Coast dancer awarded Canada Council prize

Gibsons resident Margaret Grenier, choreographer, dance artist, executive and artistic director of Dancers of Damelahamid, and producer and director of the annual Coastal Dance Festival, is the winner of the 2020 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts, The Canada Council for the Arts has announced. 

The $50,000 prize recognizes the highest level of artistic excellence and distinguished career achievement by a Canadian professional artist in music, theatre, or dance. 

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“I am deeply compelled as an artist by the desire to impact a shift in our collective consciousness that values and upholds all dance forms,” Grenier said. “Receiving this award, as a traditionally trained Indigenous dancer from the Northwest Coast, is a great honour and gives recognition to the depth of this art form and to the dedicated efforts that revitalized these dances.” 

Born in Prince Rupert, Grenier is of Gitxsan and Cree ancestry. She was trained in traditional Gitxsan dance by her parents, Kenneth and Margaret Harris, who were inducted into the Dance Collection Danse Hall of Fame last year. Grenier has worked as a professional dancer since 1991, performing with the Dancers of Damelahamid, an Indigenous dance company that emerged in the 1960s out of an urgency to ensure that ancestral knowledge is not lost. 

Grenier is also the producer and director of the annual Coastal Dance Festival, established in 2008. The festival has formed a community that reaches throughout the Northwest Coast, as well as nationally and internationally. Grenier’s choreographic achievements include Setting the Path (2004), Sharing the Spirit (2007), and Visitors Who Never Left (2009). She also choreographed the multimedia productions Spirit Transforming (2012), Flicker (2016), and Mînowin (2019). 

“I have witnessed and experienced an immense shift in the world of dance as a result of our collective struggle to create space for our Indigenous dance practices and overcome colonial barriers. It is my hope that every achievement opens new possibilities and breathes strength into one another and our arts,” said Grenier. 

Presented for the first time in 2001, the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts was created as a result of a donation of $1.1 million to the Canada Council by Toronto businessman and philanthropist Walter Carsen. 

Grenier holds an M.A. from Simon Fraser University and a B.Sc. from McGill University.

– Submitted

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