The Many Faces of Man and "the children who wait in the dusk"
Modern Dance Festivals
When Nancy returned to Toronto from her summer in Connecticut, she promptly set about making plans to open the Lima Centre of Fine Arts on just south of the Summerhill subway station. It was hoped that the studio would be built in time for the 1959/60 season. She had architect Roy Orlando design a building with two studios, dressing rooms and an art gallery. In a letter to dance and theatre critic Nathan Cohen she reveals her vision for the centre, "I feel the need of a rather middle of the road approach to Dance and the Arts. We seem to be in the center of a flux of changing styles in all the arts. No one should, I believe, work exclusively in only his or her own particular field. And in addition I believe that we need to develop more individualism in terms of style and form. This perhaps may be accomplished by working for smaller audiences who would likely be interested in the new and original without necessarily saying it should or should not be. Also because of the tremendous costs of production a group working on a semi-professional basis may be possible in performing experimental dance works which are always risky at any time." This letter was written May 11, 1959, which makes it highly significant. Nancy Lima Dent envisioned a place where interdisciplinary activity could occur and where experimental dance would be encouraged a full year before the Judson Dance Theatre in New York City did exactly this and fifteen years before Toronto's 15 Dance Lab opened its doors in 1974 as a venue for experimental dance works.
After the 1957 recitals in Sudbury and Garson, Nancy decided it was time to return to Toronto. But first she spent the summer in Connecticut studying with and Lucas Hoving at the Connecticut College School of the Dance. It was an enlightening experience. In her work as a choreographer she came to discover that certain elements were required in a dance work. Her studies with Humphrey reinforced and clarified those discoveries and provided her with a language for dance. The elements she had discovered on her own but had difficulty articulating previously were rhythm, dynamics, design and emotional gesture.
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Lima Dent Exhibition Curator: Amy Bowring
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On June 30, 1959 the inaugural season of the Manitou-wabing Fine Arts Camp opened. Located near Parry Sound, 165 miles north of Toronto, this camp was the vision of Toronto lawyers Ben Wise and Harold Nashman. Manitou-wabing combined outdoor activities such as tennis, golf, sailing and riding with the fine arts -- dance, drama, music and visual art. Composer Dr. Myron Schaeffer headed the arts programme using Leon Major (drama), Bill Glenn (drama), Roy Befus (stage management), Paul Brodie (music), Eli Kassner (music), Merton Chambers (ceramic arts and sculpture), Julius Griffith (painting), Boris Volkoff and his assistant Zenaida Orentas (ballet) and Nancy Lima Dent (modern dance). Campers chose two major and two minor activities mixing two of the arts with two camping activities. The facilities included a 400-seat theatre, 50-foot stage, art and dance studios, secluded rehearsal cabins, golf course and driving range, tennis courts, basketball court, riding stables, baseball diamond and sailing, water-skiing and swimming facilities. From August 14-16, 1959, the camp held a festival, "Camping with the Arts", during which Nancy presented a choreographic work titled . In 1962 Nancy reworked and expanded this piece into a full-evening performance called "the children who wait in the dusk". For more on these two works, click the "Tour" button.
On May 24, 1959 Nancy choreographed, directed and produced an Evening of Dance at the New Play Society. The first half of the performance featured her group in and in the second half the Toronto group, Japanese Classical Dancers, led by Evelyn Fujimoto, performed. A year later, Nancy appeared as a guest artist at a Japanese Classical Dancers performance.
Unfortunately, Nancy's dream for a fine arts centre was never realized. However, a dance studio did appear at 9 Price Street around 1960 and was run by Janet Baldwin from whom Nancy rented rehearsal and class space. Prior to using the Price Street facility, Nancy rented studio space from Dora Mavor Moore's at 88 Bloor Street East. Here she began rehearsals for the first production of a group that would soon be named the Nancy Lima Dent Dance Theatre.
On February 25, 1960, during one of the season's worst snowstorms, the Nancy Lima Dent Dance Theatre, Yone Kvietys Contemporary Dancers, Bianca Rogge Studio Dancers and Ruth Tutti Lau offered a Festival Evening of Modern Dance. Held at the recently built Concert Auditorium in the Toronto Lithuanian Parish Hall on College Street, the evening consisted of twenty-one original works and was seen by close to 200 people. The 1960 festival became the first in a series of three festivals with the second being held at the University of Toronto's Hart House Theatre on April 25 and 26, 1961 and the last at the YM-YWHA March 16-17, 1963. For more on these modern dance festivals, click the "Tour" button.
Between January and April, 1962 the Nancy Lima Dent Dance Theatre began a series of benefit performances in nursing homes and hospitals. Performing a variety of entertaining works such as Sea Maiden, Swallow, Lullaby and Goofy, Nancy's group danced at the Hospital for Sick Children, the Jewish Home for the Aged and the Hamilton Jewish Community Centre.