Dancer, choreographer and educator Keith Urban taught at York in the 1980s

The dance community is mourning the loss of dancer, choreographer and educator Keith Urban, who died of cancer on Oct. 28.

American-born, Urban came to Toronto in 1968 as a charter member of Toronto Dance Theatre. During the 1970s, he also performed with Dancemakers and taught dance technique at York University. He joined Regina Modern Dance Works as co-artistic director in 1979 and went on to tour internationally in a duo with Maria Formolo for several years before returning to York. He served as chair of the Department of Dance from 1985 to 1987 while maintaining an active professional career as a performer and choreographer.

Right: Keith Urban – Regina Modern Dance Works, c. 1980. Photo by Frank Richards, courtesy of Dance Collection Danse

Professor Mary-Elizabeth Manley, who was associate chair of the Dance Department during his tenure, remembers Urban breaking new ground by presenting the department’s annual student concerts downtown at Harbourfront Centre. “He was very forward-thinking in this respect, recognizing that the department’s performance work needed to become better known and embraced by the wider community. He really helped raise the profile of York’s dance program,” she said.

Urban later returned to the US, dancing, writing, teaching and practicing yoga. He taught at Stanford University from 1999 until shortly before his death. Memorial services will be held in Toronto, Chicago and California in December.

With files from Amy Bowring and The Dance Current