David LaHay

A year later, determined to become a dancer and having completed his Bachelor of Arts in English and ancient history, he auditioned for the NATIONAL BALLET SCHOOL with boys half his age before director Betty OLIPHANT. She suggested he audition for York University's new dance program.


David LaHay

 David LaHay, dancer, company founder, director, choreographer, teacher (born at Barrie, Ont 15 July 1949). David LaHay discovered dance at age 20 and began studying it very late by ballet standards, yet he became an excellent partner and danced a huge repertoire, including some Russian classics. Born to a Canadian military family, he grew up on Ontario army bases Camp Borden and Camp Petawawa. During his second year at Peterborough's Trent University in 1968, a movement coach at an amateur theatre club encouraged him to develop his dance talent.

A year later, determined to become a dancer and having completed his Bachelor of Arts in English and ancient history, he auditioned for the NATIONAL BALLET SCHOOL with boys half his age before director Betty OLIPHANT. She suggested he audition for York University's new dance program. Accepted, he learned the basics of dance while earning an honours Bachelor of Fine Arts.

"I worked like a dog," he remembered, studying ballet and Graham technique (a codified system of dance developed by modern dance pioneer Martha Graham early in the 20th century, it deviated from classical ballet and introduced modern dance to the world). He also worked extensively with ballet legend and teacher Antony Tudor. In LaHay's graduating year (1973), Ludmilla CHIRIAEFF, founder-director of LES GRANDS BALLETS CANADIENS (LGBC), saw him at York and invited him to in Montréal. He joined her company and remained for 14 years. During his first year he danced with LGBC's pocket group, Les Compagnons de la Danse, touring small towns in Quebec and the Maritimes.

Versatile and determined, David LaHay climbed through the ranks at a rare pace: after 3 years, his able partnering landed him principal roles. In 1978 he was appointed principal dancer and spent the next 9 years dancing LGBC's extensive and eclectic repertoire - everything from the Russian classics to George Balanchine's neoclassics. He also created many roles in ballets by Brian MACDONALD, Fernand NAULT, Brydon PAIGE and James KUDELKA. During this time he made guest appearances with companies like the Royal Swedish Ballet, the ALBERTA BALLET and at the Cuban International Dance Festival.

After retiring from the stage in 1987, David LaHay spent 4 years as ballet master with LGBC, 3 more in the same position with the OTTAWA BALLET, 2 more years with the Alberta Ballet and a brief stint as guest ballet master for the Gotheburg Ballet in Sweden.

In 2000, he left dance to teach English abroad but returned a year later at the invitation of the École supérieure de danse du Québec, where he taught for 18 months.

David LaHay also taught in the Banff Centre's summer dance program from 1991 to 2007 when the program ended. He was associate director with Annette AV PAUL, a former LGBC ballerina, from 2002-07.

At Banff, he taught, coached, assisted choreographers and staged ballets for the professional and young dancer projects. Also in Banff, he reawakened his dormant choreographic talents, creating short, neoclassical ballets to flesh out programs and stimulate students.

Having taught for a number of institutions including the Hartford Ballet, LES BALLETS JAZZ DE MONTRÉAL, the Canadian School of Ballet and the Vancouver Ballet Society, David LaHay became the founding artistic director of Ballet Kelowna in 2002. In 2008, he also founded the Okanagan Summer Dance Intensive program that he directs.

The six-to-eight-member, all-Canadian Kelowna Ballet commissions new works exclusively from Canadian choreographers. It has given Canadian classics new exposure, remounting Macdonald's Double Quartet and an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet, Kay Armstrong's Etude, and Nesta Toumine's Gymnopodie in 2009.

Ballet Kelowna tours extensively in British Columbia and Alberta with an eye to expanding its tours into Saskatchewan. In late winter 2012 it undertook a three-week tour to small towns which rarely - or never - see theatre dance.

In 2006, the City of Kelowna awarded David LaHay an Angel in the Arts Award for his contributions to its cultural mosaic. The Kelowna Ballet received Okanagan Arts Awards in 2009 and 2011.