In 1983, under the banner ENCORE! ENCORE!, research was begun into choreographies created by Canadian dance artists working in the 1940s and 1950s for the purposes of preserving their works through reconstruction, notation, videotape and photography.
Assuming the enormous task of uncovering Canada's fleeting theatrical dance story, as well as recognizing the importance of disseminating this information, DCD, with the assistance of the Laidlaw Foundation, began the task of interviewing dance pioneers as well as gathering documentation of their choreography.
The work of six Canadian choreographers was chosen, based on existing records, e.g., notes, film, photographs, music scores, and the availability of the original choreographer and/or dancers. These artists were: Gweneth Lloyd, Nesta Toumine, Nancy Lima Dent, Françoise Sullivan, Jeanne Renaud and Boris Volkoff. Following three years of research, studios were rented and dancers were hired to learn the works. Choreographic directors David Earle, David Adams and Daniel Jackson were employed to oversee the reconstruction rehearsals. The complete choreographies were then notated and videotaped.
The rehearsal process took 7 weeks in entirety and the resulting documentation has set an historical benchmark for Canadian choreography.
From this work, DCD produced a show based on the early Canadian dance story titled There's Always Been Dance and it was performed at the Canada Pavilion at Vancouver's EXPO '86. Featuring Jackie Burroughs, Vanessa Harwood and Ricardo Keens Douglas, the 40-minute show was choreographed by Anna Blewchamp and written and directed by Jim Purdy.
As a result of the reconstruction research, the DCD offices automatically became the focal point as a repository for Canadian dance history, and a mandate was outlined by the Board for the future preservation of the Canadian theatrical dance record.
In 1986, The Living Museum concept was outlined. Dedicated to "using new technologies to tell an old story", DCD's role as an archives and distributor was established.
DCD published and distributed its catalogue of archival resources, and was invited to do dance history workshops at universities, performing arts schools and conferences. As well, requests for information were coming from the profession, the media, dance scholars, university students, writers and public school teachers.
In the late 1980s, DCD began its electronic publishing program. This method was adopted since it seemed to be the trend. Jill Officer's Encyclopedia of Theatre Dance in Canada; two editions of Just Off Stage, which included early articles and essays on dance personalities; Felix Cherniavsky's Did She Dance (about Maud Allan and her art); Bernadette Carpenter's 1950s SPOTLIGHT Newsletters; and Rosemary Deveson's Dancing for de Basil were published on computer disk. DCD also established The Arts Network, which used a virtual Bulletin Board as a means of electronic communication.
In 1992, DCD began publishing books in print and has now published 37 titles. Dance Collection Danse Magazine is the vehicle through which DCD disseminates articles about its archival work, its new books and research on the Canadian dance story. Authors are commissioned to write pieces for publication. The Magazine is freely distributed and is also used for private fundraising.
Over the years, DCD has been invited to exhibit materials from its archival collections. The organization was involved in a touring exhibition assembled by the Association of Performing Arts Archivists entitled, Putting it Back Together. We produced a videotape for the exhibit and provided notation scores, photos, and Nesta Toumine's 1918 costume from Bluebeard. This exhibition toured galleries in Ontario and travelled to Canada House in London, England. Organizations involved were The Stratford Festival, The National Ballet of Canada, The Canadian Opera Company, University of Guelph Theatre Archives, among others. We have provided historical photographs for displays at the O'Keefe Centre (now the Sony Centre), the National Arts Centre, and Dance History Scholar's Conference at Ryerson University. We assembled a collection of contemporary posters from the Dance in Canada Association for an exhibit at the Performer's Gallery in Regina and provided materials for the Theatre Museum's 2002 Exhibition at Toronto's Wintergarden Theatre.
DCD has had requests for its documentation of choreographies and research materials from artists and others wishing to reconstruct works. Projects include works by Judy Jarvis for Gina Lori Dance Enterprises, Danny Grossman Dance Company, Denise Fujiwara; Nesta Toumine for University of Waterloo; and Gweneth Lloyd for Anna Blewchamp's major research and reconstruction of Gweneth Lloyd's 1942 work The Wise Virgins.
Requests are also received from university professors and public school teachers requiring reconstruction videotapes and photographs for dance courses. DCD has supplied its reconstruction tapes of Françoise Sullivan and Jeanne Renaud for a Montreal television production, for a course at York University on Les Automatistes, as well as for restagings.
On an ongoing basis, DCD accepts the donation of materials from individuals and organizations for the Archives. These are inventoried, some transferred to the electronic archives, and used by researchers for specific projects and general information.
DCD is committed to the ongoing process of preserving works of artists through documentation so that the bank of work for future reference and performance continues to grow. We also encourage artists and organizations to attend to the preservation of their work.
The past twenty years has intentionally focussed on reaching as far back as is possible and finding those individuals who could provide first-hand accounts of the first half of the century.
As DCD is "catching up", our research is now focussed on the 1960s and 70s, we are facing a new frontier.
The 1970s was a boom era for dance in Canada. Government funding provided opportunities for more companies and independent artists to create work. It was also the beginning of the establishment of ongoing university dance programs. The Dance in Canada Association was founded in 1972, hosting annual conferences with performances by companies and independent choreographers from across the country, and as well, several modern dance festivals took place. This era was also the beginning of the careers of many of the senior artists working today.
This 1970s research introduces a new mode of collecting, primarily due to the introduction of videotape, providing the ability to see work, and also because more written material was produced. Therefore, these records will provide a way of studying and analyzing the working methods and aesthetics of the creators.
Lawrence Adams passed away in 2003. He had danced with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and the Joffrey Ballet in addition to The National Ballet of Canada. He served for many years as a board member of the Dance in Canada Association in the 1970s. An iconoclast and an instigator, Lawrence was a mentor to many artists, writers and scholars, and spurred people on to create new initiatives and develop many projects related to Canadian dance history.
A special thanks is owed to the late Nick Laidlaw, without whose foresight and gumption none of this would have been possible.
The Founders, Co-Directors: Lawrence Adams, Miriam Adams
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Dance Collection Danse is a federally incorporated charitable organization. Charitable registration number: 86553 1727 RR0001.