York dance alumna receives the Order of Canada

York alumna Lata Pada (MFA ’96) has been named a member of the Order of Canada. Pada has the distinction of being the first South Asian artist to receive this award. The dancer and choreographer was recognized for her contributions to the development of South Asian dance, and commitment and support of Indo-Canadian community.

Right: Lata Pada

Pada is the founder and artistic director of one of Canada’s leading South Asian dance companies, Sampradaya Dance Creations, and the founder and director of the Sampradaya Dance Academy. Trained in India under gurus Kalaimamani Kalyanasundaram and Padmabhushan Kalanidhi Narayanan, Pada has had an extensive career as a bharatanatyam soloist with more than 1,000 performances in dance festivals worldwide. A resident of Canada since 1964, Pada is an alumna of the Graduate Program in Dance at York University and a member of the Faculty of Fine Arts Advisory Council.

Following the terrorist bombing of Air India Flight 182 in June 1985, in which she lost her husband and two daughters, Pada has also been an active spokesperson for the families of the victims. She has been a strong advocate for an inquiry into Canada’s worst act of terrorism and has pushed for changes in legislation regarding aviation security, law enforcement and Canada’s judicial system.

She has received numerous awards and honours for her contribution to the arts in Canada, including the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Toronto Sanskriti Sangha, the 2006 Best Teacher Award from the Cleveland Tyagaraja Aradhana, the 2003 Professional Woman of the Year Award from the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, the 2000 New Pioneers Award and the 1995 Mississauga Arts Award. Sampradaya Dance Creations was awarded the 2007 Mississauga Arts Award for Best Established Performing Arts Group.

"Lata Pada’s artistry, choreographic versatility and visionary leadership have enabled her to establish South Asian classical and contemporary bharatanatyam as a world art form in Canada. In addition to performance, her commitment to the arts in Canada has engaged her in a range of professional and community-based initiatives both nationally and regionally," said Sampradaya board president Margaret Manson. "We congratulate Lata on receiving the Order of Canada, in recognition of her significant contributions to the cultural life of Canadians."

Founded in 1990, Sampradaya Dance Creations is committed to showcasing bharatanatyam as a world art form that explores contemporary, innovative and diverse movement styles and themes. Pada has fostered and advanced the formation of the South Asian Dance Alliance in Canada (SADAC) and the production of the 2009 DanceIntense conference in Toronto with SAMPAD, the Birmingham, England-based development agency for South Asian Arts.

Her choreography has been featured at the Canada Dance Festival, Luminato – Toronto Festival of Arts & Creativity and the Harbourfront Centre’s World Routes Festival.

Pada is a frequent presenter at international dance conferences and symposia and a leading Canadian arts advocate. She has served on the founding board of the Canadian Dance Assembly (CDA) and continues to serve on the Advocacy Committee of the CDA. She is a member of the International Dance Council (UNESCO). She is a regular motivational speaker and workshop leader for corporate and community organizations speaking on her life, creativity and collaborations in the arts.