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Professor Mary Jane Warner helps preserve Toronto's dance heritage

Professor Mary Jane Warner helps preserve Toronto's dance heritage

In Toronto’s thriving dance scene, audiences can catch a world premiere performance virtually every week of the year. Less frequent is the opportunity to see a remarkable work for the second time.

Professor Mary Jane Warner (left) in the Faculty of Fine Arts is a noted historian of modern dance and has worked extensively to document the Canada’s choreographic heritage through videography, notation and writing. In addition to her Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada-supported research, dedicated to the preservation of the masterworks of iconic Canadian choreographers, she currently serves as president of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Heritage Dance collective.

The collective, which has a mission to celebrate the work of Toronto’s senior choreographers, presents its inaugural, self-titled show at the Winchester Street Theatre Sept. 15 through 18. Six award-winning choreographers who have spearheaded the development of modern dance in Canada will gather to share world premieres and revivals in this evening of chamber dance. York faculty member Terrill Maguire joins Adjunct Professor Danny Grossman, Patricia Beatty and Laurence Gradus in showcasing new work, while David Earle and Peter Randazzo remount signature dances from past years.

The Winchester Street location is a fitting venue for the event, as it is the home of Toronto Dance Theatre, the groundbreaking company Beatty, Earle and Randazzo founded in 1968.

“Bringing the three co-founders of TDT together again in the space where the company they started continues to thrive, alongside some of their influential peers, is a poetic and perfect way to launch the performance component of Toronto Heritage Dance,” said Warner.

The combination of historical and new works on the program, created by some of the city’s leading choreographers, reflects both the rich legacy and current vibrancy of Toronto’s modern dance scene.

Maguire will perform her solo Pond Life II to live piano accompaniment by internationally acclaimed pianist, York music Professor Christina Petrowska Quilico. Pond Life II is a reworking of a commission by the late composer Ann Southam that Maguire and Petrowska Quillico premiered at the 2008 Sound Symposium in St. John's, Nfld. Southam wrote the music for Maguire and dedicated it to Petrowska Quilico, who recorded it in 2009 (see YFile, May 5, 2009).

Above: A performance of Pond Life, featuring faculty member Terrill Maguire (left) and Professor Christina Petrowska Quilico at the piano. Photo by Greg Locke

York dance alumnus Michael Sean Marye (MA ‘03) is featured in Earle’s Miserere (1971) along with incoming dance graduate student Danielle Baskerville, who also performs in Beatty’s premiere The High Heart. Having danced with Earle’s company, Dancetheatre David Earle, for over a decade, Baskerville has interpreted works by many of Canada’s finest creators and has performed across Canada and Europe. Marye likewise has an impressive performance record, having danced with and for the vast majority of Toronto’s influential dance artists.


Baskerville was among the dancers whom Earle brought to York in 2008 as part of Warner’s research (see YFile, May 23, 2008). During their residency in the Department of Dance, the company reconstructed two of Earle’s iconic works and taught them to the young dancers in the program. Working under Warner’s direction, the students documented the reconstruction and teaching process in video, interviews and written observations, helping to ensure that these masterworks will never be forgotten.  

“My SSHRC research directly feeds into a treasury of works collected under the Toronto Heritage Dance umbrella,” said Warner. “One of our goals is to have these works performed in repertory. Toronto’s rich history of original choreography needs to be more than history: the works need to be seen by today’s audiences and by the next generation of choreographers and dancers.

“Ballet is still enjoying success in our society because it respects its own history; this is our effort to do the same for modern dance,” Warner said. “We believe that engagement with senior artists is of critical importance for our future in so many ways. No community is whole if any generation has been left out.”

Tickets to the Toronto Heritage Dance show may be reserved by calling 416-204-1082. Admission is $25, students and seniors $20, cash only at the door. Winchester Street Theatre is located at 80 Winchester Street, Toronto.

Republished courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.