West Coast choreographer Karen Jamieson perhaps said it best when sizing up the significance of online museum Encore! Dance Hall of Fame, newly established to enshrine Canadian dance talent across a broad spectrum of styles. “To bring this idea of fame to this group,” Jamieson told an audience of her peers at the Hall of Fame’s launch event, “gives a shape, a depth, and an action of opening up to this amazing art form. It’s an elevation of dance itself.”
Celebrated for her mythopoetic creations, the Vancouver-based dance artist was one of nine inductees named to Encore! Dance Hall of Fame in a ceremony held in Toronto on March 25. Dancers past and present, among them Evelyn Hart, Guillaume Côté, Louise Bédard, Pamela Grundy, and Deepti Gupta, were among the presenters. Canadian broadcaster Laurie Brown served as emcee.
An initiative of Dance Collection Danse, the national arts organization which former dancer Miriam Adams founded with her late husband and fellow dancer Lawrence in the eighties to record and preserve the country’s fleeting dance history, Encore! Dance Hall of Fame celebrates the contributions made by dancers—and dance lovers—to the development of Canadian arts and culture.
“The personification of the dance is the dancer,” said Veronica Tennant, a former star ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada who is among this year’s roster of illustrious inductees. “If dancers are fighters they are also givers. From day one, we have committed ourselves to a collective.”
Encore! Dance Hall of Fame celebrates the contributions made by dancers—and dance lovers—to the development of Canadian arts and culture.
Underscoring that sense of community imbuing the launch were the other honorees on Sunday’s roster, among them Jerry and Joan Lozinski, philanthropists who have made substantial contributions to Canada’s National Ballet School, activist-choreographer Danny Grossman, Ola Skanks, a pioneering figure in the dissemination of African diasporic dance in cities across Canada, and Rina Singha, the renowned Kathak dancer who in the seventies established a unique dance education program aimed at the deaf.
“I thank God for making me a dancer,” declared Singha, 81, climbing the dais to accept her round glass sculpture award and capturing the surge of passion in the room.
Two posthumous honours were also given, to René Highway, a modern dancer of Cree descent who passed away in 1990 at age 36, and to Alan Lund who became a Canadian household name in the fifties when he performed with wife Blanche, still alive, on televised variety shows on the CBC. The Order of Canada recipient passed away in 1992.
Reaching back even further into the history of Canadian dance, Jeanne Renaud, the Québec modern dance pioneer whose first choreographed piece, inspired by the avant-garde Automatistes art movement, dates to 1946, emphasized the importance of preserving the past for the flourishing of dance in Canada in the future.
More than golden oldies, Sunday’s gala featured live performances from dancers still in their prime, among them National Ballet soloist Jenna Savella dancing an excerpt from Robert Binet’s shape-shifting The Dreamers Ever Leave You, inspired by the paintings of Lawren Harris, and Anjelica Scannura performing Saracen, her self-made solo combining belly dance and flamenco dance traditions.
Those who came before made such innovative movement possible.
“I believe in archives,” said Renaud, who in 1966 founded Le Groupe de la Place Royale, Québec’s first modern dance group and in the mid-eighties co-directed Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, among other achievements. “I believe in history.”
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