In 1980, Artistic Director Elaine Bowman and Director General Peter Hoff established Dancers’ Studio West to create a dance community in Calgary. Bowman and Hoff were founding members of the CanDance Network of dance presenters. Bowman taught extensively and established a festival of Alberta choreography known as Alberta Dance Explosions and a Young Artist in Residence Program to teach emerging choreographers about technical stagecraft. They both were instrumental to the development of contemporary dance in Calgary. Contemporary dance in Calgary is indebted to the vision of Bowman and Hoff (1980 – 2000), as well as to the dedication and hard work of Artistic Director Michèle Moss and Executive Director Damon Johnston (2000 – 2005), Programmer Bobby Todd (2005 – 2006) and Artistic Director Brian Hansen (2007 – 2008) who through tremendous effort, nurtured and sustained Dancers’ Studio West and its celebrated programming.
Dancers’ Studio West served as a presenter for Calgary audiences for over 25 years. It brought in national shows, connected Calgary to the national community and encouraged local dance artists to create new work. It was the only contemporary dance presenter in Calgary and one of a very few in Alberta.
In 2008, Davida Monk accepted the position of Artistic Director. During her initial years, it could be seen that the dance scene in Alberta was diversifying. Other dance companies and presenters emerged in Calgary. As one outcome, Dancers’ Studio West decided to stop being a presenter and re-focus its energies and resources to offering a unique, holistic and diverse range of artist development opportunities.
In 2012- 2013, the organization launched the Cycle of Residencies. This focused program made a significant local and regional contribution to the development of contemporary dance by providing a seasonal cycle of choreographic residencies and by presenting, in a variety of formats, the resulting works to the public.
In 2013, the Dance Action Group was formed to bring together an ensemble of aesthetically diverse performer/choreographers who were committed to and experienced in the organization’s approach to artistic rigour and critical dialogue. Members carried out community animation activities such as Outside Eye, Undressing the Dance Pubic Dialogue and Podcast Series and Cross-Fertilization and through their integration in these programs, exemplified the organization’s central purpose to encourage a deep investment as well as risk taking from all program artists.
2014 marked the first of what was to become four annual Dance Action Labs designed and delivered by Davida Monk. This program provided extended opportunities for the development of choreography by exposing choreographers from the Dance Action Group to the rigorous daily challenge over an eight-week company-style creation and mentorship process. It provided full-time professional engagement, technique training, rehearsal and performance opportunities for local and regional professional dancers. As well, it provided professional bridging opportunities for emerging artists through The Professional Bridging Program with The School of Contemporary Dancers (Winnipeg) and the Lab Emerging Artist Program (LEAP), funded through the RBC Emerging Artist Project. It brought the creative process to audiences in informal and formal public presentations, stimulating discussion about dance making and seeding work destined for presentation beyond Alberta.
Throughout Ms. Monk’s ten years in leading Dancers’ Studio West, technique training in contemporary dance was front and centre of the organization’s offerings as a resource organization. In latter years, daily technique classes were offered for participating artists as part of the Dance Action Lab, the Annual Alberta Dance Festival and in 2018, the Physic/Alchemy project. These classes were open to the full dance community.
Over the past 36 years, the Annual Alberta Dance Festival has remained a constant – even though its name has changed over that same period. The 37th festival will take place in September 2018. This two-week festival will present new works by 10 Alberta-based and Alberta connected choreographers. While typically a showcase for younger choreographers, it will include work by more mature choreographers as well. In advance of the Festival, choreographers and casts will participate in a six-day Creative Intensive including technique classes, a feedback process, choreographers’ showings, performances and numerous critical dialogue exchanges.
In August 2018, Sasha Ivanochko commences as Artistic Director.