From our Artistic Director
Since September, our superlative faculty have enjoyed working with returning students, as well as a whole new group of energetic and enthusiastic first year dancers. As you read this, we are in our final preparations for our fall mainstage show, IMPULSE 2014. Darryl Tracy has been working with the first year class on a new creation; second year dancers are working with Kate Alton and Robert Desrosiers, both of whom are commissioned to make new work; and third year dancers will perform in a new piece by Allen Kaeja, as well as in a remount by Danny Grossman of his 1990 work Ground Zero. All of the dancers are working towards the performances with tremendous focus and passion.
We are pleased to profile below our gifted long-time faculty member Helen Jones, talented third-year student Andrew Swan, international graduate Anna Finkel, and another distinguished alumna, Danielle Baskerville.
I hope you enjoy reading about these accomplished individuals, and look forward to seeing you at IMPULSE 2014.
Faculty Profile – Helen Jones
Helen Jones began dance classes in her hometown in Wales at the age of four. She was accepted into the Royal Ballet School full-time program in London when she was ten. Following graduation from the RBS upper school, she continued her training in classical ballet and contemporary dance with master teachers in London, Brussels, and New York.
Over a lengthy performing career Helen danced with companies and choreographers on stage and in film and television, in Europe and North America. Notably, she was a member of the Martha Graham Company, with whom she toured extensively and performed on Broadway and at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Helen was a featured performer with Toronto Dance Theatre in the early 1970s and again in the 1980s. She still infrequently performs, most recently in a solo dance piece choreographed by David Earle for International Women’s Day, and in a yet to be released short film by Aubrey Reeves. On a maternal hiatus from dance, Helen obtained a B.Sc. in psychology (University of Toronto) and attended the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education for the diploma in adult training and development. Helen has had a parallel career as a teacher of professional and pre-professional dancers. She currently teaches at York University, and she has been a long-time faculty member at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre.
Helen admires the School for the “high level of dance, quality, and technique, coming out of the program”, and has always found it to be “a very rewarding place to teach. I feel that I can really relate to the goals in the teaching, and I enjoy working with the young dancers in identifying their skills and strengths through their training in Graham technique.” Through her teaching at the School, Helen hopes that she is able to pass on her own professional experience to the students. She has also created a dance program for children, youth, and adults, in Grey Highlands in the County of Grey, Ontario. “I live in a rural community with no dance for at least 50 kilometres, so it’s been very rewarding to act as a facilitator and collaborator, to work with people who have never danced before and create opportunities for them to dance and to perform.”
As Michele Green wrote in David Earle: A Choreographic Biography, quoting David Earle: Helen “has a genius and a phenomenal instrument…. She has always been a highly inventive and passionate dancer and was one of the first ‘stars’ in TDT to have her own following.” We count ourselves very fortunate to have her as one of the core faculty at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre.
Student Profile – Andrew Swan
Third-year student Andrew Swan was recently awarded the prestigious Hnatyshyn Foundation Developing Artists Grant in Contemporary Dance. The Developing Artists Grant program is designed to provide assistance to the most promising young Canadian performing artists enrolled in a qualified Canadian post-secondary training institution. The $10,000 award is a major honour for the dancer as well as for the School. For Andrew, the School submitted video footage of his performance in excerpts of Nova Bhattacharya’s Sonic Anthem and Louis Laberge-Côté’s Of Animus and Anima.
The School faculty was unanimous in nominating Andrew as an outstanding young artist with tremendous potential for a distinguished career in performance. He has shown himself to be a gracious, intelligent, expressive, and adventurous young man, with an expansive world view, and an ambitious long-range vision for his future. Currently in his third year, Andrew joins graduates Melissa Watt, Colby McGovern, Jarrett Siddall, Paige Culley, and Megan Nadain, who each won the award in previous years, during their time at the School.
Originally from London, Ontario, Andrew began his formal dance training at The Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, and was the recipient of the Investors Group Professional Division Summer Scholarship for the Province of Ontario before joining us at the School. Through his training at the School, Andrew says he has “developed the necessary skills for a professional career in dance, while also nurturing and deepening my passion for the art form as a whole. The School has really opened my mind to all the possibilities of dance. The students, teachers, choreographers, musicians, technicians, and staff have supported and challenged me, and enabled me to explore new areas of thought and investigate my artistic point of view. I am so thankful that the School has given me the confidence, drive, curiosity, and practical skills required to pursue a career in this rigorous creative practice.”
Andrew recently returned from attending the Rosas P.A.R.T.S. summer studio program in Brussels, Belgium, which he says was “a dream come true. To me, it’s important to promote and support all forms of dance, both in Canada and internationally, to build a strong global dance community. The program allowed me to meet other dance artists from all over the world.”
Andrew would like to “thank The Hnatyshyn Foundation for their continued patronage of dance and the arts” and recognize the efforts of “everyone that was involved in this process as well as everyone at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre for making this possible. This award will help me to continue my life-long education in dance, and knowing the impact it has had on me, I plan to pay it forward.”
International Graduate Profile – Anna Finkel
Anna attended Summer School at the School of TDT, which she says cemented her decision to continue dancing. “In class with Pat Fraser, she had us imagine we were somewhere else while dancing a phrase, visualizing that landscape and allowing her to see it through our movements. It was a simple exercise that I had never done before and it was an ‘Aha!’ moment for me; I was totally hooked from then on.” She continued on to complete the Professional Training Program in 2005. During her time at the School, the most valuable thing Anna learned was to challenge herself physically and artistically. “I learned that the edges of my own expression are determined only by me. There were countless times at the School that I moved beyond personal boundaries and perceived limitations through the inspiration and artistic integrity of the faculty and visiting artists. The varied curriculum, from Graham to Bouffon, helped me understand through my body the spectrum of possible textures within me.”
After graduating, Anna worked with Dancemakers, Susanna Hood, Kaeja d’Dance, Sharon Moore, and Kathleen Rea. In 2007, she continued her training in the U.K., dancing with the Transitions Dance Company at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and she earned her Master of Arts in Dance Performance, writing her dissertation on the development of embodied character in devised dance theatre work. Following the completion of her master’s degree, Anna returned to Canada to dance at Le Groupe Dance Lab for what would end up being the company’s final season. Working with international and Canadian choreographers under the direction of Peter Boneham and Tony Chong was inspiring and stimulating for Anna. When Le Groupe closed its doors, she returned to the U.K. and devised and performed three works with the company Lost Dog Dance Theatre. In 2011, one of these works, a duet entitled It Needs Horses, won The Place Prize for dance, a prestigious U.K. award for choreography. Anna has also devised, performed, and toured internationally with Ace, U.K.-based Gecko Theatre Company, and Mad Dogs Dance Theatre.
Most recently, Anna has found herself working primarily in physical theatre. “I appreciate the combination of visceral expression with some capacity of narrative, and the physical theatre I find myself in achieves that for me.” In March 2013, Anna began working with Punchdrunk Theatre, an immersive theatre company, devising and performing in the five-level immersive show The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable, in London, England. In April 2014 Anna relocated to New York City to join the cast of Sleep No More, a long-standing Punchdrunk Theatre show. In February 2015, she will return to the U.K. to tour with Gecko Theatre Company.
Graduate Profile – Danielle Baskerville
After graduation, Danielle continued her education in Europe, studying bone-based movement and the Klein Technique. “I’m interested in continuing to be a very physical dancer as I age, and in recent years I have had fewer injuries because of the different way I have been approaching my body. It’s not therapeutic movement, but rather a way to approach making art without hurting yourself. I’ve started putting this into practice not just in my own movement, but also my teaching.” As a result of a keen enthusiasm for writing and an interest in contributing to insightful discourse on Canadian contemporary dance, she recently went back to school, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, to complete an M.A. in Dance Studies at York University.
Danielle has had an extensive career as a dancer and performer, including particularly formative creative periods working with Roxanne Huimand and David Hernandez in Brussels, and Jan Burkhardt and Renate Graziadei in Berlin. She is currently involved in new creations by Allison Cummings, David Earle, and Deborah Pearson, and has recently performed with Art of Time Ensemble in Toronto; with Trish Beatty in Tulum, Mexico; with Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie in Quebec City; and with The Dietrich Group in Singapore.
Danielle has been named the 2014 Laureate in Dance of the K. M. Hunter Artist Awards, which support mid-career, professional artists who have made an impact in their chosen field and demonstrate an original artistic voice. “I’m exceptionally grateful to have received this award. For me, it feels significant because this is the first time it has been awarded to a performer, rather than a choreographer. Dancers and performers rarely get the recognition they deserve, so I’m very proud of this achievement. There was a time in my career when I made the conscious decision to continue with performing and dancing rather than pursuing choreography and this felt like validation of that decision.”