For just the second time in its 19 year history, the Canada Council for the Arts has announced a BC winner of the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts. 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 2020 recipient of the $50,000 prize. Administered and presented by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Walter Carsen Prize recognizes the highest level of artistic excellence and distinguished career achievement by a Canadian professional artist in music, theatre or dance.
“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,” says Grenier. “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, BC, and currently based in Gibsons, BC, Grenier is of Gitxsan and Cree ancestry. Having trained from a very young age in traditional Gitxsan dance by her parents, Kenneth and Margaret Harris, 2019 Dance Collection Dance Hall of Fame inductees, Grenier has worked as a professional dancer since 1991 performing with the Dancers of Damelahamid – the company she now leads as Executive and Artistic Director. Dancers of Damelahamid, an Indigenous dance company, emerged in the 1960s out of an urgency to ensure that the knowledge of their ancestors was 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 vast choreographic achievements include Setting the Path (2004) and Sharing the Spirit (2007), which toured to New Zealand (2008) and to the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai China, and Visitors Who Never Left (2009). Margaret choreographed the multimedia productions Spirit Transforming (2012), Flicker (2016), and Mînowin (2019). Flicker premiered at The Cultch and the Canada Dance Festival (2016). Flicker toured through La danse sur les routes du Québec (2017), was presented by Montréal, arts interculturels and Danse Danse (2017), Dance Victoria (2018), DanceWorks, Toronto (2018) and toured through Made in BC (2018). Mînowin premiered at the Mòshkamo Festival, National Arts Centre, Ottawa (2019) followed by a national tour through the CanDance network and was presented at the Festival Internacional Cervantino in Guanajuato, Mexico.
“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,” adds Grenier.
A hearty congratulations goes out to Ms Grenier on behalf of fans of BC Arts! For more information on Margaret Grenier, the Dancers of Damelahamid, and the Coastal Dance Festival, visit: damelahamid.ca