's presentation of "Estória Cega," an original dance production choreographed by Armando Duarte, based on the Brazilian documentary, "A Pessoa é para o que nasce" (Born to be Blind), about the lives of three blind sisters who earn their living by singing in the streets of northeastern Brazil.
Duarte, a native Brazilian, is a founding member of the internationally known Cisne Negro (Black Swan) Dance Company from São Paulo, Brazil, where he worked for 14 years, received a Best New Choreographer award from the São Paulo Association of Arts Reviewers, and in 1989 was one of the international guest choreographers at the American Dance Festival. He has choreographed 45 original dance pieces and is the Artistic Director of the Duarte Dance Company based in Iowa City.
My wife and I drove up to Iowa City on Thursday and arrived in time to see the premier performance of the work on Thursday night. But we stayed over because we were so impressed we had to see the performance again on Friday night.
On Friday we had an opportunity to talk to Mr. Duarte and told how impressed we were with his work and how sorry that we were unable to photograph it during the performance. Photography had been prohibited during the performance, because with an audience of hundreds of people, if you had let one person take pictures, everyone would have wanted to and the flash photography would have been too distracting to the dancers.
Mr. Duarte had an idea however. The troupe was doing a rehearsal of the dance on Saturday afternoon and he offered us the opportunity to attend the rehearsal and photograph it. We immediately accepted and changed our plans to stay one extra day to photograph the performance. I took over 1,000 photos during the performance and have posted a selection of the best photos on Flickr.