Since its earliest days, Toronto Dance Theatre has had a profound influence on dance in Canada. The company’s dances and dancers have been inspirational, while the founders’ legacy is a rich endowment of potent, original dance.
In 1968, Patricia Beatty joined forces with David Earle, another Torontonian who had pursued his love of modern dance in New York City, and Peter Randazzo, a dancer with Martha Graham’s company. Their company, Toronto Dance Theatre, gave its inaugural performances on three Monday evenings, December 2, 9 and 16, 1968, at Toronto Workshop Productions Theatre. On these programs were Beatty’s Momentum, an adaptation of the Macbeth story with music by Couperin, Rameau, and Toronto composer Ann Southam; David Earle’s Mirrors, with music by J.S. Bach; Earle’s Recitation, with music by Ann Southam, and his Angelic Visitation #1 and #2, with music by Frank Martin and Ned Rorem; Peter Randazzo’s Trapezoid, with music by Donald Himes and Ann Southam; and Grant Strate’s Primordial, with a score by Andre Prevost.
The founders established the company to expand their creative resources, and in essence, TDT was a model of how one company might simultaneously serve different artistic visions. Fundamental to the company was a sense of shared ideals. While modern dance was very young in Canada, Beatty, Earle and Randazzo advocated the idea of dance as a serious art form. They wanted to develop artists of scope and depth, as well as performers who could teach. The founders were devoted to the power of the training Martha Graham had evolved to form dancers who could express her mythic, poetic vision. Inside this framework of ideals, the three choreographers poured forth an astonishing reservoir of new dances. Their individual visions were characterized by creative collaborations with extraordinary Canadian composers and designers. The chiselled earnestness of Patricia Beatty’s dances, the provocations of Randazzo’s dramas and send-ups, and the lush impasto of David Earle’s epic choreography were distinctive from the company’s first performances.
TDT immediately became a magnet for talented dancers; the first company members were charismatic and stellar, their electrifying sensuality and drama a revelation to the company’s amazed audiences. Exceptional dancers have illuminated succeeding seasons, and exquisitely talented dancers have continued to fulfill the founders’ desire to nourish artists with heart and the power to move audiences. In 1981, the founders saw the potential in a young dancer by the name of Christopher House, giving him the position of resident choreographer with the company.
The Professional Training Program of The School of TDT was established by David Earle in 1979 as a separate entity from the company, with their shared core of language drawn from Graham technique. The School has served as the foundation and inspiration of generations of dancers.
+/- Patricia Beatty (Founder, Artistic Director 1968-83)
Patricia Beatty graduated from Bennington College with a degree in Modern Dance Choreography and Performance. She studied for 5 years at the Martha Graham School in New York City, dancing with a number of independent choreographers there. Her longest association was with The Pearl Lang Dance Company where she became a soloist and Ms. Lang’s teaching assistant. She returned to Toronto in 1967 and started the New Dance Group of Canada.
Beatty’s commanding, womanly presence was an integral part of early TDT’s early impact. A pioneering Canadian teacher, she continued to teach at the School of TDT until 1999. Beatty is the author of Form without Formula, an elegant choreographic guide; it is one facet of her mission to bring rigorous study of composition to all modern dance training, as part of an overall regard for the art’s legacy, context and evolution.
Her own choreography has been marked by meticulous attention to detail. First Music (1969), set to Charles Ives’ enigmatic The Unanswered Question, was presented at the Joyce Theatre, New York, in November 1991, while Beatty’s Against Sleep (1968) was re-staged in November, 1998, for TDT’s thirtieth anniversary performances, and again in 2012 at the Harboufront Centre.
Collaborations with composers and visual artists have been important to her; Painters and the Dance (1983) brought together artists Graham Coughtry, Gordon Raynor and Aiko Suzuki. Seastill (1979) and Skyling (1980) initiated a phase of increasing concern with “the deep feminine energies emerging at the spiritual forefront of our age.” Gaia (1990), Mandala (1992) and two editions of Dancing the Goddess (1993, 1995) signify her commitment to animating spiritual dimensions. In the fall of 2004, in recognition of her ongoing artistic contributions and advocacy for dance artists at all phases of life, she was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.
+/- David Earle (Founder, Artistic Director 1968-83, 1987-94)
David Earle’s dance has often seemed like weather; epic storms and sweeps of sculptural, impassioned motion. Inspired by childhood experiences with Dorothy Goulding’s Toronto Children’s Players, by the humanist ideals of José Limón, with whom he studied and danced, and by the concentrated poetics of Graham dance, Earle created almost a hundred dances for TDT. Dances including Baroque Suite (1972), Ray Charles Suite, Fauré Requiem (1977), Sacra Conversazione (1985) set to the Mozart Requiem, and Court of Miracles were much-loved standards in the company’s repertoire. Sunrise, for which Earle received the 1987 Dora Award in New Choreography, marked a departure from the romanticism of earlier work; later works have introduced haunting images of despair, anonymity and loss.
David Earle was TDT’s sole Artistic Director from 1987-1994, and gave his last TDT performances in December 1996. In 1997 he launched Dancetheatre David Earle, a vehicle to nurture new dance creation, his own and that of choreographers who share his ardent humanism. He has since started a whole new dance scenario, creating more than thirty new works by commission, in collaboration with symphonies and other musical ensembles, and animating new venues for dance performance. He established Temple Studios, a centre for dance creation and teaching, in Guelph, Ontario in 2001. David Earle continues to be sought after as an inspirational teacher. In 1996 he was awarded the Order of Canada. Queen’s University, Kingston, awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Laws on June 3, 2005, acknowledging his active belief that the arts are essential to life, and to the future of the planet.
+/- Peter Randazzo (Founder, Artistic Director 1968-83)
From his background as a dancer in Martha Graham’s company, Peter Randazzo burst intoToronto as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. Between 1968 and 1993, Peter Randazzo created more than forty works for TDT – in the company’s first years he was the most prolific of the three founding choreographers. His dances were by turns dark, comic, surreal and boldly provocative. Early works such as Visions for a Theatre of the Mind (1971) and Mythic Journey (1974), were serious and abstract, paying homage to his artistic foundations in the work of Martha Graham.
Randazzo’s deepening interest in evoking dramatic situations developed in A Flight of Spiral Stairs (1972) and The Letter (1974). Works of visual art inspired some of Randazzo’s most stunning choreography. L’Assassin Menacé (1975), based on paintings by René Magritte, was a surreal romp, and is considered a Canadian classic. The choreographer, mercurial and satyr-like onstage, originally cast himself in the work, and danced an unforgettable interpretation of the role of Fantômas. Randazzo’s Nighthawks (1976) set the melancholic midnight world of Edward Hopper’s paintings into motion. A Simple Melody (1977) was a caprice inspired by images of antic superheroes, and has been re-staged by the Danny Grossman Dance Company, and for Ryerson Dances. Still later Randazzo became fascinated by musical minimalism. Moving to Drumming (1980) and Octet (1980) challenged the boundaries of dancers’ virtuosity and his dynamic, relentlessly kinetic movement style. In 1988, Randazzo, along with Beatty and Earle, received the prestigious Toronto Arts Award, for their contributions to Toronto’s artistic vitality, and for having changed the face of dance in Toronto.
+/- Kenny Pearl (Artistic Director 1983-87)
Kenny Pearl began dance studies with David Earle and Patricia Beatty, and at the National Ballet School. After graduating from the University of Toronto he went to New York to dance, and stayed for thirteen years. He toured internationally with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, danced independently, and with the Martha Graham Dance Company. He studied acting, performed comedy cabaret, and after his 1981 return to Canada, spent a season at the Stratford Festival. He has taught at the Martha Graham School, the Juilliard School, the Ailey School, and at the New York High School of Performing Arts. A frequent guest teacher in Vancouver, he has also taught in Montreal and Quebec City, and since 2002, has taught the graduating class in the dance program at Ryerson University. He was the Artistic Director of the School of TDT in 1991 and 1992, and taught in the School for the next decade.
Kenny Pearl was TDT’s Artistic Director from 1983-1987, beginning at a very challenging time. Through his leadership financial stability was restored and the company’s artistic profile was raised through successful international touring. His distinctive artistic vision nurtured TDT’s highly talented dancers, including Karen Duplisea and Grace Miyagawa, and promoted the work of Christopher House alongside the founders. David Earle’s major works Sunrise and Sacra Conversazione were created during his directorship, and Christopher House’s work blossomed. Kenny Pearl co-directed David Earle’s Court of Miracles for ten years of annual Toronto presentations, and at the River Run Centre in Guelph, Ontario in December 2003, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of its creation.