Mayor's Arts Award for Dance

Profile images of Artemis Gordon and Livona Ellis

2017 recipients

Artemis Gordon


An artistic and pedagogical authority in dance, Artemis Gordon was named Artistic Director of the Arts Umbrella dance program in 1992. The program is now internationally recognized for producing graduates who dance in companies around the world such as Ballet BC, Nederlands Dans Theatre I & II, and Batsheva Dance Company.

Gordon has toured the Arts Umbrella Dance Company to the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, New York, and Montreal and fostered collaborations with Nederlands Dans Theatre, Yokohama Ballet, Spellbound Contemporary Dance, Joffrey Ballet School, and L'Ecole supérieure de ballet du Québec.

In 2015, Gordon secured the affiliation between Ballet BC and Arts Umbrella, extending the impact of international choreographers in Vancouver and increasing opportunities for young dancers in Vancouver. In 2016, she won the YWCA Women of Distinction Award in Arts, Culture, and Design. Her instruction prepares students to navigate their lives with discipline, rigour, and innovation.

Livona Ellis

Emerging artist

Vancouver-born Livona Ellis started dancing at the age of 11 at Arts Umbrella under the direction of Artemis Gordon. After completing the Graduate Program in 2010, Ellis was offered an apprenticeship with Ballet BC and joined as a full time member after one season. Since joining Ballet BC, Ellis has been fortunate to work with world-renowned artists such as Sharon Eyal, Crystal Pite, Medhi Walerski, Emanuel Gat, Cayetano Soto, Johan Inger, Francesca Caroti (William Forsyth), Wen Wei Wang, Lesley Telford, Doug Letheren (Sharon Eyal), and Shahar Binyamini (Ohad Naharin).

Ellis has been a part of Springboard Danse Montreal, Movement Invention Project NYC, The Banff Professional Dance Program and the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance Summer Program. She has created work for Live at the Bolt' Small Stage and at Dance Deck Trois. She is on faculty at Arts Umbrella and has choreographed for their Season Finale performances.  

Past recipients

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Emily Molnar


	Emily Molnar (left) and Lexi Vajda (right), Mayor's Arts Award for Dance honoree and emerging artist, respectivelyEmily Molnar is an internationally respected and critically acclaimed dance artist and choreographer. As artistic director of Ballet BC since 2009, she has steered the company into an era of innovation and collaboration. Emily is a graduate of the National Ballet School and a former member of the National Ballet of Canada, a soloist with the Frankfurt Ballet under director William Forsythe, and a principal dancer with Ballet BC.

Named The Globe and Mail’s 2013 Dance Artist of the Year, Emily is a recipient of the 2015 BC Community Achievement Award and the 2015 YWCA Women of Distinction Award in Art, Culture & Design. She was recently appointed to the Order of Canada for her creative contributions to advancing dance in Canada. Emily is also artistic director of dance at the Banff Centre, and currently serves as a Director on the Board of the BC Arts Council.

Lexi Vajda

Emerging artist

Lexi Vajda is a Vancouver-based independent dance artist, teacher and choreographer,originally from North Vancouver. She trained at Modus Operandi contemporary dance training program in Vancouver and has traveled internationally to various workshops. Lexi has had the pleasure of working and performing with OutInnerspace Dance Theatre, Shay Keubler Radical System Arts, the response, Company 605, plastic orchid factory, Theatre Replacement, Mascall Dance, Delia Brett, Wen Wei Wang and Karissa Barry among others.

Alongside her performing work, she collaborates and makes dance performance,installation and film work independently. She is also completing her BA in psychology at UBC, teaches regularly at various dance schools and at Modus Operandi contemporary dance training program, and sits on the board of Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists.

Crystal Pite


Crystal Pite is a former company member of Ballet BC and William Forsythe's Ballett Frankfurt.

Her professional choreographic debut was in 1990 with Ballet BC. Since then, she has created over 40 works for companies such as:

  • Nederlands Dans Theater I
  • Cullberg Ballet
  • Ballett Frankfurt
  • National Ballet of Canada
  • Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal
  • Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
  • Ballet BC
  • Louise Lecavalier/Fou Glorieux

Crystal is an associate choreographer of Nederlands Dans Theater, associate dance artist of Canada's National Arts Centre, and associate artist at Sadler's Wells, London.

In 2002, she formed Kidd Pivot in Vancouver, which tours nationally and internationally, performing works such as Dark Matters and Lost Action.

Kidd Pivot's residency at the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt (2010-2012) provided Crystal the opportunity to create and tour The You Show and The Tempest Replica.

Most recently the company has premiered Betroffenheit, a co-creation with playwright and actor Jonathon Young of Electric Company Theatre.


Lesley Telford

Emerging artist

Lesley Telford is a Vancouver-born freelance choreographer, performer, and teacher.

She finished her studies in Montréal at L´Ecole Supérieur de Danse du Québec and danced with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and Compañia Nacional de Danza in Madrid.

Lesley recently founded Inverso Productions, through which she created Brittle Failure, a work that has toured Spain, Holland, and Canada.

As a choreographer, she has created works for companies at home and abroad, and her creations have been presented at the CaDance Festival and Korzo Theatre in the Netherlands, International Festival Madrid en Danza, and the Banff Festival of the Arts, among others.

Interested in furthering her artistic exploration, Lesley recently completed a master’s degree in Cultural Production at the joint program of the University of Salzburg and Mozarteum Salzburg. Her thesis examined the use of the museum as a performance space for dance.

Lesley is a member of the International Dance Council CID of UNESCO.

Jai Govinda


Jai Govinda, 2014 Mayor's Arts Award for Dance honoureeJai Govinda began his dance training under full scholarship at L’École supérieure de danse du Québec. He then studied the classical Indian dance form of bharata natyam in the US, Canada, and India. For 25 years, he
has danced internationally as a soloist, receiving praise from critics and audiences alike.

In 1994, he founded the Jai Govinda Dance Academy in Vancouver. In 2006, he was the recipient of the Dance Centre’s Isadora Award for excellence in teaching.

Jai is also the artistic and managing director of Mandala Arts and Culture, a Vancouver-based company dedicated to producing, developing, and presenting bharata natyam. For the past five years, he has curated Gait to the Spirit, a festival of classical dance of India.

Jai is one of the nation’s leading bharata natyam artists and advocates. His vision has created a space for bharata natyam to thrive and evolve in BC.

Shay Kuebler

Emerging artist

Shay Kuebler, 2014 Mayor's Arts Award for Dance emerging artistShay Kuebler began his artistic development at the age of five in theatre and martial arts, which led to studying various dance forms including hip hop, jazz, tap, contemporary, and ballet. He continues to expand his artistic range and versatility and has studied music, dance, and martial arts in Japan, Brazil, and China.

Shay has created and performed for artists such as Neil Young, Naughty By Nature, the 605 Collective, Decidedly Jazz, Les Grands Ballet Canadiens, Pro Arte Danza, and Citieballet. He has received choreography commissions for numerous festivals, including the Canada Dance Festival, Fluid Festival, International Dance Festival of Brazil, and Baalbek Arts Festival in Beirut, Lebanon.

As artistic director of the newly formed Radical System Arts Society, he continues to develop a repertoire that is rigorous and definitive in form, yet raw and instinctual in approach.

Karen Jamieson


2013 Dance Honouree Karen JamiesonKaren Jamieson received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and anthropology from the University of British Columbia and began dancing at Simon Fraser University.

In New York City, she studied the modern techniques of Alwin Nikolais, Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, and ballet with Alfredo Corvino and Maggie Black. She performed with Yvonne Rainer and Phyllus Lamhut, and toured with the Alwin Nikolais Company.

Jamieson taught at SFU and co-initiated the experimental movement collective, Terminal City Dance Research.

In 1980, she received the Chalmers Award, Canada’s principal choreographic award, and established Karen Jamieson Dance in 1983. The company has toured nationally and internationally.

Her work Sisyphus is regarded as one of the 10 choreographic masterworks of the 20th century, and she has been acknowledged nationally for her ground-breaking work in community-engaged and cross-cultural dance, specifically with the people of Haida Gwaii and the Downtown Eastside.

Her current dance practice integrates Vijnana yoga and principles of tensegrity anatomy with contemporary dance. She is currently working on a solo work, dance projects with Downtown Eastside residents, and a mentorship program.

Josh Martin

Emerging artist

2013 Dance Emerging Artist Josh MartinJosh Martin is a diversely trained dance artist originally from Alberta, whose career to date has led him across North America and Europe. Martin has performed in theatres, clubs, on stages and streets, for film and television, and in music videos and tours.

He has worked with many companies and independent choreographers such as Amber Funk Barton, Martha Carter, Day Helesic, Gail Lotenberg, Karen Jamieson, Dana Gingras, Tiffany Tregarthen, and David Raymond. Martin was also a company member of Le Groupe Dance Lab in Ottawa.

Martin is a regular performer/collaborator for Wen Wei Dance, recently contributing to a new work with the Beijing Modern Dance Company.

He is currently artistic co-director of 605 Collective, a collaboration by dance artists.

Off stage, Martin serves on the artistic advisory committee for The Dance Centre and as chair of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists – BC Chapter.

Rosario Ancer


2012 Honouree Artist Rosario AncerRosario Ancer co-founded the school Centro Flamenco, The Flamenco Rosario Arts Society, Flamenco Rosario, and its professional training program after moving to Vancouver from Spain with her husband in 1989. As an interpreter of flamenco dance, Rosario is more interested in the continuing growth of the art form than in simply reiterating its past, exploring new possibilities by crossing boundaries of both history and culture. 

Called the “The Mother of Flamenco in Vancouver” by the press, Ancer received a 2000 YWCA nomination for the Women of Distinction Award for Arts and Culture. For her contributions in bringing excellence in dance to British Columbia and creation of Mis Hermanas, she was awarded the 2009 Isadora Award for Excellence in Choreography given by The Dance Centre on behalf of the BC Dance Community, and was nominated for the 2012 Inspirational Latino Award for Arts and Culture. 

Through her work Ancer has created a platform where flamenco and a new generation of flamenco artists flourish in Vancouver.

Kiruthika Rathanaswami

Emerging artist

2012 Emerging Artist Kiruthika RathanaswamiKiruthika Rathanaswami is an Indian classical dancer in the Bharata Natyam style. She has been training for the past 14 years under Jai Govinda, artistic director of Mandala Arts and Culture in Vancouver, Canada. She completed her arangetram (dance graduation) at the Jai Govinda Dance Academy in 2004, and has since been part of many Mandala productions. 

Notable performances include performing in Vancouver for the former Governor General of Canada, Michaelle Jean, in 2009 and at the 2010 Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa. She was featured as the lead dancer for the documentary Great Night of Shiva-Mahasivarati, which aired on Vision TV Canada (2011). 

Rathanaswami is the 2010-2011 recipient of the Shastri India Studies Arts Fellowship by the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute. She travelled to India for seven months and trained under gurus B. Bhanumati and Sheela Chandrasekhar of Nrityakalamandiram in Bangalore. She premiered her new repertoire for Mandala Arts and Culture's annual dance festival "Gait to the Spirit" in October 2011. Recent performances include International Dance Day 2012 at Scotiabank Dance Centre and for the Multicultural Heritage (Kalaa Mela 2012) at the CBC in Vancouver. 

Rathanaswami holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Kinetics and a Bachelor of Arts with a minor in Psychology from the University of British Columbia. She is currently attending McGill University in a Master’s program in Physical and Health Education Pedagogy.

The 2012 peer jury was Emily Molnar, Alvin Erasga Tolentino, and Barbara Bourget.

Barbara Bourget


2011 Dance Honouree Barbara BourgetBarbara Bourget is the co-producer of the Vancouver International Dance Festival and is the artistic director of Kokoro Dance, the post-butoh dance company that has been named by The Georgia Straight as one of the ten best reasons to live in Vancouver.

Barbara has performed ballet, modern, and butoh dance for more than 40 years with dance companies, including the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Paula Ross Dance Company, Mountain Dance, EDAM, and Kokoro Dance. She has choreographed over 150 dance works.

Her art is characterized by its continual exploration of the feminine, the dark, and the theatrical. Barbara's work has left indelible emotional impressions on Vancouver audiences. Her critically-acclaimed works include Crime Against Grace, Dance of the Dead, Sunyata, the trilogy of works Sade I, Sade II, and Sade III, and four collaborations with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Deanna Peters

Emerging artist

2011 Dance Emerging Artist Deanna PetersDeanna Peters works as a performer in contemporary dance, theatre, and film. Since 2007, Deanna balances this career with work as a choreographer, teacher, and producer.

Benefiting greatly from mentoring by senior artists Barbara Bourget, Heidi Bunting, Jennifer Mascall, and Paul-André Fortier, Deanna also works closely with her peers, as well as with younger dancers.

Mutable Subject is a company formed to support Deanna's projects, including her work as a graphic designer.

The 2011 peer jury was Peter Bingham, Emily Molnar, and Alvin Erasga Tolentino.

Alvin Erasga Tolentino


2010 Honouree Artist Alving Erasga TolentinoAlvin Erasga Tolentino is one of the most active Asian/Canadian dance artists, whose work continues to provoke, fascinate, and bring a fresh voice to the national and international dance scene.

Following his training with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, York University, and the SUNY Purchase and Limon Institute, Alvin has contributed to Vancouver's cultural communities for over 20 years, both as an interpreter for companies such as EDAM, Kokoro Dance, and Karen Jamieson Dance companies, and as an acclaimed choreographer and founder of Co.ERASGA Dance.

Exploring issues of gender, identity, ethnicity, and cross-cultural dialogue, Alvin's choreography in works such as SOLA, MINORI, VOLT, FIELD, and 2010's Shadow Machine, as well as his award-winning explorations of dance on film, have made him a Canadian ambassador for dance, with his work finding appreciative audiences nationally and across four continents.

Sujit Vaidya

Emerging artist

2010 Emerging Artist Sujit VaidyaSujit Vaidya has been studying bharata natyam with the Jai Govinda Dance Academy, since the fall of 2006. He finished his dance graduation in the fall of 2009 and performed at BC Place for the 2010 Winter Olympics BC Day Victory ceremonies.

Recently, he was chosen as one of two dancers to represent his school at the Contemporary Dance Festival in Ottawa. This summer, Sujit attended the classical dance workshop in Manchester, UK, where he came in second for their annual scholarship and was presented with a bursary for next year's workshop.

Besides performing, Sujit has plans to visit India to continue his dance education and bring the best of the dance form back to Vancouver.

The 2010 peer jury was Peter Bingham, Jay Hirabayashi, and Emily Molnar.

Lola MacLaughlin


2009 Honouree Artist Lola MacLaughlinLola MacLaughlin grew up in the interior of British Columbia. Prior to a career in dance, she studied biology and psychology, and did a stint as a singer with a German rock band. After she graduated from dance studies at Simon Fraser University, Lola continued her training in New York, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Seminally influenced by studies at the Freie Universitat in Berlin, the punk movement of the early 1980s, and the German Ausdruckstanz ("Dance of Expression"), Ms MacLaghlin's first works were performed by EDAM, the radical Vancouver performance collective that she co-founded in 1983. In 1989, she founded her own company, Lola Dance.

The diverse body of work that she developed has been recognized through The Banff Centre's Clifford E Lee Award, the Canada Council's Jacqueline Lemieux Prize, the 2003 Candance Commission, and most recently, the Isadora Award. Her works, including Four Solos/Four Cities, fuse, and Violio, toured widely.

In May 2007, Lola Dance permiered Provincial Essays, an eclectic collection of choreographic landscapes for five dancers. Provincial Essays was later featured at the 2008 Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa, and was most recently performed in Toronto's Habourfront Centre 6 to 7 March. Ms MacLaughlin died on March 6, 2009.

James Gnam and Natailie LeFebvre Gnam

Emerging artists

2009 Emerging Artist James Gnam

2009 Emerging Artist Natalie LeFebvre Gnam

James Gnam received his training at the National Ballet School of Canada and has danced with Ballet BC, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, JoeINK, and EDAM.

As a choreographer, Mr Gnam has been commissioned to create work for the plastic orchid factory, Bouand Dance Company, The Contingency Plan, and Ballet BC's Mentor Program.

Natalie LeFebvre Gnam received her training at L'École Nationale de Danse Contemporaine and has since worked with Le Jeune Ballet du Québec, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, dancersdancing, and Coleman Lemieux & Co.

She is a certified Conditioning-with-Imagery Training teacher and a mentor and educator for developing dancers.

Since its inception in 2006, the plastic orchid factory has created six original pieces that have been presented at Dance in Vancouver by The Dance Centre, Dancing on the Edge, the Vancouver International Dance Festival, ROMP! A Festival of Independent Dance, the InFrinGinG Dance Festival, the Chutzpah Festival, and Dances for a Small Stage.

In July 2009, the company presented its first evening-length work, endORPHIN, for which Ms LeFebvre Gnam received the recognition of the Vancouver dance community with the prestigious Isador Duncan Award for Excellence in Dance. The company is currently creating three new works by James Gnam, Peter Bingham, and Su-Feh Lee.

The 2009 peer jury was Donna Spencer and Barb Clausen.

Peter Bingham


Peter Bingham, a Vancouver-based artist, has been a driving force in Canada's contact improvisation scene for 30 years. Influenced by his early training with dancer/choreographer Linda Rubin, Mr Bingham later studied with American proponents of contact, Steve Paxton and Nancy Stark Smith.

In 1977, he co-founded Fulcrum with Andrew Harwood and Helen Clarke and the group presented contact-based dance performances and workshops in Vancouver and across Canada to enthusiastic response. In 1982, he joined six other independent artists, including Lola McLaughlin, Jay Hiribayashi, Barbara Bouget, Peter Ryan, Jennifer Mascall, and Ahmed Hassan, to create the collective EDAM (Experimental Dance and Music). He has been its sole artistic director since 1989.

The 2008 peer jury was John Alleyne, Joy Coghill, Sal Ferreras, Jane Heyman, Michael Noon, Robert Sunter, Alexander Varty, Donna Wong-Juliani, and Max Wyman.