Toronto Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director, Christopher House

Echo (2015), chor CH, costumes Jeremy Laing, dancers Jarrett Siddall, Valerie Calam, Danah Rosales, Pulga Muchochoma, Christianne Ullmark

Christopher House, Artistic Director of Toronto Dance Theatre is warm and welcoming as we sit down to discuss his tenure, the company’s past and future, and the upcoming season.

Toronto Dance Theatre was founded in 1968 – House has been Artistic Director since 1994. Much has occurred under his directorship.

“Lots of changes: I’ve changed, the city has changed, contemporary dance practice has changed, the company has changed. My own practice has been inspired by learning new things and engaging with new ideas,” explains House.

In the 1990’s, there were several modern dance companies in Toronto. They were mainly based on the vision and works of  American modern dancers and choreographers: Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Jose Limon, to name a few.

Toronto Dance Theatre has not only outlived these other local companies, but has flourished in the years since. “The company itself has been an an overarching work of art – it’s everything I’ve been doing, the company has been doing  and what guest artists have been doing,” says House.

The company has evolved by a combination of factors: bringing in guest artists, focusing on a number of international projects,  inviting choreographers from different parts of Canada to set work on the company, and developing programs to engage the community.

One such program is Into the Works, which gives the public a look inside the creative process. “It’s a way to show things that aren’t working – it’s useful to hear the audience’s thoughts and comments; see what resonates in the feedback,” explains House.

Next season marks Toronto Dance Theatre’s  50th anniversary. The company has a full schedule planned which includes a tour of Canada, and a trip to Colombia – appearing in Bogota, Medellín and Cartagena.

Also on the agenda is House Mix a collection of works by House. Glass Fields, one of House’s major works is also on the bill, along with Glass Houses (1983), which is part of the Reimaging Repertoire program which has other artists responding in their own creative manner to the work.

Contemporary dance is always moving forward – it is not stagnant. House is looking to the next generation by implementing Emerging Voices Project an “incubator” for emerging choreographers. It offers space, time in the studio and mentorship.

Toronto is a dynamic multi-cultural city and Toronto Dance Theatre has evolved with the city. It reaches out to the community and is an integral part of it.

This dedication to dance and the community led to House being named to the Order of Canada, which was established in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It recognizes achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. A recognition to carry into the next 50 years.

By Diana Dunbar