“Storytelling’s been around since people gathered around the first campfires,” explains local arts figure Gary Dalton.
“The magic is in the rhythm of the poetry, and the ease in which it emphasises itself … it’s its own background music! It fits in the mutual imagination of the presenter and the audience, and the community it creates is what makes it work, then and now.”
Dalton, long known throughout the East Kootenay for his work in the performing arts, will present his engaging storytelling talents at Lotus Books in downtown Cranbrook in time for Sam Steele Days.
“My father used to recite the stories and poems of Robert Service and Rudyard Kipling,” Dalton recalls. “My grandfather used to hear a good poem on the radio and recite it to us kids later. I come from a family history with a love for language and poetry. I’ve done storytelling in many different forms; years of stage and street theatre at Fort Steele, as well as several performances at the Proctor Storytelling Festival on Kootenay Lake.
“I’m not necessarily looking into returning to regular performance. This has always been a labour of love for me, and I wouldn’t really have thought of doing it if I hadn’t been asked by the kind folks at Lotus Books.”
Dalton also notes that storytelling has a long history locally. “I have huge respect for the oral traditions of the First Nations. They’ve passed along their history and their legends orally over thousands of years. It’s a culture that breathes and lives and dances to stories.
“I have always admired and been inspired by storytellers from the Ktunaxa Nation, such as Leo Williams and Joe Pierre.”
And with the constant desire for human communication sculpting much of our current culture in the age of the internet, Dalton is quick to point out that a timeless pursuit such as storytelling is absolutely relevant in the 21st century.
“This goes beyond tweeting or texting and all of that. This is a direct rapport between the speaker and the listener, and you can’t do it with technology getting in the way. This is an opportunity to use language and imagination as the tool to make this work, and it’s incredibly addicting to both the presenter and the audience.”
Gary Dalton performs live storytelling sessions this Saturday, June 21 at Lotus Books (33-10th Avenue South, downtown Cranbrook); showtimes 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. Bring the family!