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Monday, January 24, 2011

Lois Smith (1929-2011)

David Adams and Lois Smith in the National Ballet's production of Antony Tudor's Lilac Garden / Photo by Ken Bell, courtesy of Dance Collection Danse

>> by Michael Crabb
Lois Smith, The National Ballet of Canada’s (NBoC) first prima ballerina, died at her home in Sechelt, BC, on January 22nd after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s. She was 81. Smith and then husband David Adams forged a charismatic partnership that dazzled audiences during NBoC's first decade. The media dubbed them “Mr. and Mrs. Ballet.” Dancing on stages great and small across North America as well as on CBC Television, Smith helped establish NBoC’s reputation as a credible classical company. “She had a beautiful body, grace, line and poise,” recalls Grant Strate, a fellow NBoC charter member and its first resident choreographer. “Lois was truly a ballerina from Day 1.” Smith performed all the major classics but was also much acclaimed as Catherine in Antony Tudor’s masterwork, Lilac Garden. After Adams severed his connection with NBoC in 1963 to dance in Britain, Smith was often partnered by Earl Kraul until chronic injury compelled her to retire in 1969. Smith then opened her own school in Toronto, which was later integrated into the Performing Arts Program of George Brown College. A Vancouver native, she returned to her home province in 1988 but remained active in the dance community as a guest teacher, adjudicator and advisor.
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Across Oceans Choreographic Marathon

>> by Naomi Brand
Across Oceans' Choreographic Marathon took place December 17th through 19th at the Pia Bouman Studio in Toronto. The intensive workshop offered choreographic training for emerging and established choreographers and the opportunity for mentorship by established choreographers. After 26.32 hours of constant creation the w-i-n-s (Works In Nascent States) were shown to the public. Participating choreographers Claire French, Lisa Weiler, Ida Meftahi, Tracey Norman and Janine Saarinen were mentored by Across Oceans Artistic Director Maxine Heppner along with Takako Segawa, Jessica Runge and Susan Lee.
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ahmed Hassan (1955-2011)

>> by Amy Bowring
Composer and musician Ahmed Hassan died on January 12th of urospesis after a lengthy struggle with multiple sclerosis. Born in Cairo, Hassan moved to Halifax with his family in 1969. He entered Dalhousie University to study biochemistry but after a chance encounter with percussionist Ricardo Abreut of Toronto Dance Theatre, Hassan changed course to study music. He was inspired by ancient traditions of music making such as breath work, harmonic overtone chanting, clapping, drumming, didgeridoo, caxixi and berimbau. Largely self-taught, Hassan also studied with Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos in New York who had a significant influence on him. Hassan, in turn, went on to inspire a new generation of musicians and composers such as Debashis Sinha who commented, “His music is a total abandoning of ego and self – he was someone who really gave himself over when he made music.” Hassan was connected to Canada’s dance community throughout his career beginning by accompanying Sara Shelton Mann’s dance classes in Halifax and then Peter Boneham’s classes in Ottawa. Hassan participated in the 1980 National Choreographic Seminar in Banff. He was a founding member of the Vancouver collective EDAM (Experimental Dance and Music) and also composed music for the artists of Terminal City Dance in Vancouver. He moved to Toronto in the early 1980s to work with Desrosiers Dance Theatre where he collaborated with composers John Lang and Jean Dorais, among others. With Lang, he created the music for Desrosiers’ Blue Snake for The National Ballet of Canada; the National Film Board documentary Inner Rhythm records their creative process. Other choreographers with whom Hassan worked include Peggy Baker, Lola MacLaughlin, Jennifer Mascall, Karen Jamieson and Serge Bennathan. His Fourteen Remembered, a requiem to commemorate the lives of the murdered women of Montréal’s École Polytechnique, was performed annually from 1998–2001. Hassan was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis in 1987. He married dancer-choreographer Peggy Baker in 1990 who remained his loving and devoted partner throughout his illness. A memorial will be held at 2pm on January 16th at The National Ballet School’s Currie Hall.
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Flamenco declared World Heritage Treasure by UNESCO

>> by Samantha Mehra
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized flamenco as a World Heritage Treasure. The honour was given during a UNESCO meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on November 16th, 2010. Spain first nominated flamenco for UNESCO recognition in 2005 but was unsuccessful. The 2010 nomination was supported by the government of Spain, where flamenco is said to have its roots, as well as by government bodies in Extremadura and Andalusia, which support the genre by subsidizing flamenco schools and companies. The UNESCO honour was created in 2003 and, through recognition, aims to preserve and protect cultural forms, diversity and traditions that are currently faced with globalization.
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Susan McNaughton (1952-2010)

Susan McNaughton / Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

>> by Samantha Mehra
Dance artist and academic Susan McNaughton died on December 4th, 2010. Born in Toronto, McNaughton received a certificate in piano performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music. Later, she pursued a fruitful career as a dancer, choreographer, model and teacher in Toronto beginning in the early 1970s. Commencing her dance training at the Gladys Forrester School of Dance in the Royal Academy of Dance ballet technique, McNaughton went on to study modern dance with Bianca Rogge and took class, taught and performed with various artists at Toronto Dance Theatre – notably David Earle, Peter Randazzo and Patricia Beatty. McNaughton also taught at the Pavlychenko Studio and was part of its core faculty for several years before its closing. After spending many years as a co-coordinator of the dance program at the Etobicoke School of the Arts, in west Toronto, McNaughton pursued her intellectual interests and took to scholarship, presenting at conferences and publishing several articles, one of which appears in the soon to be released Fields in Motion: Ethnography in the Worlds of Dance (edited by Dena Davida). She completed two Master's degrees at York University, one in dance (2002) and one in social anthropology (2005). Her Master's research in dance focussed on the creation and performance of choreographer Lata Pada's Revealed by Fire. A continual seeker of knowledge, McNaughton was in completing a Ph.D. in social anthropology at York University, where her research centered around the involvement of Sri Lankan Tamil women in the creation of temple-based Hindu worship practices in Toronto. The university has granted her Ph.D. posthumously.
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Lucy Potts (1921-2010)

Lucy Potts, 1964 / Photo courtesy of Canada's National Ballet School

>> by Natasha Frid
A cornerstone of Canada's National Ballet School (NBS), teacher Lucy Potts died on December 21st. Speaking four languages fluently, Potts taught French at NBS from its inception in 1959 until she retired in 1986. She also held the role of academic principal during her career there. She is remembered for taking her male students for a run around the building before class so that they could focus quietly on their studies. She was a key player in the special relationship that developed between NBS and the Bolshoi Ballet, accompanying Betty Oliphant as translator on their first visits to Russia. Originally from Constantinople (Istanbul), her upbringing and education were unusually cosmopolitan; during her school years, she and her mother moved continually between Germany, France and England. Potts settled in the UK in 1938, where she worked as a translator at the international news agency Reuters. In 1941, she married Robert Edmund Kitchener Potts, and in 1952, the couple moved to Toronto with their two children. Her husband died tragically in 1964 at the age of forty-nine. Potts' volunteer work at the University of Toronto earned her an Arbor Award. Potts' daughter, Nadia Potts, attended NBS and became a principal dancer with The National Ballet of Canada, and later the director of the dance program at Ryerson University where she continues to teach.
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Paula Citron FRESH BLOOD award winners

Paul Charbonneau and Merideth Plumb / Photo: Scott McLeod

>> by Naomi Brand
The Paula Citron FRESH BLOOD award for 2010 has been given to Paul Charbonneau for his work A Duet For Merideth. Charbonneau choreographed the work and performed it with Merideth Plumb. The 2010 audience choice award was a tie between Anjelica Scannura and Kyra Jean Green. The two choreographers were each awarded an opportunity to showcase their work at Enwave Theatre in FRESH BLOOD 2011.

Inaugurated in 1996 as the Paula Citron prize, the award was initially created to recognize the accomplishments of choreographers in the fFIDA International Dance Festival. With the demise of fFIDA, the prize lay dormant until 2009 when it was revived for The Chimera Project's FRESH BLOOD.
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Friday, January 7, 2011

Donald Himes (1930–2011)

Donald Himes in his production of Babar the Little Elephant for The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, c. 1986 / Photo by Christopher Darling, courtesy of Dance Collection Danse

>> by Amy Bowring
Donald Himes, pianist, composer, dancer, choreographer, teacher and somatic practitioner, died suddenly on January 3rd. Originally from Galt, Ontario, Himes moved to Toronto in 1952 where he taught piano and then soon began studying Dalcroze Eurhythmics with Madeleine Boss Lasserre at the Royal Conservatory of Music. He then travelled to Geneva to complete his studies at the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze. Himes taught Eurhythmics for several decades at the Royal Conservatory of Music, at the National Ballet School (NBS) when it opened in 1959, and also later at York University and the School of Toronto Dance Theatre. He was considered a master teacher and was awarded the Jaques-Dalcroze Diplôme Supérieur in 2010. In the early 1960s, he performed with modern dance choreographer Yoné Kvietys and introduced one of his NBS students, David Earle, to Kvietys’ work. Himes was among a group of young Torontonians, along with Earle, Susan Macpherson and Patricia Beatty, who studied at the Martha Graham School in New York in the mid-1960s. Back in Toronto, he played accompaniment for Beatty’s classes and performed in the debut concert of Beatty’s New Dance Group of Canada in 1967. A year later he collaborated with composer Ann Southam to write the music for Peter Randazzo’s Trapezoid for the premiere of Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT). He was heavily involved with TDT in its early years and was the first principal of the School of TDT in the 1970s; while there, he created a production of Babar that was performed for several years. In his later years, he used his practice in Feldenkrais to help dancers and musicians move more fluently. In 2003, Himes performed in Dancetheatre David Earle’s remount of Court of Miracles, a work he had performed in many times in its earlier inception. Other performance and directing credits over his career include the Canadian Opera Company, Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, Young People’s Theatre, Stratford Festival and Butternut Square with Ernie Coombs (Mr. Dressup). He is also known for composing the theme song for the popular CBC children’s show Mr. Dressup.
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Ann Southam (1937–2010)

Ann Southam / Photo courtesy of Dance Collection Danse

>> by Amy Bowring
Composer Ann Southam died of cancer on November 25th. A summer music camp at the Banff School inspired the Winnipeg-born Southam to pursue music. After studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto, Southam began teaching at the Royal Conservatory in 1966. She was involved in the beginnings of Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT) having composed the music for Patricia Beatty’s Momentum for the debut concert of Beatty’s New Dance Group of Canada in 1967 and collaborated with Donald Himes on the composition for Peter Randazzo’s Trapezoid for TDT’s first performances a year later. She was composer-in-residence at TDT in 1968 and, over the years, TDT co-founders Beatty, David Earle and Randazzo all used her scores or commissioned her to create original work for their choreography such as Earle’s A Thread of Sand, Randazzo’s Nighthawks and Beatty’s Seastill. Current TDT Artistic Director Christopher House was also inspired to choreograph works to Southam’s music including Glass Houses set to Southam’s music of the same name. Other Canadian choreographers inspired by Southam’s compositions include Rachel Browne, James Kudelka, Peggy Baker and Carol Anderson. Musicians too have been drawn to her compositions including Eve Egoyan and Christina Petrowska-Quilico. Southam was known for her minimalist electronic music but in the 1980s also composed for acoustic instruments as well as chamber orchestra and later string orchestra. She was part of a generation of composers that profoundly changed the landscape of Canadian music. Southam was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2010.
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ArtsSmarts funding awarded

>> by Jacqueline Hansen
In September 2010, The Dance Current took a look at dance in Canadian public schools. Newfoundland and Labrador, which received a D+ from the magazine for its lack of dance in the public school curriculum, was recently awarded $150,001 in grants through the ArtsSmarts program for the 2010/11 school year. ArtsSmarts funding is used to integrate art into non-arts subjects with the help of professional artists in the classroom. Thirty-seven projects will be run in Newfoundland and Labrador schools, making this year the peak for number of projects since 1998 when ArtsSmarts funding in the province began. In total, ArtsSmarts has awarded $1,266,336 to schools throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
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Genée International Ballet Competition 2010

Finalists with judges and faculty / Photo by Elliott Franks

>> by Jacqueline Hansen
November 21st in London marked an annual event for the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) called the Genée International Ballet Competition 2010. Eighteen-year-old Canadian Donald Thom was one of twelve dancers to compete in the final round of the competition, and the only one from Canada. There were no gold medals awarded this year; however, silver medals went to two British dancers, Francesca Hayward for the females and Sean Bates for the males. Hayward also won the Audience Choice Award. Bronze medals were awarded to Lachlan Monaghan from Australia and Orazio Di Bella from Italy.
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Patricia Fraser honoured with inaugural arts award

Patricia Fraser / Photo by Dianna Last

>> by Brittany Duggan
On November 18th, Patricia Fraser was named the recipient of the Robert Johnston Award for exemplary human resources practices in the arts and culture sector. Artistic director of The School of Toronto Dance Theatre since 1993, Fraser has expanded and improved the professional training program while concurrently supporting the administrative, artistic staff and professional artists who teach and choreograph at the school. Praised for her work as an artist, teacher and arts advisor, Fraser was nominated for this inaugural award by Michael Jones, arts program director at the Metcalf Foundation. The award is the first of its kind in Ontario’s arts and culture sector and was created this year by Cultural Careers Council Ontario (CCCO) to honour former CCCO Executive Director Robert Johnston. “I’m deeply honoured and humbled to receive the inaugural Robert Johnston Award. None of us do what we do for reward, but it’s really lovely to be acknowledged for one’s work,” said Fraser in her acceptance speech at The Young Centre for the Performing Arts. As part of the award, Fraser received $1500 and an engraved, sterling silver pen.
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SARP releases final report

by Naomi Brand
The Senior Artists Research Project (SARP) released its final report and recommendations for action, which found that senior artists are at risk.

Some of the SARP findings include:
• 61 per cent of senior artists are at moderate or high financial risk;
• 73 per cent are at moderate or high health risk; and
• 42 per cent are at moderate or high risk with regards to their artistic career or legacy.
The SARP Steering Committee determined that a new organization should be formed to provide needed programs and services.

Initiated in 2006 by a small group of arts organizations, SARP has developed into a three-year research project involving all the major arts organizations in Canada. The project investigated the circumstance, needs and interests of Canadian senior artists. For full report see: