Groupe Dance Lab, Le
In 1988 artistic director Peter BONEHAM changed the artistic mission of LE GROUPE DE LA PLACE ROYALE and transformed it into Le Groupe Dance Lab (Le Groupe lab de danse), a cutting-edge international centre for the research and development of contemporary dance. Boneham pioneered the dance lab concept whereby established choreographers were invited to receive studio space, the use of Le Groupe's professional dancers and the attention and guidance of an experienced monitor. Selected choreographers received travel costs and basic living expenses. Dance Lab operated from September to May, with eight visiting choreographers in residence for two to four weeks culminating in three public performances of their work.
A key attraction of the Dance Lab experience was the participation of a monitor whose role was to challenge the visiting artist and to offer guidance. In addition to Boneham, Tedd Robinson, Grant STRATE, Jeanne RENAUD and the late Jean-Pierre PERREAULT were among the notable senior Canadian dance artists who served as monitors at Dance Lab.
Choreographers came to Dance Lab with a specific goal in mind: to find new sources of material, to explore and expand their movement vocabulary, to experiment with a new art form, or even to investigate the artistic links between dance and technology. Among the numerous Canadians who took advantage of the creative resources of Dance Lab were Michael Trent, Julia Sasso, Conrad Alexandrowicz, Bill James, Menaka THAKKAR, Deborah Dunn, Susie Burpee, Tony Chong, Susanna Hood, Marie Claire Forté and Helen Husak. European participants included such artists as Meg Stuart (Belgium), Damian Muñoz (Spain), Mary Nunan (Ireland), Adriana Castaños (Mexico) and Sacha Steenks (Netherlands).
Dance Lab, located in Ottawa's Arts Court Building with studios and performance spaces, provided a nurturing environment that gave choreographers the opportunity to experiment, explore movement vocabulary, and most importantly, take risks. The emphasis was on the process of making dance rather than the production of a final dance work. Ideas seeded at Dance Lab often went on to become finished dance pieces.
Boneham took his innovative Dance Lab concept to workshops in Toronto, Glasgow, Scotland and Birmingham, England. In 1991 he won the Jean A. Chalmers Award for Creativity in Dance and was particularly cited for the creation of Dance Lab. The jury acknowledged Boneham's generosity and breadth of vision, claiming that Dance Lab had benefited the entire dance community in Canada.
Peter Boneham stepped down in 2008 and was replaced by Tony Chong, originally a visiting choreographer who, along with dancer Yvonne Coutts, had been assisting Boneham for several years. When Chong left less than six months later, Boneham returned as interim artistic director, followed by Anika Houle, a non-dancer.
In the fall of 2009, Le Groupe Dance Lab ceased to exist. After 43 years, first as Montréal-based contemporary dance company Le Groupe de la Place Royale and from 1988 as Le Groupe Dance Lab, an internationally renowned centre for the research and development of dance, succession and funding issues led to Groupe Dance Lab's demise.