Toronto Dance Theatre

In its first decade TDT had an enormous impact, enhanced by the foundation in 1968 of its own school, which to this day continues as one of Canada's leading contemporary dance training institutions.

Toronto Dance Theatre
Toronto Dance Theatre (photo by Michael Cooper/courtesy Toronto Dance Theatre).
Earle, David
Cofounder of Toronto Dance Theatre (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann/courtesy Toronto Dance Theatre).
Randazzo, Peter
Cofounder of Toronto Dance Theatre (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann/courtesy Toronto Dance Theatre).
Beatty, Patricia
Cofounder of Toronto Dance Theatre (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann/courtesy Toronto Dance Theatre).

Toronto Dance Theatre

    The Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT) is one of the foremost modern-dance companies in Canada. It was founded in 1968 by Patricia BEATTY, David EARLE and Peter RANDAZZO. All three had been strongly influenced by the legendary American dancer, choreographer and teacher Martha Graham. The three formally shared the artistic directorship, although Earle increasingly assumed a more dominant leadership role. They also created most of the repertoire, choreographing some 60 works, many of which used scores commissioned from Canadian composers. Although their allegiance to the Graham tradition in modern dance was clear, Beatty, Earle and Randazzo each developed a distinct style. Beatty's work mixed simplicity of form with strong spiritual values. Earle became noted for his emotional theatricality and ability to create attractive ensemble pieces. Randazzo's work was often characterized by wry humour, surrealism and strong physicality.

In its first decade TDT had an enormous impact, enhanced by the foundation in 1968 of its own school, which to this day continues as one of Canada's leading contemporary dance training institutions. TDT's seriousness of purpose and commitment to educating dance artists earned it wide respect and attracted aspiring modern dancers from across the country. Over the years, several of its dancers have gone on to join leading modern-dance troupes around the world or even to found their own companies.

During the 1980s, however, the company faced daunting financial problems, in part because of its ambitious purchase and conversion in 1979 of a former church complex into a new company headquarters and studio theatre. Its three founders were exhausted and their creative energy waned. In 1983 they stepped aside to offer the artistic directorship to Kenny Pearl, a Canadian whose dancing career had largely been in the United States. Pearl swiftly restored the company's popularity by refreshing the repertoire and inspiring the dancers. Although he continued to present works by the three founders, Pearl increasingly featured the creations of Christopher HOUSE, a TDT dancer since 1978 who had already been named as a resident choreographer in 1981.

Despite his achievements, Pearl was ousted in 1987 and Earle returned as sole artistic director before stepping aside in 1994 to make way for House. Under House's leadership TDT has largely moved away from its historic roots as a repertory company to become primarily a platform for his own choreography, a development that parallels the artistic evolution of such other Canadian modern-dance troupes as WINNIPEG'S CONTEMPORARY DANCERS and DANCEMAKERS. Initially House continued to create mixed programs of short works, but in 2000 he began to choreograph full-length works for the company. Notably, TDT has collaborated with international artists including seminal American choreographer Deborah Hay.

TDT has toured widely throughout Canada as well as Europe, the United States, Mexico and Venezuela. Under House it has become a regular and popular visitor to New York's leading contemporary dance venue, the Joyce Theatre. Along with touring, TDT performs annually at the Harbourfront Centre and at its home, the Winchester Street Theatre in Toronto.


Further Reading

  • Nadine Saxton and Katherine Cornell, Toronto Dance Theatre 1968-1998: Stages in a Journey (1999).