Paula Ross | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Paula Ross

Paula Ross (stage name), choreographer and dancer; born Pauline Cecilia Isobel Teresa Campbell (Vancouver 29 Apr 1941).

Paula Ross (stage name), choreographer and dancer; born Pauline Cecilia Isobel Teresa Campbell (Vancouver 29 Apr 1941). Of part Scots, part native ancestry, Paula Ross began to study BALLET at the age of five in Vancouver with Mara McBirney. She danced in McBirney's Panto-Pacific Ballet at the age of 12, and at 15 left home to join the Moro Landis Dancers chorus line at the Bellevue Casino in Montréal. For four years she travelled the club and show circuits in Canada and the United States as a dancer and comedienne, working with such performers as Sophie Tucker, Danny Kaye and Donald O'Connor, but returned to Vancouver at the age of 19. She joined the short-lived Pacific Dance Theatre (seeBALLET BRITISH COLUMBIA) in the early 1960s, eventually becoming a principal dancer, and in 1965 launched her own modern dance company, the PAULA ROSS DANCE COMPANY.

The company operated for many years on a financial shoestring, presenting a repertoire created by Ross in collaboration with her dancers. Financial restraints meant the company rarely appeared outside British Columbia, though when it did tour, for example across Canada in 1978 and to San Francisco in 1980, it was warmly received. Although she received commissions to create new works for the Vancouver centennial celebrations and EXPO 86, both in 1986, financial problems forced her to close her studio and suspend company operations in 1987. She subsequently moved with her family to Vancouver Island, where she continued to teach.

Ross explored many styles in a search for a choreographic language that would best allow her to make what she called her "visual poetry," her "universal tribal metaphor." She won the Chalmers choreographic award in 1977. Her choreography often bore a strong social or environmental message. Among her most successful works were Coming Together (1975), about the effects of imprisonment on native men, Strathcona Park (1980), celebrating a provincial park on Vancouver Island, and Shades of Red (1982), about aspects of womanhood. David RIMMER'S 1982 film, Shades of Red, was built around the re-choreographing of these three dances for the camera. She remounted Coming Together in 1993 for the DANNY GROSSMAN DANCE COMPANY in Toronto for a national tour.

Ross continues to create, and in 1991 received a CANADA COUNCIL grant that allowed her to take her first trips outside Canada, to Japan and France.