The School of Toronto Dance Theatre announces the retirement of Susan Macpherson

Photo courtesy of Susan Macpherson

Susan Macpherson has been an Artistic Associate at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre since 1997. Her lengthy connection with the School began over 50 years ago, at the beginning of Toronto Dance Theatre, of which she was a founding member.  She began teaching in the School, and continued through the eleven years in which she performed with the company.  After her time with TDT and the School, she performed with the Danny Grossman Dance Company, the Charles Weidman Company (New York), and the London Contemporary Dance Theatre (U.K.).  Her solo dance program, A Personal Collection, was presented in Berlin, Berne, London, Montreal, Munich, Ottawa, Paris, Quebec, and Toronto. 

Macpherson has been active as an advisor, assessor, and researcher for various arts funding bodies.  In 1991, she produced an extensive research paper for the Canada Council that supported the subsequent opening of its funding criteria to include forms of dance other than ballet, modern dance, and experimental dance. She has a B.A. in languages from the University of Toronto, and she has edited several publications of Dance Collection Danse, including two editions of The Encyclopedia of Theatre Dance in Canada.  In 2002, Macpherson received a Senior Arts Fellowship from the Canada Council for the Arts, to research strategies for artistic survival beyond late middle age, and to continue her exploration of intersections between dance and visual art.  Additionally, Macpherson has held teaching appointments at York University and the Université du Québec à Montréal.

After closing her company, Macpherson joined Patricia Fraser on the artistic staff of the School.  As a team, the two have initiated a number of endeavours over the years, including most notably the creation and strengthening of the national consortium of professional training programs in contemporary dance, and the introduction of a youth component for the Canada Dance Festival (CDF). In 2006, at the urging of Fraser and Macpherson, the Festival began to include performances by the graduating students from the consortium training programs; this led to major dance works being created for the “Fifty Dancer Project” by choreographers of national and international renown. The lasting and wide-ranging benefits of this endeavour, which continued with the New Blue Festival, when the CDF took a hiatus, include the significant and extensive enrichment of emerging dance artists’ experience, refreshing and recharging of energy of the consortium directors, and expansion of the vision and national scope of the art form of contemporary dance.  Macpherson has worked closely with Fraser taking the lead on a great deal of the writing and proof-reading associated with directing the Professional Training Program.

Among her notable contributions to the School, she taught and coached students in several of the solo dance works that were made for her during her performing career. Robert Cohan’s Canciones del Alma was performed by 1999 graduate Jennifer Helland, and the James Kudelka solo work, Intimate Letter was remounted for 2012 graduate Jarrett Siddall. Macpherson organized coaching rehearsals for Siddall to work with Kudelka – a remarkable opportunity for the young dancer – and he performed the dance in Older and Reckless at Dancemakers Centre for Creation in 2013.

Over the past forty years, Macpherson has developed a parallel career in sculptural and functional ceramics. On her retirement, she looks forward to expanding her sculptural clay work, and has a forthcoming exhibition in the gallery of the Gerrard Art Space in June 2021.

The tenure of both Patricia Fraser and Susan Macpherson at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre has given several generations of emerging dance artists an inspiring and stimulating initiation into the challenging world of the contemporary dancer. The School will miss their dedication and commitment, and looks forward to returning to Winchester Street to celebrate their contribution when it is safe to do so.


Learn more about Susan’s life and work:

Pecha Kucha: Dance Adventure with Susan Macpherson
Susan Macpherson has been an Artistic Associate at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre since 1997. Her lengthy connection with the School began over 50 years ago. This Pecha Kucha presentation about her life and work was featured at the Virtual Summer Celebration in August 2020.