“I come from a tradition that believes something of significance can be said through dance, and only through dance,” says David Earle, the world-renowned choreographer, beloved master teacher, writer, and cultural icon. David Earle has influenced generations of dancers, and his regular ensemble includes some of the most physically eloquent, powerful, and individual artists in Canada. 

Dedicated to beauty and musicality, his sense for the unity of music and dance is legendary, and his works for large groups still astonish at every performance. His Sacra Conversazione, for example, set to Mozart’s Requiem, has taken his name to every continent.

In a career spanning over 50 years, he has created more than 150 works, for his own companies as well as for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the National Ballet of Canada, the Banff Festival of the Arts, Ballet British Columbia, the Polish Dance Theatre, among many others.

He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1996, being recognized as “one of the country’s most inspired pioneers of modern and contemporary dance” and as “an inspirational teacher whose influence has had a ripple effect on generations of dancers.” He is also the recipient of the Clifford E. Lee Award from the Banff Festival of the Arts, the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best New Choreography, the Toronto Arts Award for Performing Arts (along with his TDT co-founders), the Jean A. Chalmers Award for Distinction in Choreography, an Honourary Doctorate of Laws from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, and the Walter Carson Prize, an award that honours career achievement in the performing arts.

David began dance training at the age of five. He spent two formative years on scholarship at the Martha Graham School in New York, and although he remains faithful to the philosophies of his greatest teachers, especially Graham, he had also absorbed New York modernism and dance’s radical postmodern experiments, and immediately struck out on his own path after leaving New York. He helped to launch the first two seasons of the London Contemporary Dance Theatre in England before returning to his native country in 1968, where he co-founded Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT) with Patricia Beatty and Peter Randazzo.

The company went on to 28 years of triumphant international tours – adored and sometimes vilified for their provocative sensuality, theatricalism, virtuosity, and emotional honesty. Appointed sole Artistic Director in 1987, he took TDT to its first two triumphant seasons in New York, as well as touring Europe and Asia. 

Leaving TDT in 1996 to pursue an independent career, he founded Dancetheatre David Earle (DtDE) in 1997 to support continuing creation, for the preservation of his repertoire, and to serve as a forum for younger artists whose concern is the expression of humanity in dance. Indeed, many of the TDT’s dancers followed to study and perform – often with live music ensembles to both classical and contemporary scores, and in multi-media collaborations. 

DtDE gave its first performance with the Penderecki String Quartet at the Elora Music Festival in 1997. Along with David’s vast historical repertoire, DtDE has presented 60 new works as part of 130 public performances, including commissions from the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Soundstreams Canada, NUMUS (Kitchener-Waterloo), Open Ears Festival, the Guelph Chamber Choir, and the Gryphon Trio. In 2003, DtDE revived Court of Miracles, a major seasonal offering involving more than 50 performers, originally created for Toronto Dance Theatre in 1983.

In 2001, DtDE established studios in Guelph, Ontario. Through Graham-based classes at all levels, the company established a centre that encompasses all the core elements of professional dance practice, as well as offering the wider creative community a range of classes to open and strengthen both body and spirit. Dancetheatre David Earle also offers masterclasses and guest artist workshops at a range of other dance venues locally, nationally, and internationally, often in conjunction with universities and colleges. 

The work of David Earle has a long history and continues to evolve, remaining true to its roots as well as responsive to the world around us. His openness to experiment and his willingness to challenge superficiality and cynicism mean that his work speaks forcefully to contemporary audiences. He is truly unique in his ability to reach and to move spectators of every background, whatever their familiarity with dance and its traditions.

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DANCE A Farther Shore
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Sacra Conversatione (photo JLauener)
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