Rachel Browne, Artistic Director (1964–1983)
In 1964 Rachel Browne established WCD, one of Canada’s founding modern dance companies. Under her leadership the company grew enormously. By the mid-1970s the company had created the School of Contemporary Dancers, an Apprentice Program, a subscription series, and was touring on a provincial, national, and international level featuring repertoire with local, national and international talent.
1964 Formation of company
1965 Extensive performing in Winnipeg, around the province, and on CBC television
1967 Expo 67 Festival of the Arts in Montreal, followed by consistent national touring
1969 Received first Canada Council Grant
1971 Subscription Series begins
1972 School of Contemporary Dancers and Apprentice Program founded by Rachel Browne and Faye Thomson
1973 Internationally acclaimed choreographers begin to work with company
1974 International touring begins
1980 Canadian Dance Spectacular, National Arts Centre
1981 “Gala” NFB film of Canadian Dance Spectacular featuring Prairie Song by Stephanie Ballard
1982 WCD represented by Robert Jayne and Gaile Petursson-Hiley in Australia
Bill Evans, Artistic Director (1983–1984)
Although Bill Evans tenure was brief, the style of movement in his choreographic work, his coaching ability and his training methodologies had a positive impact on the company. Mr. Evans has returned to teach in the school and the company on several occasions throughout the 1990s.
Tedd Robinson, Artistic Director (1984–1990)
During this time funding for the company peaked, and Mr. Robinson both consolidated WCD’s existing strengths and moved it in new artistic directions. Mr. Robinson established the first Canadian Modern Dance Festival, presented repertoire classics as well as new works from invited choreographers and his own full-evening creations. He also fostered strong and ongoing ties with the School of Contemporary Dancers.
1985 First Festival of Canadian Modern Dance
1985 20th Anniversary Gala
1985 Tour to Mexico
1989 Performance of Robinson’s Lepidoptera at the National Arts Centre, Ottawa
Charles Moulton, Artistic Director (1990–′91)
This was a disastrous year for WCD. Mr. Moulton, with a seeming total disregard for the company’s history, shut Rachel Browne out of the company, required all dancers to re-audition for the company, and left the company with a $280,000 deficit on the season. In addition Mr. Moulton’s choreography was not well received in the community. 1991 also marked the 7th and final Canadian Modern Dance Festival.
Arnold Spohr, Interim Artistic Director (1991)
Mr. Spohr was instrumental in keeping the company afloat after Charles Moulton’s departure. He programmed the first show of the season, made sure dancers were in place, and helped conduct the search for the new Artistic Director.
Tom Stroud, Artistic Director (1991–2005)
In addition to dealing with the financial and artistic challenges from Mr. Moulton’s season, Mr. Stroud restructured the company in a manner that restored WCD’s position in the community while acknowledging the changing face of the dance milieu and the overall reduction in public support. Mr. Stroud reinstated WCD’s subscription series and touring activity on a provincial, national and international level. He introduced audience development as part of the company’s ongoing activity and established co-productions as part of the company’s strategy. In his first few years he also worked with the School of Contemporary Dancers to establish the School as a separate legal entity while retaining a strong artistic association.
1992 Premiere Dance Theatre, Toronto, Canada Dance Festival, National Arts Centre, Songs (Stroud)
1993 30th Anniversary celebration – first co-production with Randy Glynn Dance Project for the creation of Arthur Hill
1994 JOE Project, co-production with Fondation Jean-Pierre Perrealt, Dancemakers and WCD for a five city Canadian tour of JOE, CBC taping for Adrienne Clarkson Show
1996 Co-production with Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault for six city U.S. Tour of Joe
1997 Rachel Browne awarded the Order of Canada
1999 Pan Am New Creation Project , a co-production with Delfos Danza Contemporanea (Mexico), Neo Labos Dancetheatre (New York), and WCD for a three-week residency in Mexico, with performances in Mazatlan and Mexico City, and a six-week residency in Winnipeg with two weeks of final performances
2000 35th Anniversary Festival: six programs featuring local and national artists
2000 Rachel Browne awarded Canada Council for the Arts’ Jacqueline Lemieux Prize
Brent Lott, Artistic Director (2005 – 2017)
WCD’s deficit still had not been tamed when Brent Lott was selected through a cross-Canada search in 2005. A concerted effort over 5 years brought the debt down from 33% to 6 % of operating, allowing WCD to qualify for Multi-Year funding from the Arts Councils. The virtual elimination of this debt also allowed WCD to tour in 2009. WCD has been successful in securing 10% increases from both the Canada Council and the Manitoba Arts Council. On the artistic side, Brent is also credited with broadening the scope of our programming by inviting prominent Canadian choreographers to create works on WCD company dancers as well as perform themselves, strengthening our relationship with the School of Contemporary Dancers through student work placements and apprenticeships, and introducing Random Acts of Dance, where WCD dancers perform in remote locations on a portable stage.
2006 Toronto’s Harbourfront’s presentation of WCD’s In A Different Light, a commissioned full length work by Sharon Moore (part of From The Peg Fest)
2007 WCD awarded the WAC New Creations Fund for new full length work, STRUCK, featuring original score by Christine Fellows, set design by Calvin Yarush, lighting design by Dean Cowieson
2009 WCD embarks on Canadian tour, performing in Regina, Guelph, Toronto, Kitchener, Thompson, Vancouver and Saskatoon
2010 Premiere of Between The Sycamore, Brent Lott’s second full-length creation on a company of five dancers, original score by Greg Lowe
2011 WCD particpates in its first Fringe Theatre Festival with Bash on Regardless to 4 and 5 star reviews. Created by Artistic Director Brent Lott and poet Jaik Josephson.
2012 The season ends with 97 Positions of the Heart and also receives high praise. (2011’s Bash on Regardless was the forerunner to 97 Positions of the Heart.) The WAC New Creations Fund awarded work is invited to Ottawa to be presented at the 2012 Canada Dance Festival.
June 9, 2012 – Rachel Browne, WCD’s founder, passes away while attending the Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa to support WCD and The School of Contemporary Dancers. Subsequently WCD rearranges it’s 2012/13 season to tour a cross Canada tribute show in her honour.