DEVELOPING ARTISTS GRANTS
Grant Strate, CM, FRSC
Member of the Order of Canada, 1994
Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada,
Academy of Arts and Humanities, 2006
LLB – University of Alberta, 1950
For half a century, Grant Strate has had a profound impact on the evolution of dance in Canada. His creativity and initiation of various dance institutions has indeed transformed the art of dance and dance education in this country and overseas. A charter member and first resident choreographer of the National Ballet of Canada, he founded Canada’s first degree program in dance at York University, directed the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC, and founded the Vancouver Dance Centre. A tireless mentor and inspiring visionary, Strate has created more than 50 ballets that have appeared on stages around the world and he has been a tactful presence on arts and dance committees nation wide. He brought a Canadian perspective and modern dance esthetic to his work, the best known of which are Ballad, The House of Atreus, Bird Life, and Cyclus.
Born in Alberta, Strate rejected a future as an Edmonton lawyer to join the new National Ballet of Canada in 1951. He had studied dance with Laine Metz, a student of German expressionist Mary Wigman, and within two years because a soloist, and later teacher and resident choreographer (1964-1970) with the company. After almost 20 years with the National Ballet, he left the company in 1970 to join York University to develop the Department of Dance. The professor of dance at York (1970-1980) was the founding chair of the country’s first university dance program, known for the strength and excellence of its teachers, guest artists, and facilities. He also became founding chair of the Dance in Canada Association in 1973 and launched the National Choreographic Seminars, creative hothouses held at various locations that encouraged artistic experimentation and brought together choreographers, composers, dancers and musicians, the first seminar of which was held at York in 1978. After spending 10 years at York, he accepted an offer from Simon Fraser University to direct the Centre for the Arts (later renamed the School for the Contemporary Arts), where he oversaw the creative disciplines of dance, theatre, music, and film from 1980 to 1989, followed by the university’s Contemporary Arts Summer Institute, 1989 to 1995.
Strate has been a choreographer at many of the top dance companies and schools around the world, including Studio Ballet, Antwerp, Belgium; New York’s Julliard School of Dance; Royal Swedish Ballet, Stockholm; the Laban Centre in London; and Toronto Dance Theatre, Dancemakers and many other Canadian dance companies. After retiring from Simon Fraser in 1994, he continued to teach and choreograph in Vancouver and be involved in the dance community in Canada and abroad. He was artistic adviser to the Sichuan Dance Academy in China for many years, served on the Canada Council’s dance advisory committee (1993-1997), the Federal Task Force on Professional Training in the Cultural Sector, and the boards of the Vancouver Dance Foundation and the Dancers’ Transition Resource Centre in Toronto. In 1999, he was elected president of the World Dance Alliance-Americas, a post he held to 2003. The author of numerous articles on dance, he also wrote China Dance Journal (1997); the preface to Carol Anderson’s 1998 book Rachel Browne: Dancing Toward the Light; and Grant Strate: A Memoir (2002).
Described as the father of dance in Canada, Strate has received many awards and honours recognizing not only the artist, but also the activist and advocate who has generated new opportunities in education, training, and performance. Early awards include the Centennial Medal in 1967, Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal, 1977, Ontario Dance Award, 1979, Dance in Canada Award in 1984, and Canada Dance Award, 1988. He was the first recipient of the Chalmers Award for Creativity in Dance in 1993; was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 1994; was honoured with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 1996; and, in 1999, was co-winner of the Canada Council for the Arts Jacqueline Lemieux Prize and recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree from Simon Fraser University. Most recent honours include the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 from CORPS de Ballet International, the professional organization of ballet teachers dedicated to the development, exploration, and advancement of ballet in high education; and, in 2006, fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada. The citation for his honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser quoted Canadian dancer Veronica Tennant: “Grant Strate has been instrumental in putting Canadian dance on the map. More than that, he defined, detailed, and expanded that map.”