blackbirdonline journalFall 2018  Vol. 17 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts

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back RICHARD CARLYON | Selected Work From Reynolds Gallery

Dick Carlyon
by Chris Burnside

In August of 2001, I was self-producing at the Lark Theater in New York City: eight performances on Friday and Saturday nights for four consecutive weekends. About six weeks before the first performance, I was in a state of major frustration and anxiety as I tried to move the whole venture forward. Communicating with the theater and my press agent (a dicey cross-generational challenge), acquiring mailing lists to send out postcards announcing the performances, hiring a technical director, etc.—all of it was extremely hard to coordinate and implement, especially from the distance of my Richmond home. Because of these difficulties, I was having serious doubts about the wisdom of trying to perform once again in the Big Apple and, even more critically, about the validity and worth of the work I was presenting.

In the middle of my meltdown, as I was walking in the Fan neighborhood, who should I run into but Dick. He listened attentively to all my travails, occasionally responding with that sardonic smile of his, and then said, “I think New York is very fortunate that you’re coming.” Oh my god, WOW! On a dime, my whole perspective was transformed; psychic darkness lifted; and I walked on with an internal bounce to my step, ready to push ahead.

And that was Dick. He ALWAYS knew what to say, and when, to every Artist in this city. It didn’t matter if you were a Sculptor, a Painter, a Fashion Designer, a Choreographer, a Filmmaker, whatever. He had the ability to understand what you were doing and to make critically insightful, supportive comments about your process and your work. It was something we all came to seek, to depend on.

When Richard Carlyon passed away in 2006, something was ripped out of the fabric of our Arts community, and that something has proven to be irreplaceable. I have learned in this life that we don’t choose who we love; it just happens. I loved him. I love him now. And I know scores and scores of Artists in Richmond and beyond who do as well. So, what do we do in his absence? We have conversations with him in our heads; we talk about him and tell outrageous “Dick” stories when we get together; and we try to the best of our abilities to emulate him, to internalize in ourselves some of his brilliance and generosity. A tough act!  bug

Chris Burnside taught dance and choreography at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts for twenty years; he later served as chair of the Department of Dance and Choreography and as assistant dean of student affairs. He created more than forty original works of choreography and performed his solo movement monologues across the US.

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