The late Len Gibson was a pioneer in Canadian dance. The Alberta-born and Vancouver-raised self-taught tap dancer trained with Katherine Dunham, formed his own dance company – the Negro Workshop Dance Group – and was a major attraction on the London entertainment scene before returning to Canada in the mid-1960s to set up his base in Toronto.
He started the Len Gibson Dance Ensemble, was a choreographer for film and television and taught young people before moving back to Vancouver in 1995 where he died 12 years later.
Gibson, along with former National Ballet of Canada principal dancer, Kevin Pugh and other distinguished Canadian dance artists, will be honoured at the 24th annual International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) conference and festival from January 26 to 29 in Toronto.
“Canada has produced many outstanding Black dancers who are household names here and in other countries,” said Dance Immersion founder Vivine Scarlett who is the local coordinator for the upcoming festival. “We want to honour our dance companies that have turned out many top performers, some of whom have gone to other countries and are excelling. That shows that we have grown and we can stand tall with everybody else in terms of the people we have trained here.”
Michelle Hebert and Sean Smith, former Ballet Creole members, are with the Dallas Black Dance Theatre which is among several North American, Caribbean and Oceanic groups that will perform during the festival.
Other groups slated to make appearances include The National Dance Company of Jamaica, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble out of Colorado, Australia’s bwsene !nmotion, Danza Corpus from Cuba, Los Angeles-based Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Muntu Dance Theatre Company of Chicago, the Philadelphia Dance Company, Robert Solomon from Germany, State of Emergency from the United Kingdom, Burkina Faso’s Salia Ni Seydou and Canada’s Ballet Creole and Compagnie Danse NYATA NYATA from Montreal.
Prior to conference registration, delegates and guests will be treated to an exhibit on January 25 at the Black Artists’ Network in Dialogue gallery at 823A Bloor St. W. Dance Immersion has collaborated with renowned photographer and Harry Jerome Award winner Michael Chambers on a ground-breaking exhibit titled Motion.
“We really wanted to make a Canadian imprint at this event, so we were happy when Michael approached us and we talked about dance posters,” Scarlett said. ‘He has curated posters from different companies which have presented here in Toronto.”
Tickets for the festival are available at (416) 504-7529 and a www.artsboxoffice.ca.
By RON FANFAIR