The School of Toronto Dance Theatre marks the retirement of Patricia Miner.

Patricia Miner. This photo is from a piece called Galliard, choreographed by Barry Smith, 1978/1979. It was on the cover of the inaugural Dance Current.

Patricia Miner has been one of Toronto’s key contemporary dance teachers for many decades.  She will retire from her position as Artistic Associate at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre at the end of this summer, though she will continue to guest-teach a reduced schedule of classes. In her capacity as Artistic Associate at the School, Miner has been involved in myriad aspects of the Professional Training Program and the Summer School program. Besides her seminal teaching of every level, she has also played a major role in supporting both the vision of the School and the care for all our students.

Pat’s ideas and methods are reflected in her ongoing work with Toronto Dance Theatre, the School, and a myriad of independent dancers and small companies. She taught for 16 years with the Teachers’ Training Program of Canada’s National Ballet School.

She has spent a lifetime in dance, training with master teachers in ballet, Graham, and Limón, in Toronto, London, and New York. Her performance career includes an apprenticeship with Toronto Dance Theatre, the early years of Dancemakers (which she co-directed with Peggy Baker from 1977 through 1979), an appearance with the José Limón Company, and innovative work with several New York choreographers. She is the recipient of the 2004 Dance Ontario Award.

Pat’s teaching has been fundamental to the development of several generations of dancers who have passed through the School since she began to teach over 40 years ago. We have collected some words of appreciation from a wide array of her former students, and her colleagues.


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CAROLINE LAURIN-BEAUCAGE, 1999 graduate:

Pat Miner was for me the anchor, the stone that could become clay, marble, gravel, mud, lava. A continuous force of nature that would just keep striving with focus within the journey of my dance training. At that time, even if my being was doubtful and unravelling with multitudes of questions, within her guidance I felt support, always coming back to here and now with extreme knowledge. I learned how there is so much power addressing the body within the present time, and there is no point in waiting until tomorrow to integrate a correction. As a teacher, when I question myself, I close my eyes and remember the clarity with which she was communicating. I often think that her presence and dedication are embodied in every gesture that I have been pursuing in my practice for the past 20 years. I still cherish my meeting with Pat. Thank you for your dedication and this incredible knowledge you brought into my practice. 


LOUIS LABERGE-CÔTÉ, 2000 graduate:

Pat, my God… Where to start? Now that I think about it, I realize that with my years at the School and with the company, I have taken your classes regularly for over ten years, which probably makes you the person who taught me dance the most in my entire life. I genuinely didn’t realize this until now as these years just flew by. So many fun memories of visceral balls, “and curve and arch!”, “and 7, and 8, and 9!”, “it’s good, but you don’t need to be THAT serious!”, “and push and punch!”, “and 1st, and 2nd, and 5th, and 5th!” and “sometimes it’s good to just get there!”. Your classes always had a satisfying balance of anatomical specificity, musical precision, challenge, humour, and the pure joy of movement. Throughout all these years, they continually made me want to do better, push myself, savour the moment, and passionately dive into the experience of dance. I can’t thank you enough for all that you have given me and your invaluable contributions to the Toronto dance community. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours, and I send waves of colourful and musical vibes your way!


MICHAEL CALDWELL, 2006 graduate:

Thank you Pat Miner, for the profound impact you’ve had on my artistic career in dance.  You’ve been an inspiration to so many young dancers and fellow teachers in the field, within the city of Toronto and across Canada. 

When first asked to write this message, I consulted with the members of the Crazyfish Collective – a group of fellow classmates from The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, which formed immediately upon graduation. (In fact, the name ‘Crazyfish’ is directly linked to the very first exercise you personally demonstrated to us in Conditioning class.)

We all fondly recalled moments from our time at the School, and realized that you were an integral part of so many memories.  Aside from the ongoing attention to the ‘standing leg’, and the alignment of our ‘vertical pelvis’, we also remember these key words of advice:

‘Sometimes when we dance, we smile.’

‘Yes… dancing hurts.’

‘Don’t tip the soup!’ (… in reference to the vertical pelvis)

I feel honoured to have been your student, and now, as a colleague, I further admire your commitment and dedication to dance – as an art form, as a craft, and as a profession. Your focused attention on the healthy function of the moving body in space is a key underpinning of my artistic practice as an interpreter, and as a choreographer. 

I celebrate your career as a teacher and pedagogue, and I am excited by all that this next chapter in your artistic life will bring…

Thank you.


ERIKA-LEIGH HOWARD (nee Stirton), 2006 graduate:

The first time I had the pleasure to take Pat Miner’s barre class was the summer of 1998. I was an 18 year old high school student, and at the peak of my career in rhythmic gymnastics. I remember waking up early to run and condition in the Beaches, and then rush to class. A few months later I would go on to win five gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. I have no doubt that I was so well prepared thanks to Pat’s technical mastery and artistic skills.

Thankfully, I was able to continue to learn from and enjoy Pat’s classes when I attended the School (from 2003-2006). I feel like Pat Miner laid the foundation for my training as a contemporary dancer. Her voice is the one that is often in my head when I am taking class – or even standing… “vertical pelvis Erika, vertical pelvis”. I am not sure how many times poor Pat had to repeat that, but if I could get a recording of it I would greatly appreciate that, as it’s something I’m still working on!  I also loved the time she reminded me that the Winchester Street Theatre was not the Skydome. Helping me win medals in huge stadiums and then realize subtlety and nuance were all very important skills for which I’ll forever be grateful!  One of my favourite memories was during a little one-on-one session, where we worked on putting eyeballs on the back of my head. It may seem like a simple exercise, but I realize now how that experience influenced my current passion, somatic movement. I was fortunate to intern with the School the year after I graduated, and being able to work with, study and be mentored by Pat in teaching and rehearsal direction was one of the main reasons I wanted to pursue that opportunity.

It is difficult to find words to adequately express the depth of my appreciation and admiration for Pat Miner. Pat had tremendous influence and impact on my life and career as a dancer, and the lives and careers of so many others too. I’m so grateful for her investing in me as an artist and a person.

Thank you, Pat. I hope that I can continue to pass along your wisdom and guide others with the care, attention, and mastery that you have over the years. I hope that your retirement will be filled with peace, adventure, and discovery.


PULGA MUCHOCHOMA, 2009 graduate:

When I came to the School, I didn’t speak English and I had no training in contemporary dance.

Somehow Pat’s class was one of the classes that I felt personally and artistically connected to.

You gave me notes in my first year, and even though I didn’t understand what you said, your message was always clear to me. After three years at the School and eleven years with the company, I am who I am today because of you, Pat. So for that reason I say THANK YOU VERY MUCH for always being generous with me.


YIMING CAI, 2019 graduate:

It’s with heartfelt gratitude that I congratulate Pat Miner on her accomplishments as Artistic Associate of the School. Pat is an icon in the Toronto dance scene, touching minds and moving bodies with the magic she brings to the art of dance. She is truly a master; her decades of distilled knowledge have become the torch that illuminates the field of movement, technique and performance for aspiring dancers and professionals who have had the fortune of receiving her teachings. Her craft is so pure with a humble discipline seen in the early mornings when she shows up in the empty studio, giving time to herself so that she can give the best to others; inspiring, leading by example. Pat is a mentor who gives the dancer the advice they need in the moment, with the space for them to figure and develop as they should. I have appreciated so much more of the human body and dance through her eyes. Pat, you have been so fundamental to my growth as a dancer; it is with pleasure that I carry your teaching with me and I will always look up to you!


JIANNA NEUFELD, 2020 graduate:

I will always remember my second week of class with Pat Miner, when she solved a placement issue that I had spent years trying (and failing!) to correct…in 15 minutes. My body had always felt like an unsolvable mystery, but Pat knew how to crack the code. I realized, in that moment, that I had a lot to learn from this woman, and I was not disappointed. There is no one more caring than Pat. She has the eyes and mind of a hawk, but even more impressive is her intuitive sense of when and how to express what she sees. She cares enough to give you the medicine you don’t want to take, then celebrates your growth with genuine and emphatic enthusiasm, as though you hadn’t fought her every step of the way. She somehow knows when to walk right beside you, when to let you navigate an obstacle alone, and when to tell a perfectly timed joke that reminds you to get over yourself because it’s just a tendu. But the true Pat Miner is revealed in the way that she is warming up before any of the students even arrive, staying late with evaluations and who-knows-what-else long after we leave, and her impeccably thoughtful exercises that begin with, “I was thinking about your correction last night over dinner, and I think this might help.” Even if she had already taught three classes that day and was headed for her fourth, Pat was always willing to drop everything, sacrifice her breaks and coach me through my questions. She embodies commitment, generosity, and active, patient, incomparable care. As a teacher, dancer, leader, and citizen, Pat Miner will always be one of my greatest role models. I am so grateful to have learned from her.


AMBRE ORFAO, 2020 graduate:

Pat is a dedicated, mindful and passionate teacher! She always adapted her classes to the needs of the students, which was wonderful. Her focus on detail and specificity in the movement always captivated me. She found unique goals for each student to challenge them so they could improve and discover new approaches of movement. I’m so thankful for her contribution to the School and the students.


ROSEMARY JAMES:

Pat, you have inspired my own practice of learning and teaching, through your wealth of knowledge about the body, and your insightful observations about dancing. I will miss our car rides home, Cranberries, and occasionally warming up with you in the mornings. Thank you for your support and kindness. You are amazing, and I will miss laughing a lot with you.


PATRICIA FRASER:

Pat Miner is the most brilliant friend and colleague. We have known each other since we were in our early 20s, and I admired her from the moment I met her. My admiration was not only for her dancing ability – which was sublime – but for her incredible work ethic and drive. She was, and continues to be, always entirely focused on the work at hand.

I first came to know Pat by watching her (and Peggy Baker) dance as an apprentice with TDT.  Her long, elegant limbs were a marvel to me and her clarity and attention to detail astonishing.  She worked to reveal the essence of the choreographer’s vision.  I had the good fortune to train with her and Peggy for a summer at The Place, The School of London Contemporary Dance Theatre. That summer was a revelation of the wonders of museums, galleries, and dance performances made all the more potent by training alongside Pat and Peggy.  When she took class, Pat was entirely focused and her inquisitive mind absorbed everything. It wasn’t just her focus that impressed me but I recognized that she was taking ownership of her own learning.  Aha!  What a great lesson!  We three subsequently danced together in Dancemakers, touring in a rattle-trap van with no heat in the dead of winter, performing to thousands of people across the country in venues as varied as tiny, carpeted library rooms to opera houses.  We learned together how to make banana daiquiris in a blender and chocolate cake in an electric frying pan – both essentials of motel-room haute cuisine.  We learned together to jeté backwards whilst appearing to jeté forwards to accomplish all the choreography on a stage the size of a postage stamp, to leave our boots backstage for the next dancer to make a crossover outdoors in the snow in a Saskatchewan winter, and to critically gauge the merit of our work over and over again  but, most importantly, we learned together to teach each other and ourselves, relying on the generosity of our dance company companions as we experimented and reveled in our curiosity about teaching and learning. 

Pat is surely one of the most brilliant teachers I have ever encountered. Ne plus ultra.  She has a very investigative approach; she wants to find out why something works, and why something else doesn’t, and she explores, probes, and studies until she finds a solution, which is always tailor-made for the particular student or situation.  Pat has always been very, very honest; you know exactly where you stand, and you also know that everything she says is rooted in a tremendous kindness, and a desire for the greater good.

Two of my favourite Pat Miner quotes:

“You’re trying, but you’re not doing.”

“Don’t show it; do it.”

Pat has been foundational to the teaching methodology of the School. We are indebted to her, and we will miss her sage advice as Artistic Associate, but she has left us a wonderful legacy and we will hang on to her as a teacher in the program for as long as we possibly can!


PEGGY BAKER:

I wish my memory were better, because I would love to say with certainty exactly when I met Patricia Miner. I know that it was in Edmonton, that Pat had come back from Toronto for the summer (to give classes at the studio of her teacher, Margaret Flynn?), and that we had both taken a summer dance program hosted at the University. I am going to guess it was 1971, which would place it after Pat had been studying with TDT for a year, maybe two, and just a matter of weeks before I left for Toronto to begin training with TDT myself.

What I do remember very clearly is that Pat was a fantastic dancer, way beyond the level of ability and understanding of anyone else in that summer workshop. She and I became friends because we both stayed on in the studio after every class, and she very graciously offered me her help. It was incredibly reassuring to arrive at TDT with our friendship burgeoning, and once again, Pat worked with me after classes as I struggled to unravel the mysteries of Graham technique.

By the fall of 1973 we were both apprentices with TDT, travelling to Europe with the company in June 1974 and staying in London to train for the summer at The Place, The School of London Contemporary Dance Theatre. We made many trips to New York together to study at the Martha Graham School – including classes with Miss Graham, and the blazing and intimidating stars of her company. We danced together in the early years of Dancemakers, including wildly exciting Toronto concerts, and wacky road trips by Volkswagen van to perform in schools, shopping malls, prisons (I missed that tour, but I’ve heard the stories), and even theatres. We went together to summer workshops given by fabulous New York companies, and by the early eighties we were both living and dancing in New York City. Wherever we were, we visited museums and art galleries, took classes, saw concerts, and went out dancing.

When I moved back to Toronto from New York in 1991, Pat had already joined forces with a group of colleagues to form The Teachers Collective, and once again, she was crucial to me as the teacher who helped me sustain the joy of physical practice while turning my attention to the hard stuff. For the 20 years of my solo career she always dug deep to work with me, whether it was on-going training, managing the stress of a performance run, or recovery from an injury.

Pat’s dedication to The School of Toronto Dance Theatre has been epic and unwavering. She has always sought deep exchange with other teachers, dancers, and students to continue growing, and as she did with all of us in Dancemakers, with Maggie Black, Irene Dowd, and very significantly with Darryl Tracy. The insights from this learning have been folded in with her ever-evolving practice for the benefit of her students.

Pat has always recognized every dancer in her class as an individual on a unique path, sharing her passion and serious attention with each of us. I share with dancers who must by now surely number in the thousands, profound gratitude for the richness, care and wisdom that she has brought to our milieu. The impact of her teaching has influenced generations of dancers, and that influence expands through each of us who carry the learning in our bodies.


CHRISTOPHER HOUSE:

Pat Miner is one of the treasures of Canadian dance. She combines a natural gift for teaching with a delightful sense of humour and an inspiring passion for exploring new and better ways of training the dancing body. Her contribution to both The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, the TDT company, and to me personally is incalculable. I salute her achievements and, on behalf of the company, offer our deepest thanks for all she has done.

 

Patricia Fraser (L) and Patricia Miner (R) Vancouver, 1978

Patricia Miner. This photo is from a solo by Anna Blewchamp, taken by Cylla von Tiedemann. 1985