Women of Canadian Dance midday speaker series begins today

Renowned dance artist Patricia Beatty kicks off the Department of Dance’s new midday speaker series, Women of Canadian Dance, today from noon to 1pm in the McLean Performance Studio, Room 244, Accolade East Building.

Fellow renowned dance artists Santee Smith (MA ’04), Lata Pada (MA ’96) and Heidi Strauss will be featured in upcoming presentations of Women of Canadian Dance. Each of the artists will present a public lecture-demonstration about her work, tracing her personal and professional development as a dance artist. All of the presentations are free and take place in McLean Performance Studio, Room 244, Accolade East Building, from noon to 1pm, with Smith on Feb. 26, Pada on March 18 and Strauss on April 1.

Right: Patricia Beatty

Dancer, choreographer and educator Beatty has been a seminal force in the development of modern dance in Canada. Born in Toronto, she pursued dance studies at Bennington College and the Martha Graham School in the US before returning to Canada in 1967 to launch her own company, New Dance Group of Canada. In 1968, she co-founded Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT) with David Earle and Peter Randazzo. Over the years, Beatty created 17 works for TDT, including Painters and the Dance – a unique collaboration of Canadian dancers, painters and composers – for which she won a Victor Martin-Lynch Staunton Award. Her choreography reflects her spirituality as well as her concern for the environment and women’s rights, particularly in works such as Dancing the Goddess (1993).

A pioneering Canadian teacher, Beatty taught at The School of TDT until 1999 and continues to work as independent choreographer and teacher. She is also an active advocate for the preservation of Canada’s dance heritage. She is the author of Form without Formula (Underwhich Editions, 1985), a choreographic guide supporting her mission to bring rigorous study of composition to all modern dance training, as part of an overall regard for the art’s legacy, context and evolution. Beatty was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 2004 in recognition of her ongoing artistic contributions and advocacy for dance artists at all phases of life.

Smith (see the June 3, 2004, issue of YFile) is a choreographer and dancer who presents her work nationally and internationally. A member of the Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan from Six Nations, Ontario, she is the founding artistic director of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre and the founder of Living Ritual: World Indigenous Dance Festival. Her distinctive work is grounded in and inspired by her aboriginal heritage.

Smith attended the National Ballet School and holds a degree in kinesiology from McMaster University and a master’s in dance from York. She began creating and performing her choreography in 1996 and was an integral contributor to the Aboriginal Dance Project, Chinook Winds at the Banff Centre for the Arts 1997 to 2001. Her body of work includes Kaha:wi, Here On Earth, A Constellation of Bones, The Threshing Floor and A Story Before Time. The recipient of the K.M. Hunter Award and the Victor Martyn-Lynch Staunton Award for dance, Smith is currently is in the process of creation for Transmigration, L’Histoire du Soldat and is touring of the The Threshing Floor for the CanDance Network’s Indigenous Dancelands tour.

Left: Santee Smith

Pada, an alumna of York’s Graduate Program in Dance, is a leader in South Asian dance in Canada. As a choreographer and performer, she is a noted exponent of the classical Indian dance form of bharata natyam. Her work is informed by her commitment to bharata natyam as a world art form with contemporary relevance.

Born in Bangalore, India, Pada studied bharata natyam with master teachers Kalaimamani Kalyanasundaram and Padmabhushan Kalanidhi Narayanan. She launched her professional career as a soloist in 1965, a year after emigrating to Canada. She subsequently lived in Indonesia for several years, where she became interested in cross-cultural collaboration, opening her choreography to other influences. Upon her return to Canada in 1979, Pada’s solo dances began featuring bharata natyam in a traditional form married with a more contemporary style. She is also known for her innovative ensemble pieces. Her multimedia work Revealed by Fire received critical acclaim as the most important Canadian dance production of 2001.

Right: Lata Pada

Pada is the founding artistic director of Sampradaya Dance Creations in Toronto and Sampradaya Dance Academy in Mississauga, which she established in 1990. Sampradaya Dance Creations presents solo and ensemble choreography in both classical and contemporary repertoire, and also engages in education and community outreach. The company was named Best Established Performing Arts Group at the 2007 Mississauga Arts Awards.

A Toronto-based dancer, choreographer and teacher, Strauss is co-artistic director of Four Chambers dance project and, since 1994, has worked as a performer and collaborator with choreographers and directors for stage, film and opera. Her solo work has been presented in Europe and Canada, and she has given workshops in Germany, Italy and across Canada.

Strauss has created and set numerous works for The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, where she is on faculty, and Ryerson University, as well as young companies and collectives. Recently she has worked as a movement coach for Necessary Angel Theatre Company, as choreographer for the Canadian Opera Company, and as rehearsal director for Chartier Danse. She has taught movement for actors in the Theatre Program at Humber College since 1999.

Right: Heidi Strauss

In 2005, Strauss’ solo At Last was nominated for a Dora Award. In 2006, she choreographed and performed in the Frankfurt Opera production of Through Roses. Adelheid, a full evening of her solo work, will be presented by DanceWorks this season. She is currently creating a piece for Ottawa’s School of Dance and will be artist-in-residence at the Duncan Centre in Prague later this year.

The Women of Canadian Dance series was organized by York Professor Carol Anderson to complement her integrated undergraduate and graduate course on women of Canadian dance. Everyone is welcome.

For more information call 416-736-5137.