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Friday, April 12, 2013

Eva von Gencsy (1924-2013)

>> by Lys Stevens
Eva von Gencsy / Photo courtesy of BJM 
Canada lost one of its great dames of dance on April 11th. Eva von Gencsy is the ballet dancer who fell in love with jazz dance, pioneering the hybrid dance technique of ballet-jazz and co-founding Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal in the early 1970s.

Hungarian by birth, von Gencsy immigrated to Canada in 1948 from Austria, where she had enjoyed an early career as a principal dancer in the Salzburg Landes Theatre. In Winnipeg she joined what was then the Winnipeg Ballet (later renamed the Royal Winnipeg Ballet) and obtained a teaching diploma from the Royal Academy of Dance. Von Gencsy later moved east to join Les Ballets Chiriaeff (later Les Grands Ballets Canadiens) in Montréal, performing on stage and in frequent television appearances.

Beginning in the late 1950s, von Gencsy’s naturally exuberant personality led her to fall in love with jazz dance and she studied with Luigi and other New York City jazz masters. In 1962 she founded her own school in Montréal and, at the invitation of choreographer Brian Macdonald, she taught jazz at the Banff School of Fine Arts until 1975. She founded Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal with former student Eddy Toussaint and dancer Geneviève Salbaing. She served as its artistic director and choreographer until 1979, before moving on to freelance teaching and choreography. Von Gencsy drew worldwide recognition for ballet-jazz through her teaching at universities and schools across Canada, across the US and Europe. She continued to teach movement classes up until her death, including a series of therapeutic movement classes for cancer patients, and a special class hosted by BJM (Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, rebranded several years ago) on March 2nd, 2013, during the all-night festivities of the Nuit Blanche citywide event.

On April 3rd she gave a speech at the Cinémathèque introducing a film on Les Ballets Jazz celebrating its fortieth anniversary and is reported to have experienced heart failure at that moment. She was admitted into Montréal’s Hotel-Dieu Hospital, but died one week later, in the early hours of April 11th. Eva von Gencsy leaves no surviving family members.

A memorial celebration open to all will be held at L’Ecole supérieure de ballet du Québec, 4816 Rivard St., Montréal on May 10th at 5pm. Donations in Eva von Gencsy’s memory may be made either to L’Ecole supérieure or to Hôtel Dieu’s Cardiology Department. Bookmark and Share

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Toronto's arts and culture scene to get $6 million boost

>> by Jacqueline Hansen 
Toronto’s City Council has voted unanimously in favour of increasing funding for the arts by $6 million. The money comes from a billboard tax, unique to Toronto, that the city approved in 2009; however, outdoor advertisers launched a legal challenge to protest paying it, which delayed its implementation until the city won an appeal in the case. City Council had previously discussed directing proceeds of the billboard tax to arts initiatives, but hadn’t made the decision final until now. Four million dollars of the new funding will go to the Toronto Arts Council’s (TAC) grants program, which will reach $14.3 million in 2013. A TAC-issued press release states that the increase will allow the funder to "begin to address funding inequities amongst currently funded organizations while also providing new support for culturally diverse arts organizations, youth, artists working in the inner suburbs and community engaged arts projects." The remaining $2 million will go toward other cultural programs. The municipal financial target for arts support is $25 per capita by 2016. Mayor Rob Ford has referred to the arts funding in the city’s latest budget as a tool “to make Toronto an even more attractive place to live and to invest and create jobs.” 
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Christine Moynihan named new GM of STDT

>> By Samantha Mehra
The School of Toronto Dance Theatre (STDT) recently announced Christine Moynihan as its new general manager as of April 8th. Moynihan, in addition to her time as an actor and producer, enters her new role with a long history of experience in arts administration. From 1988 to 2002, she served as artistic producer of Equity Showcase Theatre, followed by a ten-year term as executive director of the Dance Umbrella of Ontario; she also acted as an arts consultant for Toronto-based dance companies. Moynihan is the recipient of both The Harold Award and the Brenda Donoghue Award, both of which recognized her outstanding service to the theatre community.
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Meagan O'Shea receives K.M. Hunter Award

>> by Cynthia Brett
The K.M. Hunter Artist Award recipients were announced last week and Meagan O'Shea is this year's dance division honouree. The award, bestowed annually to six artists of different disciplines (dance, film/video, literature, music, theatre and visual arts), was created in 1995 to support and encourage mid-career artists in Ontario who have made an impact and shown originality in their chosen artistic field. O'Shea and five other recipients each receive $8,000 and will be honoured at Toronto's Gladstone Hotel in May.
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FTA wins Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de Montréal

>> by Naomi Brand
The Festival TransAmériques (FTA) has won the twenty-eighth Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de Montréal for its work in increasing the visibility of contemporary theatre arts and dance worldwide. The jury recognized Marie-Hélène Falcon, the Festival’s executive and artistic director, for her achievements over the past thirty years. As winner of the Grand Prix, FTA will receive a bursary of $25,000. Among the finalists was BJM - Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, which received $5,000. The prize recognizes the excellence and achievements of Montréal's artistic organizations within nine arts disciplines: circus arts, visual arts, digital arts, film and video, dance, literature, music, theatre, and new artistic practices.
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Dance for Good

>> by Samantha Mehra
From March 12th through 28th, 2013, participants in hospitals, shelters and hospices in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia benefited from seeing and learning Bollywood jazz dance as part of the new initiative Dance for Good. Organized by contemporary Indian dance choreographer Shiamak Davar's Victory Arts Foundation (a not-for-profit Canadian organization), the project brought together teachers, students and the Shiamak Dance Team in an effort to demonstrate the "transformative effect of dance." Dance for Good gave participants a chance to view Bollywood jazz dance performances, as well as the opportunity to learn choreography and interact with performers. Participating organizations included St. Michael's Centre Hospice, the Downtown Eastside Women's Shelter and the BC Children's Hospital's Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children. A public demonstration of the Dance for Good program was held on March 23rd at the Capilano Mall, featuring a free showcase of the Dance Team. In a press release, Davar outlined the significance of the initiative: "As the name suggests, Dance for Good is a program where an individual or a group can dance for a good cause ... our aim is to share the joy of dance, to empower the performers, to encourage the spirit of volunteerism, and to bring communities together through music and the performing arts."
More: shiamak.com
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Sunday, March 24, 2013

VIDF presents new Choreographic Award

>> by Samantha Mehra
The Vancouver International Dance Festival (VIDF) recently announced its inaugural Choreographic Award, which recognizes (biennially) outstanding artistic achievement in choreography. On March 5th, 2013, Michelle Olson, artistic director of the Vancouver-based Raven Spirit Dance, was presented with the first award in recognition of her choreographies, which were influenced by the culture of the Yukon Territory’s Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in peoples. The VIDF, a festival that features local, national and international contemporary dance artists, ran from March 2nd through 23rd, 2013.
More: vidf.ca
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