Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What is a mentor?

Just before Christmas I learned that my friend, colleague, and mentor, Robert Davidson, had died suddenly. The news literally took my breath away. Then I remembered that Bob would have told me to keep breathing.

This picture is from a 2013 film shoot we did for Passages, which premiered in 2013. 
Photo by Cristobal Vivar /

Bob was the type of mentor who could straddle being your friend and role model at the same time. He could be simultaneously lighthearted, catty, and generous. I, like most of his students, loved him.

At the time Bob agreed to be in Passages we hadn't seen one another for 20 years. However, we had been in touch often via email. I would write with questions about teaching Skinner Releasing with trapeze and he would answer with suggestions. So, when he arrived in the summer of 2013 to work on the film we made for Passages, we went into the studio and picked up exactly where we had left off - improvising our way while also remembering to float our skulls and breathe.

Photo below by Fred Hatt

I knew we were lucky to have Bob for Passages and he proved himself invaluable in our process. He made suggestions that were exactly what we needed, worked with other cast members on the side to solve problems, and kept his light touch while adding to the artistic integrity of the work. Of course he also performed wonderfully.

At left: Bob with Michael Fulvio in their duet from Passages
Bob took to the transition from trapeze to harness with ease,
and always brought out the beauty of aerial work through his effortlessness.
Bob will be missed mostly because he was so damn much fun. He could be slyly funny with his creative endeavors outside of the theater. He confided with me about how he had convinced the folks in his condominium development to allow him to garden and to paint a few buildings. "They are pink!" he told me delightedly.

At right: Bob playing tag while in the harness with cast member Rojo Vivar during the filming for Passages in 2013.

Photo by Cristobal Vivar /

Since learning of his passing, anger keeps rising inside me. 
I think, "Why, when we are about to inaugurate Trump are we losing Bob?" It makes me want to throw things across the room. Then I remember that I need to step up. I cannot fill his shoes but I can continue to follow his path.

At left:  Bob with Tamara Figueroa during our 2013 film shoot.
Photo by Cristobal Vivar /

I met Robert while doing my undergraduate work and was introduced to trapeze while featuring in his first aerial ballet, Meister Eckhart. I studied with him outside of the university including during my time becoming certified in Skinner Releasing. He continued to share his releasing knowledge with me while acknowledging and celebrating my own artistic growth. This is exactly what one wants in a mentor. It is also what one wants in a friend. I will miss him terribly.

You can see Bob in our film from Passages HERE.

Robert Davidson was a master teacher, musician, aerial dance performer and choreographer and was the Head of Movement at the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver from 1997-2012. Prior to that he was director of his own aerial dance company, touring nationally and internationally, and received numerous grants and creative fellowships. Throughout his career he collaborated with many diverse theatre directors and acting teachers on hundreds of classical and experimental projects. His expertise lay in teaching Skinner Releasing Technique, movement improvisation, and aerial dance on low-flying trapezes. A member of Who’s Who for life, he gardened passionately in Denver whenever the weather allowed. 

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