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House of Commons Emblem

Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage


NUMBER 048 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
41st PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Monday, May 25, 2015

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

  (1530)  

[English]

     Good afternoon, everyone.
    We'll call to order meeting number 48 of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Today we are continuing our study of dance in Canada. For the first hour we have with us three different groups.
     First we have Zab Maboungou, artistic director of Zab Maboungou/Compagnie Danse Nyata Nyata.

[Translation]

    We also have with us Anik Bissonnette, artistic director, and Alix Laurent, executive director, of the École supérieure de ballet du Québec.

[English]

    By video conference from Vancouver, we have Emily Molnar from Ballet BC.
    We will start with Zab Maboungou.
    You have eight minutes. Each of our three groups will have up to eight minutes. You have the floor.
    I stand corrected.
    Thank you.

[Translation]

    I will speak in French and a little in English. I don't have a lot of time, just eight minutes.
    I would like to sincerely thank the very honourable members of the committee. I feel privileged to have been invited to appear. I have learned that today is the committee's last meeting, so we will try to mention the things that count.
    For me, being here is a bit of a pilgrimage because this is Canadian Heritage. Twelve years ago, in 2003, we created a training program at Nyata Nyata. The main purpose was to feature what I call the company's credo: people, arts and know-how. These three basic aspects are part of an approach that I have used since the company was founded in 1987. It's something that seems absolutely essential, despite all efforts to tell me that I was going to a place that was very, very difficult to defend. This idea of advocating for the training of a person by defending the art has always been fundamental to me.
    It's exactly the same thing that we are advocating now. Over these 12 years, we have tested this experience. I didn't really think that 12 years later, I myself would be able to talk about the success and, above all, the results that we have achieved through this program which, fundamentally brings about what I call cultural knowledge transfer, which would not have happened otherwise without the artistic work to compel them, by testifying and testing them.
    That's what we did by addressing this from a philosophic and technical perspective, in that we had to put forward a technique for movement that could operate these transfers. Today, there are trained individuals who are working and who choose, while continuing their artistic career, to seek professional development in the arts of health, reflection, and arts management, and other fields.
    In this respect, it's a success. That's obviously what I intend to advocate, this approach of art through diversity, and diversity that is truly in action, diversity that mobilizes individuals on site, locally. This program aims to highlight the dynamic aspect of the local area to encourage being open to the world. This program encourages a kind of basic integration of these two aspects.
    I provided a document that lists in eight points the importance of dance and its fundamental aspect. I won't go over these points because you can consult the document.
    This year, I went to Senegal and England, where I was invited for almost the same reason. It seems that the same concerns are shared internationally. I was asked to talk about the fundamental importance of dance at the heart societies that are changing, transforming. It seems that this committee is on the right path, and I congratulate you. You are trying to renew reflection about dance and encourage more than ever its development and sustainability. It's important to consolidate what already exists, but also to allow the emergence of anyone to intervene and be used.
    That is about all I have to say. I don't know if you have any questions.

  (1535)  

    Thank you.

[English]

     We'll now go to École supérieure de ballet du Québec. You have the floor for eight minutes.

[Translation]

    Mr. Chair and members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, we would like to thank you for inviting the École supérieure de ballet du Québec to participate in your study on the importance of dance. I am joined today by Alix Laurent, executive director of our institution.
    The École supérieure de ballet du Québec is proud to be here today to talk about dance in Canada, specifically the strategic role of training. In fact, the École supérieure is the only francophone institution in North America to provide world-class ballet training for almost half a century.
    In 1952, Canada welcomed Ludmilla Chiriaeff, a Berlin-trained Russian dancer who founded Les Grands Ballets canadiens de Montréal, which became the École supérieure de ballet du Québec. Ms. Chiriaeff's passion, determination and pioneering perseverance helped dance to flourish in Canada in an unprecedented way. The École supérieure receives about 130 students who want to become dancers to its professional program. Because our institution has the exclusive mandate in Quebec for advanced training in classical dance, these 130 young people hail not only from Montreal and the various regions of Quebec, but also from other provinces in Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia and South America. They leave our institution with a strengthened knowledge of Canada's two official languages, and with a very high level of artistic skill.
    Our professional program is spread out over 10 years. Our students do three to five hours of dance a day, five to six days a week, while pursuing rigorous general training. In fact, the École supérieure works with renowned academic institutions, including the Pensionnat du Saint-Nom-de-Marie, which is a secondary school. It is mentioned in Cambridge University's students' union's The Guide to Excellence, which lists the best schools in the world.
    Our students have the opportunity to grow up in Montreal, which is a true cultural metropolis and one of the dance capitals of the world, which means that they are at the heart of an extremely stimulating and abundant environment. They live in a world of dance, and they are in constant contact with the most noted creators in the world. They are taught by some twenty outstanding teachers who have had great careers in the most prestigious dance companies in the world.
    Every year, five to 10 students complete their advanced training in classical dance performance. Our graduates dance for Canadian companies, including Montreal's Grands Ballets canadiens, the National Ballet of Canada, Alberta Ballet, Ballet BC, and the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada. Our graduates are also active abroad, including in Germany, the United States, France and the Netherlands.
    Of course, the young people who pass through the École supérieure de ballet du Québec do not all become professional dancers. However, I can tell you that every single one of them, without exception, keep with them precious resources that will serve them throughout their lives. Learning classical dance responds to a flawless logic. It is methodical, structured and based on biomechanical principles structured around a language that has not stopped developing for over 300 years.
    Our students learn rigour, respect and discipline, which are priceless assets on the labour market and essential in all job sectors. Furthermore, some of our graduates have become brilliant managers, others have careers in law, medicine and communications. All of them gained a dancer's mentality, which means that they made a habit of taking care of themselves, their bodies, their minds and their hearts, not to mention the natural altruism of all dancers, because this talent is hard-learned, and they know about giving back to the community. At once they are total artists and athletes, responsible citizens, and educated men and women. In fact, the practice of dance is an asset against dropping out of school, and it encourages the development of a structured way of functioning in society. Dance is a basic practice for a healthy society, even when it is a leisure activity, as is the case for the children and adults who register for our recreational program.

  (1540)  

    This program, which attracts nearly 1,000 individuals, generates nearly 20% of our revenue. The École supérieure has an annual budget of close to $3.5 million, with less than half coming from public funding. Our main funder is the Quebec ministry of culture and communications.
    Last year, Canadian Heritage granted us $125,000, about 3% of our budget. This year, the amount was reduced to $115,000. No matter what the reason was for these cuts, this amount is still clearly insufficient to support the mission of an institution of our size, which is the only one in Quebec. It forces us to make disproportionate efforts to carry out our mission, and it is one of the main obstacles to our development, which is needed now more than ever because we have a major renovation project. Our spaces have become too small and no longer meet international standards. For about 30 years, we have been using the Maison de la danse, a building we share with the Grands Ballets canadiens de Montréal, which will be moving to the Quartier des spectacles in 2016. We are going to take this opportunity to get a construction site going so that we can have facilities worthy of the largest schools in the world. It isn't enough to give future professional dancers the best instruction; we must also meet their training needs in adapted fitness and rest areas. We also need to have equipment that is on the cutting edge of technology. To do this, financial support from governments is more than necessary.
    For the dance sector to reach its full potential in Canada, it is more than urgent to solidify all the production steps for our discipline, particularly training, to ensure that these steps are in touch with the labour market. We must assure our graduates that they will be able to work here at the end of their studies. This is a crucial issue for an entire generation of young dancers. One solution might be to give dance companies in Canada specific funding so that they can hire strictly apprentices from the major Canadian schools, which are true hotbeds of talent.
    I want to specify that this is not a pipe-dream for utopia, on the contrary; I am living proof that this method of transferring knowledge works perfectly because I, myself, benefitted from it. When I was 17, I was not ready for the professional stage. However, I was discovered by a company that took the time to refine my training as an apprentice, so much so that I danced all over the world and became the principal dancer of the Grands Ballets canadiens. In Canada, we are fortunate to have a pool of young future dancers with exceptional potential. Today, I hope with all my heart that Canada will allow them to have the same opportunities as those who allowed me to have such a great career. Lastly, generations of young Canadian dancers need to be able to continue to light up stages in Canada and around the world with their grace. Help us to train the ambassadors of the future.
    Thank you for your precious attention.
    Thank you.

[English]

     We'll now go to Vancouver and hear from Emily Molnar from Ballet BC.
     You have the floor for up to eight minutes. I trust you can hear us.
     Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here. I would like to thank the committee for its interest and for this unique opportunity to talk about the value of dance ln Canada.
    I stand before you speaking for two organizations. I am the artistic director of Ballet BC and this year I have also been appointed the artistic director of dance at the Banff Centre for the arts. Today, I would like to talk to you about excellence in dance in Canada and Ballet BC.
    First I will tell you a little bit about myself, as I am a proud product of the Canadian training system and have enjoyed a successful international dance career. I have been a dancer, choreographer, and teacher. I am member of the Dancer Transition Resource Centre and Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists, a director of the B.C. Arts Council board, and now artistic director of two of Canada's most significant dance organizations.
    I left my home in Saskatchewan at the age of 10 to study at Canada's National Ballet School in Toronto. Upon graduation at 16, I was invited to dance with the National Ballet of Canada. The next step in my career was to accept an invitation to dance as a soloist with the Frankfurt ballet for the world-renowned choreographer William Forsythe. While working in Europe, I was not only exposed to a variety of dance companies, forms, and artistic practices, but I also had the privilege of performing around the world for culturally diverse audiences. During these years I met many Canadian artists on a similar path, evidence that our dance training in Canada is world class.
    ln 1998, I felt a strong urge to return to Canada to engage more directly in the Canadian dance community. This brought me to Vancouver where I was a principal dancer for four years with Ballet BC, followed by seven years as an independent dancer, choreographer, and teacher. ln 2009 I became the artistic director of Ballet BC.
    Founded in 1986, Ballet BC is an internationally acclaimed contemporary ballet company that is a leader in the creation, production, and education of contemporary dance with a global focus. One of our major priorities is to support Canadian artists. However, including international talent in our season is also a very important part of what creates the diversity and range of contemporary ballet that our audiences and stakeholders are enthusiastically supporting.
    Ballet BC performs throughout the year in one of Canada's largest venues, Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Our offices and studios are located in the Scotiabank Dance Centre—the only multi-use building in Canada dedicated to dance. We proudly tour provincially, nationally, and internationally. For example this June, Ballet BC will be the first Canadian company to open the prestigious international Jacob's Pillow dance festival in Massachusetts, now in its 83rd season. Including performances at home and abroad and through a range of outreach and educational programs, more than 25,000 patrons experience Ballet BC each season.
    Dance, as a non-verbal means of communication, expresses the complex pluralism of Canadian culture to audiences of all backgrounds. The capacity of dance artists to represent Canadian stories is incredibly valuable. Dance is a global language that crosses all borders and one that helps to define our cultural identity as Canadians. Dance is an art form at its most essential: visceral, thought-provoking, and transformative.
    Ballet BC reflects the multiplicity of Canadian society and the Canadian immigrant story in the composition of the company. We presently employ 18 uniquely talented artists, four apprentices and 14 soloists, who are exceptional for their artistry and technical ability. Most Canadian ballet companies hire corps de ballet members who dance as a group before gaining the experience to dance soloist roles. Ballet BC stands out because of the rigorous demands of its contemporary repertoire, which requires a high standard of specialized skills. Therefore, when I audition dancers, I look for a high level of excellence and artistry as well as a very specific skill set.
    To ensure that we continue to have home-grown talent that meets our company's rigorous performance criteria, Ballet BC has been proactive in nurturing Canadian dancers through several ongoing initiatives. We have an apprentice company for young Canadian dancers, an official alliance with Vancouver's Arts Umbrella dance program, workshops with guest choreographers, and a summer dance intensive program for pre-professional students, to name a few. I regularly conduct auditions in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver and keep in close contact with schools to stay informed about Canadian dancers who might be a good fit for Ballet BC.
    Though we are proud that 11 of our 14 full-time dancers are Canadian, it's often difficult to find available Canadian dancers with the right combination of specialized technical skill and artistic range to fill our vacancies. I want to stress that if there are two dancers of comparable standard at an audition, I will always choose the Canadian dancer. But that is not always the case, and so we sometimes hire dancers from outside of Canada.

  (1545)  

     To do this, we must apply to the temporary foreign worker program to obtain the necessary work permits. The foreign talent who work for Ballet BC not only include company dancers, but also visiting choreographers and collaborators, and our executive director. Notably, several of those employees are now in the process of seeking permanent residency.
     We completely understand that last year's revamping of the temporary foreign worker program was done to encourage the hiring of Canadian workers and to ensure that businesses comply with employment regulations. While we respect the logic behind the new regulations and enthusiastically support the notion that Canadians should get the first chance at jobs in Canada, the fact remains that we now spend thousands of dollars a year on application and permit fees and pay foreign dancers more than our Canadian dancers in order to meet the labour market impact assessment regulations that govern salaries.
     Fees aside, the temporary foreign worker program makes it challenging to employ dancers who excel in contemporary dance and who are essential to maintaining our high performance standard. The temporary foreign worker program also impedes the hiring of international choreographers and designers who bring a new aesthetic to our productions. International presence and high standards of excellence are what Canadian audiences want to see. International exchange in dance is commonplace, and savvy Canadian audiences know that. As an artistic director, I fear that these regulations could affect artistic decisions and have a major negative impact on the variety and standard of work we bring to our audiences.
    It is my hope that through the efforts of the Canadian Dance Assembly, dance companies will gain access to the international mobility program. This program better reflects the type of worker and working agreements we employ in dance, and would ensure that we can maintain our artistic integrity and essential global presence while continuing to nurture Canadian talent.
    I will now speak briefly about the economics of dance with regard to Ballet BC. Our company is funded by all three levels of government—the City of Vancouver, the BC Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts. This public sector funding provides 30% of our revenue, while 70% of our funding comes from earned revenue. This includes ticket sales, foundations, corporate sponsorships, and individual donors.
    ln 2009 Ballet BC was on the verge of bankruptcy. We had to lay off the dancers and staff and re-imagine the company from the inside out. Throughout those difficult years of restructuring, our government funders, including the Canada Council, stood by Ballet BC, understanding that sometimes contraction can mean growth. Their trust was not only shown in financial support, but in their willingness to assist by acting as consultants, expertly guiding us through the financial and organizational minefields until our position stabilized. Today, Ballet BC is a stronger organization, having posted four consecutive surpluses in the past five years and adding over 30 new works to our repertoire since 2009.
    I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Canada Council whose presence is vital for the continued health of the Canadian art sector. Their reputation is respected worldwide and the Canadian dance community is stronger for its existence. As the Canada Council moves toward a new funding model, I hope that the new vision will continue to support excellence while making the public funder more reflective of the complex art-making process at work in studios and on stages across our nation.
    To conclude, I am proud to be a Canadian, leading a Canadian company that includes artists from around the world. There are no borders in dance. It is a universal language that not only greatly contributes to the cultural identity of our country, but also to our physical well-being. The creative exchange of dance artists and choreographic work is at the heart of a healthy global dance ecology. My career and the success of Ballet BC is a clear example of how a global perspective and the presence of international artists benefit Canadian art, artists and audiences.
    Thank you very much for your kind attention.

  (1550)  

    Thank you very much.
    We will now go to questions and we will start with Mr. Young for seven minutes.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Thank you to all of the witnesses here today for taking the time and for travelling a distance to come before us today. Thank you very much.
    I want to follow up with Emily Molnar to begin with. When you're preparing young dancers for a career in dance, which sounds like you do very early, what are the key challenges you see for them in the future, and how do you help them prepare for that?
    We have many different programs. Because we are a professional company, all of our dancers have gone through 10 to 12 years of training before they've come into a professional career. As a result, all of our programs are primarily around the graduate level of training, so we work alongside various professional schools such as École supérieure, or the National Ballet School, or Arts Umbrella to find programs that can help ensure that Canadian dancers are getting the proper preparation for a professional career.
     What about after their career? You said you remember the Dancer Transition Resource Centre.
    Yes. I started that when I was very young, when I was at the National Ballet of Canada. The beautiful thing about our art form is that around the age of 35, if you're lucky, or 40, there's a natural transition built into what we do, because our bodies can only dance for so long. Some dancers actually have to stop at 25 because of injuries, so we have to consider what our options are post-dancing. Actually, that's a very important part of the academic programming of a lot of our major institutions. Institutions are very aware of the academic necessity of training dancers.
    Being a part of the Dancer Transition Resource Centre, I have basically been able to secure a future so that when I want to retrain, I have access to being retrained, to go back to university or to continue my studies as a dancer. It is wonderfully complementary that when a dancer is still training they can actually work on a transition, which is inevitably going to happen to every dancer by the age of 40, if not sooner. The Dancer Transition Resource Centre is the only organization in the country that is enabling us to do that, and it is an essential component of our dance community's program.

  (1555)  

    Thank you very much.
    Madame Bissonnette, do you take advantage of the Dancer Transition Resource Centre, or do you have another resource?
    When I was dancing, yes, I used to be with Dancer Transition.

[Translation]

    The centre helps our graduates enter the labour market. It helps dancers at the start of their career and at the end of their career. As Emily said, it's a very large organization that is quite necessary in Canada.
    I would add that we have a teacher training program. A number of dancers who finish their career take our program and become teachers. Others become managers, as happens in other areas of activities that develop. Our teacher training program helps a number for former dancers become trainers of future dancers. That's what's interesting.

[English]

     Thank you very much.
    Madam “Maboungou”, is that the correct pronunciation?
    Yes, it's pretty good.
    Voices: Oh, oh!
    Okay, thank you very much.
    Do you have difficulty attracting male dancers? Do you attract more male dancers and fewer female dancers, and how do you deal with that?
    Well, usually dance complains. In the western culture they complain about the lack of male dancers. Of course, it's pretty common, it's pretty general.
    I probably suffer from that, but maybe less than others. I have a technique that uses the drum, which I've brought into the technique of dance. This, of course, attracts people: it attracts the musicians and also attracts males because of the presence of drums. It's interesting, because if I have to compare myself to those two big institutions, we're dealing here with a company of contemporary dance that is part of, I would say, the alternative, the avant-garde of contemporary art, in the sense that I really have to literally create a living laboratory of people who would be ready to train in the technique that people don't know about here in this country because people here.... They're born here, so they're learning a technique that's also helping them understand a culture that is coming from elsewhere. But it's also here, because it's African-based, and we're living in North America and anything that is African-based, of course, is all over the place in the modern art world, basically.
    This is what we have helped reveal, and because of that, I'm able to attract a certain crowd of people and, yes, males. At this moment I have two men in my production. I have a production where I have two men with five women. Two men and five women is pretty good.
    Do you attract dancers or students from culturally diverse backgrounds as well?
    Absolutely. We are probably the most well-known dance company that does that. We do attract these culturally diverse crowds, but also people, dancers, who are trained diversely. Not only are they culturally diverse, but they're trained diversely. Some have been trained in ballet, some in western contemporary dance, some in Afro-Caribbean dance, so we also have that.
     Emily Molnar, could you tell us how dance helps young Canadians develop themselves and their talents—physical and musical, and even intellectual, skills?

  (1600)  

    That's a very large question.
    The beautiful thing about dance is that it incorporates the entire body, mind, and spirit. You are completely engaged in being present.
    It's been proven through many studies that art training or musical training and movement actually enhances our understanding of mathematics. And there are many other similar studies.
    It's the ability to incorporate the body in an intellectual endeavour, which is dance, and also a very instinctual endeavour. It makes for a very holistic and well-rounded individual. This is why it's very special. Whether or not someone becomes a dancer professionally, the training and disciplined commitment of becoming a dancer actually enhances and betters our society, because that individual has a more thorough, more comprehensive understanding of himself or herself, the body, and our community.
     It's expression. It's awareness of the body. It's intellectual endeavour. It's discipline. It's commitment. It's expression into action. It's one of the most complete forms of development, I think, that a child can actually have at the beginning of his or her life.
    Thank you very much.

[Translation]

    Mr. Nantel and Ms. Sitsabaiesan, you have seven minutes.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    First, I would like to thank Ms. Molnar, Ms. Maboungou, Ms. Bissonnette and Mr. Laurent.
    Ms. Bissonnette, I must say that it is a privilege to meet you. Honestly, I'm very honoured to have the chance to be in the same room as you. I am familiar with all the grace you showed on stages around the world. I believe that is an expression you used. You said that we need to let our dancers bring that grace.
    As a representative of the only francophone institution in North America, how popular do you think it is with young artists? Do you have the feeling that it is thriving? My sister was in the Grands Ballets canadiens with Ms. Chiriaeff at the time, and my two daughters studied with Véronique Landory, outside Montreal. We are going to address the financial aspect, but I would first like to know if ballet is still popular.
    I think so, because we know that classical ballet is the basis of all dance. So it is important for a dancer to begin with classical ballet. It is structure. Little girls and boys start with classical ballet. I think ballet is popular. I hold auditions across Canada, and a lot of people come to audition. As I said, parents and the public also need to be educated. Even if you don't become a professional dancer, you become very educated and extremely well trained, perseverant and disciplined, qualities that are essential for any profession.
    Young dancers at the secondary level are often associated with a very demanding school, the Pensionnat du Saint-Nom-de-Marie. They have fewer academic hours because they are with us for three to five hours a day, but they succeed just as well as the other students. They even obtain a Governor General's award, and have absolutely exceptional careers.
    You were one of the recipients of a Governor General's award in 2014, along with Louise Lecavalier. The Canada Council of the Arts gives out these awards through the Governor General.
    Do you have the feeling that there is a lack of recognition by the Department of Canadian Heritage of these institutions and associations? Beyond the artist and creator on the stage, there are associations and schools, as well. Do you have the feeling that there is an inconsistency here? You spoke about your funding. You lost—
    From Canadian Heritage, it is very low. The Quebec ministry of culture and communications provides us with reasonable funding. There's a problem at Canadian Heritage in terms of the training schools. Certainly, the École supérieure de ballet du Québec is not the only school in Canada, but it is the only francophone one. Many young people come to study with us so that they can also learn both languages. It is important that they learn French, not just in other provinces, but outside Canada.

  (1605)  

[English]

    Madame Bissonnette, I have to disagree for a second with a comment you made that classical ballet cannot be the foundation for all professional dancers. Being a professional classical Indian dancer, I never had ballet training for a day of my life. I saw Madam Maboungou's face when you made that comment, and I'm sure we all have different avenues of classical training before we can get to.... But that's not my question at all. No worries.
    My question is about supporting our artists domestically. I've heard all of you mention the importance of developing our domestic talent. I'd like to ask all of you about the benefits of implementing partnerships with schools. Just like sports are integrated right into our curriculum across the country in our schools, what would you say are the benefits of broadening the interest for young people by integrating dance into our school system?
    Ms. Molnar, do you want to go first?
    I'll try. I think it's absolutely essential. We'd love to get into the public school system. In the U.K. they have made it comparable to a sport. They are able to go right into the public school system and get kids dancing on a regular basis as a physical activity.
    I can say there are statistics out there that show more kids are dancing on a weekend than playing hockey, and if that's any news for you guys it might be something to look at. It's an incredible form of exercise. I think we can get it into the education system on a more regular basis because our technology is taking over now and sedentary life is everywhere. This is an important issue that we're going to have to deal with, and dance is one way we can help deal with that.
    I spent over eight hours every weekend dancing, every weekend for at least eight hours.
    Do you have anything else to add?
    Hopefully, yes. I'm a philosophy professor myself, so I know about the importance of developing the intellect and the physicality with it, of course. I would be totally in agreement that dance should be put back because there's been a whole movement that took it away. It should definitely be put back in schools. Absolutely.
    I think students are more successful and much better at school when they have an art form.
    Absolutely.
    I think it's one of the best things that should be done to push arts forward.
    It's proven that kids are more alert when they are physically active.
    It has been. Thank you.
    Ms. Molnar, did you say the U.K. produced a report before they made those changes?
    They did. Okay.
    Yes. I know the Canada Council can help you with all that information. When they were doing the mapping study, they examined all of that, and it's a very interesting thing to look at.
    Great. Thank you.
    I have a quick question. Ms. Molnar, you mentioned, and I think Madam Maboungou you also might have mentioned, about moving productions globally.
    Is our government currently doing enough to help establish international partnerships so you can grow our productions internationally?
    The government should do more.
    We have 30 seconds left.
    I don't know where we are right now because it seems to me some of the decisions the government is making are blocking that aspect instead of improving it. We certainly need to improve it because the dancers we train—and we train them as full persons, educated and artistic—learn to pay attention to the world they are in. It's more necessary than ever that we can really understand this moving world. I think we should increase the capacity for us to work with partnerships internationally.
    Ms. Molnar, what changes would help?
    We're out of time. Sorry. We'll be back around.

[Translation]

    Mr. Dion, you have seven minutes.

[English]

     Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, Monsieur Laurent, Madame Bissonnette, Madam Maboungou, and Madam Molnar. Thank you so much for being with us.
    In our eight minutes can we discuss the way in which the federal government may be a better partner for you? Is there something we should improve?

[Translation]

    Ms. Bissonnette, you talked about apprentices.
    Is that an area we can have an impact on?
    Is there anything we can do to help you, as far as apprentices are concerned?

  (1610)  

    Yes. It's important to help professional companies support young apprentices who have graduated from Canadian schools.
    What should we do exactly?
    It would involve financial support. Dance companies need money to train apprentices, and oftentimes, they can't afford it. They would like training to continue. For example, does a 20-year-old graduate of our school have enough training to join a dance company? I think that dancer should have an opportunity to be an apprentice in a dance company.
    Are you referring to federal or provincial assistance?
    Companies are doing their best, but there isn't any funding specifically for apprentices. I think Emily may be able elaborate on that.

[English]

     Madam Molnar, do you have a comment on that?
    Our apprentice program actually has a sponsor, and it would be ideal. I know the BC Arts Council has made some headway into having funding specifically for apprentice-level companies or junior companies attached to larger companies, so that we can take that next level of training, and so that once they get into having to deal with being in the line of fire by being a major member in a large company, they are ready. That's really done in an apprentice situation, and we don't have proper funding right now for that level. That will actually ensure that more Canadian dancers can actually stay in this country, because then they won't have to go and look for other companies that are in Europe and beyond to hire them.
    Is it your sense that it should be provincial? Or do you care whether it's provincial or federal as long as it's done?
    We need both. I know right now that the BC Arts Council cannot support that entire endeavour, not even for Ballet BC, not for the entire province. We actually would need a partnership, and if the federal government would be....it would be wonderful.
    Why can they not?
    Our province has the lowest provincial funding at the moment, and we are not seeing that it's going to change in the near future, so we've had to go to private donors to make it happen.
    Okay.
    You mentioned also that the temporary foreign worker program used to be an open bar, and now it's very difficult to access. What should be the right balance?
    The right balance is that we always work towards hiring Canadians, without a doubt. As I said, if there's a Canadian, we take the Canadian first.
    Really I'm concerned that if we cannot consider that it's about excellence first and not about whether someone's Canadian, we are no longer going to have the standard of dance making in this country that we want. For instance, this year I needed two male dancers, and I had almost 300 American and foreign dancers audition and I had about 50 Canadian male dancers audition—no, not even 50, maybe 20 or 25. But they were not at a level where I could consider them, because I was trying to replace senior dancers. So I was in a situation where I had no choice but to hire a foreign dancer, and that's so hard to do that I almost got into a situation where I couldn't even bring someone across the border, which means I wouldn't have a company, which means I couldn't put on a show, which means...you can do the math. It actually becomes a very large problem.
    It's not just Ballet BC. I can speak on behalf of the National Ballet of Canada, Alberta Ballet, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, all of the major large companies that are bringing in choreographers and dancers to create an international conversation. We are having a major problem bringing people across the border.
    Thank you.

[Translation]

    I'd like to discuss an issue that concerns me, injuries. Being a dancer is wonderful, but it does have risks. Dancers are athletes. We often hear it said that dancing is a very tough profession and that many dancers put themselves at risk by dancing, even when injured, so as not to lose an opportunity to make a bit of money, practice their art and be seen by audiences.
    In Quebec, the CSST provides some coverage, but is it enough? In other words, do dancers have adequate coverage in Quebec?
    More and more, schools are teaching students how to take care of their bodies. At the ESBQ, we have physiotherapists and doctors. There are hospitals where we can send our dancers. As I mentioned, training never stops, so safeguarding your health is even more important. Our teachers have the training to teach students how to take care of their bodies and prevent injuries. I think we have made huge strides in that regard.

  (1615)  

[English]

    In British Columbia, what kind of protection do you have when injuries happen?
    Madam Molnar, can you hear me?
     No, I didn't hear you. I'm sorry.
    I was speaking about injuries and the fact that in Quebec this is partly protected by the provincial government. Is that the case in British Columbia or not at all?
    We have workers' compensation that the dancers put money towards for each weekly salary. The company also puts money into that program, so they benefit from that.
     But I would add to Anik's comment that it's part of the professional training of all the institutions. They actually address proper injury prevention and psychological awareness of dance in the training system. Sports medicine in dance is a very big component of training right now in the professional schools. Anik's École supérieure, the National Ballet School, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School are all schools that have been doing an incredible amount of studying towards this, so that dancers are much more prepared when they enter a company.
    Also, as a director, I continue to work with our dancers and a health team to develop prevention—and also, when they are injured, on how they are rehabilitated. It is a part of our ongoing daily practice in a company to also service that question.

[Translation]

    In other words, you don't have any recommendations for the federal government in that area.
    I would just add that the field of contemporary dance has undergone some tremendous changes, well after classical dance. In contemporary dance, old methods and the way dancers were trained were called into question. How the field views the relationship between health and the body has undergone a fundamental revolution.
    In our school, we can't afford to have massage therapists. Instead, it is usually osteopaths sending their clients to me. My teaching method is always based on the presence of rhythm, meaning a drum. And, to some extent, that corresponds to a biorhythm linked directly to the body, protecting it. I always tell dancers that they have to listen to the drum before listening to me.
    A significant therapeutic consideration is coming into play, and it is revolutionizing the very notion of dance, the art of dance and education. And this is something I'd like to stress. UNESCO is in the process of rethinking its approaches to education and learning, re-examining the very concept of education around the world. The organization has realized that focusing solely on the intellectual dimension, which prevents the body from playing a role in the learning process, is problematic. And for that reason, we are seeing a shift towards educational approaches that take into account physicality around learning. That's fundamental.
     I think contemporary dance is truly at the forefront of this change in terms of the individual's health.
     Very good. Thank you.

[English]

    We will now go to Mr. Hillyer for seven minutes.
    Can I add one...?
    I think you'll get another chance.
    Mr. Hillyer.
    If you want to, Emily, feel free to add your comment now. I'll give you some of my time.
    Thank you.
    Is there something we can do to actually help with injury prevention? Yes.
     For instance, our health team actually does it for free. We need government funding to pay for a health team in our company, and so that we can also continue to have the Dancer Transition Research Centre, so we can continue to transition dancers once they are injured and can no longer dance. We need funding for that.

[Translation]

    Ms. Maboungou, is your school for adults, children or young adults?
    It's for young dancers in training, meaning those already following an artistic path and working towards becoming professionals. So they already have training. The students who come to us aren't 14 or 15 years old but, rather, in their 20s. They have a genuine desire to specialize their skills and engage in artistic and professional development. That's what we work on with students.
    Our approach is somewhat of an alternative to traditional instruction in that it incorporates the transfer of cultural knowledge and skills. The focus, obviously, is on diversity. Without us— We are the only school, in Quebec and in Canada, to provide training, as well as professional and artistic development that incorporates a variety of cultural skills and knowledge.

  (1620)  

    I have here a description of the courses your school offers, and I see that each is equivalent to a certain number of credits.
    Are the credits earned at your school transferable to other schools?
     We wanted to have transferable credits. But we were told, at the time, that we couldn't proceed that way. Our funding was contingent upon on our not formalizing that approach. So we complied with the terms of our agreements with the Department of Canadian Heritage. Clearly, the reason I allot credits to courses is to show my dancers that they have learned something that will serve them well as professionals.

[English]

     Okay, Ballet BC and your school have different levels. You started at different levels when you were younger but your school is for college-level students, is that right, Emily?
    I'm a professional ballet company, which means means that once dancers start to work with me, they've finished their professional training.
    They're already done it?
    They're already done it, but we as a company support pre-professional training projects to make sure that we are participating and getting talent for the company. But we are not essentially a school; we are a professional company.
    Okay, thank you.
    But Anik, your school is more for college level. Can people get government student loans for your school?
    Ms. Emily Molnar: Yes.
    Mr. Jim Hillyer: Okay, good.
    Emily, you said you left home at age 10 to go to school. Are there lots of schools around the country that a 10-year-old can go to?
    At the time there were many dance schools across the country in various provinces. We're very lucky. But when I was 10 in Regina, Saskatchewan, if I wanted to be a classical ballet dancer, which I did, there were not very many options there. There are probably many more now, but the National Ballet School, L’École supérieure, or the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School were the only ones where I could actually graduate and be able to enter into a professional career as a classical ballet dancer. You have to know that. There are schools for various types of dance all over the country.
    Tell me about your school. Do you guys have people who leave home to come to your school? How do you help kids at 10 years of age deal with living away from home and parents deal with sending their kids away?

[Translation]

    We have host families who take in the youngest students. Of course, it's increasingly difficult to accommodate very young dancers because families are having fewer and fewer children. Some 20 or 30 years ago, families had more children and would let young dancers go away. Today, that's more and more challenging. Some families even move to Montreal to support their child's dream.

[English]

    In this dance study I've been thinking about this. We're talking about professionals and the professional level but I also think that as part of our Canadian heritage, we want to think about bringing dance just to be part of the culture. I get that sense from people who run the professional schools and professional programs.
    My experience growing up in a small town was that we played different sports like hockey, soccer, and basketball. We played various musical instruments. We'd take violin lessons, or piano lessons, or play trombone in the school band. Very few of us thought we were going to become professionals. We all wanted to become professional hockey players or even professional violinists. It never really was my objective, but I still invested a lot of time. My parents invested a lot of money in allowing me to do this. I would like to see that with dance more.

  (1625)  

[Translation]

    A number of my friends studied piano in university. They wanted to become concert pianists but knew it wouldn't be possible for everyone, so they became instructors, for no other reason than to feed their souls.

[English]

    It doesn't seem that we're quite there with dance, where we just do it and spend money and time even though we don't think we'll ever become professionals, but just to do it. In your world you may see it more, but how can we make it part of my world too?

[Translation]

     That's very important for many dance schools around the country. The ESBQ, for example, begins working with students at the age of three. We offer classes for parents and their three-year-olds. We introduce them to dance. They may not necessarily embark on a career in dance but they will have had exposure to it. They may attend dance performances.
    More than 1,000 adults and children participate in our recreational program. Our classes are full and have very long waiting lists to get in. Children need to continue going to school, but it's also important for them to be introduced to dance, just as they are introduced to drama or music.
     Thank you.

[English]

     Ms. Sitsabaiesan, you are going to get about two minutes.
    Thank you.
    Is that question for everyone?
    It was, but we're out of time.
    First of all, I want to apologize to Madame Bissonnette if I cut you off earlier because I only had two and a half minutes then, and now I have two minutes again. Did you want to finish what you were saying?

[Translation]

     I was just thinking about classical dance because I come from a classical dance school. You're absolutely right. There are all kinds of dance. So it is I, who apologizes to you.

[English]

    Thank you, and I'm sorry for cutting you off earlier.
    Ms. Molnar, did you want to finish your answer from earlier?
    Yes. You were asking about being able to have more international presence.
    Ms. Rathika Sitsabaiesan: Absolutely.
    Ms. Emily Molnar: We create so much international work here in Canada that we need to get abroad. That could actually be helped through the touring initiatives. We need more money put into touring so that we can be ambassadors of Canadian art abroad. We need that both federally and from the provincial government. I know for the B.C. Arts Council that we don't have any touring, and right now touring has been cut as an initiative within the Canada Council. So that could be very helpful.
    I just want to say one other thing about how we can get more participation in dance. We need to make a national platform about fitness around dance and get every company and every school to be organized around that in the country, so that we as professional organizations can help you as the government to actually do that.
    I remember touring or pretend touring and performing in the U.S. in a couple of states, and the funding came from my parents and all of the other parents. That was basically it when we were performing across the States and in other parts of Canada.
     We were invited to go to New York City and we didn't actually have the funding, and the National Ballet of Canada tried to go to New York City and they had to do the funding privately through their donors. That just shouldn't happen.
    We should be able to do those tours because we have Canadian content that needs to get out there.
    Do I have time left?
    The Chair: Fifteen seconds.
    Ms. Rathika Sitsabaiesan: Okay, great. So lots of time.
    I want to say thank you.
    I've heard recommendations about the inclusion of dance in schools, the inclusion of dance as a sport throughout the community basically, and also the changes to the temporary foreign worker program and movement towards international mobility programs.
    Is there anything else that any of you want to quickly add in three seconds?
    I would like to really insist on the fact that the aspect of cultural diversity is very important.
    In French we're calling ourselves des passeurs.

[Translation]

    Our companies are cultural messengers, so to speak. I, myself, am from another country but I meet Canadians who identify with me, through the culture I represent. And because of that, my company, meaning the artistic expression and development I offer, acts as a bridge between cultures. As a result, we are able to share local identities and reinterpret them in a contemporary way.

[English]

    Okay.
    On that note, that's going to have to be the last word.
    Thank you very much to our witnesses.
    This is the last day of witnesses for our dance study, so if you have any further contributions to make to our study, we really need them by tomorrow.
    Thank you very much. We will briefly suspend.

  (1630)  


  (1630)  

     We are going to call this meeting number 48 of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage back to order, where we are continuing our study of dance in Canada.
    We have a number of witnesses with us, all by video conference. First from West Vancouver, British Columbia, we have from the Dancers of Damelahamid, Margaret Grenier, who is the executive and artistic director. From Toronto we have from Sampradaya Dance Creations, Ms. Lata Pada, the founder and artistic director; and from Calgary, Alberta, we have from Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, Kathi Sundstrom, the executive director.
    We will start with Margaret Grenier for up to eight minutes. You have the floor.
    Margaret.

  (1635)  

    [Witness speaks in her native language]
     First, I'd like to acknowledge the ancestral land of the Algonquin Nation, and I thank them for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Gitxsan Nation.
    Second, I acknowledge this committee and thank them for the opportunity to speak about my dance practice.
    Growing up in a small community on the northwest coast of British Columbia, I was immersed from a young age in the practice of song and dance that has been passed down from countless generations. It was through this experience that I entered into a relationship with my ancestral memories.
    Today, as a Gitxsan dancer, a practice that interweaves many artistic disciplines, dance has become a place from which the embodied processes of my Gitxsan teachings can form. As I am the executive and artistic director for the Dancers of Damelahamid, the work that I do is to ensure the continuation of what has been of such great importance to my parents and grandparents, and now to me.
    My grandmother, matriarch Irene Harris, awakened the songs and dances of her lineage, having lived the majority of her life through the potlatch ban. Therefore, I treasure dance as the most significant inheritance that I have from my ancestors, and it will be a life journey to strive to develop the art to its full potential.
    For me, dance, song, and story have provided a protective environment to address the limitations placed on our indigenous peoples. In our performances we are not only turning to our ancestral knowledge for our own reconciliation, but we are also sharing and supporting others through art.
    Gitxsan dance is an educational tool. The healing space created by dance is very powerful for indigenous people and all Canadians. The Dancers of Damelahamid share our professional practices with students at elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions. These instructional workshops on first nations dance are central to the company's activities. The benefits of these educational workshops for students include empathy, cultural appreciation, focus, agility, teamwork, and discipline. This vital work supports the company's mandate and ability to influence social change through art.
    Gitxsan dance advances the ongoing processes of reconciliation. The Dancers of Damelahamid have a longstanding relationship with Vancouver choreographer Karen Jamieson. Her generosity of spirit has inspired collaborative projects for over 25 years.
    As a result of this success, the Dancers of Damelahamid support the Canada Council for the Arts new funding initiative entitled {Re}conciliation. This unique initiative will promote artistic collaborations between aboriginal and non-aboriginal artists, investing in the power of art and imagination to inspire dialogue, understanding, and change. This initiative precedes the release of the report from Canada's truth and reconciliation commission and seeks to help artists and Canadians alike to reflect upon and help repair historic injustices. With this initiative and the new program of aboriginal arts, the Canada Council is working to better recognize and support the work of first nations artists.

  (1640)  

     Gitxsan dance promotes cross-cultural understanding of first nations heritage.
    The Dancers of Damelahamid are set to tour their new dance work through the Made in BC—Dance on Tour in the fall of 2015. The Dancers of Damelahamid's presence in these B.C. communities provides an important opportunity to open cultural dialogue as the majority of these venues have never presented a first nations dance company up until now. It is timely that relationships are developed between presenters and aboriginal dance artists.
    The Dancers of Damelahamid produce the annual Coastal First Nations Dance Festival in partnership with the UBC Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. The festival is a celebration of the stories, songs, and dances of indigenous peoples of the northwest coast. The festival presents dance artists from British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska, as well as national and international artists, and demonstrates that these traditions are very much alive, vibrant, and relevant today. Guest artists from across Canada, as well as international groups from New Zealand, Australia, Ecuador, and Peru, have been invited to share their traditions, allowing the Coastal First Nations Dance Festival to connect with the global community of indigenous dance.
    The Coastal First Nations Dance Festival receives moderate support through the development component of the Department of Canadian Heritage's Canada arts presentation fund.
    The impact of this festival nationally and internationally as a platform for serving a diversity of indigenous dance warrants significant funding. The Canada arts presentation fund program should move forward in a way that strengthens and increases its ability to be inclusive and more supportive of these distinct art forms.
    Thank you.
    [Witness speaks in her native language]
    Thank you very much.
    We'll now go to Toronto to hear from Lata Pada.
    You have the floor for up to eight minutes.
     Good afternoon and I welcome this opportunity to speak today.
    I'm actually based in Mississauga and I'm the artistic director and founder of SAMPRADAYA Dance Creations. This year we celebrate our 21st anniversary as a company. At the same time, in 1990, I also established SAMPRADAYA Dance Academy, which is a professional dance training organization. They're two separate organizations, separately incorporated, and they both are independent not-for-profit charitable organizations governed by separate boards and separate staff.
    We are a culturally diverse dance training and dance production and creation organization, and specifically work in a form of South Asian classical dance. I arrived in Canada 50 years ago and I've seen this really incredible arc of dance development for South Asian dance in Canada over the past 50 years. I'm very proud and pleased to say that South Asian dance today is recognized on the national landscape as a Canadian art form, as opposed to the situation when I first arrived, when it was seen as some sort of exotic dance form. They didn't quite know how to describe it; it was seen as a folk form or some kind of ethnic art form. I think, over the years, the efforts of several South Asian dance pioneers have been able to demystify the art form and also to build a better appreciation and understanding of its importance as a Canadian artistic expression.
    We are based in Mississauga and have been very active in developing dance in the Peel and Halton regions here in Ontario. Our history with Canadian Heritage is a long one. The company SAMPRADAYA Dance Creations has received support from Canadian Heritage through their Canada cultural spaces fund to enhance and to enlarge and renovate our dance space. Today we're very pleased to say that we have a 7,000 square foot dance facility that also has a 95 seat black box theatre, which is professionally equipped with sound and lighting. This is thanks to the Canada cultural spaces fund in addition to the Ontario Trillium Foundation's community capital fund, which supported this capital program for the company.
    Several years ago the academy also received support from the Canada cultural spaces fund to bring in special audiovisual equipment for dance training. We have also been able to access some small amounts of arts presentation support. We are not yet on CanDance, the Canadian Network of Dance Presenters.
    So far with what we've been able to accomplish over the past 25 years, the academy is now Canada's leading South Asian classical dance organization. We receive support from the Canada arts training fund from Canadian Heritage.
    Our graduates now—34 of them—are dancing in professional dance both in my company and as well as independent dancers. They're sought after dancers working both nationally and internationally. Our academy also holds the only summer intensive for South Asian classical dance professional development and training across Canada annually, which is a very important aspect of what we do.
     SAMPRADAYA Dance Creations is a professional dance company. We create and produce work and present it on main stages. That's a very important statement that I need to make because we're no longer performing just for our own cultural community. Indeed, our dance is seen across Canada on national stages, and we are touring internationally as well. We're seen as a Canadian company, not as a South Asian dance company from Canada. That's an important distinction to make.

  (1645)  

     We are creating, producing, and presenting many artists. Over the last 10 years, SAMPRADAYA Dance Creations has actually expanded its mandate to be a South Asian dance development organization. That means we don't only create and perform dance, but also foster and nurture the development of our community of dance artists and have special presentation theories, such as the horizon series, for emerging new-generation artists. We also have another series for established artists in our theatre.
    We collaborate extensively with community groups in the Halton and Peel regions in all disciplines—in theatre, dance, music, literature, and in film—so I think it's vital to state that this opportunity to receive support from cultural spaces has been incredibly important for a small organization such as ours to become a hub for the arts in the Peel region.
    I would like to make the following recommendations.
    We as a company collaborate with many international artists from across South Asia and the U.S.A. to create work that tours Canada and internationally. Just this past week, we had our 25th anniversary celebration and we had five artists come from India to be part of this production. These artists came under the international mobility program, which is so critical to our ability to bring in foreign artists. We applaud Canadian Heritage for having facilitated this program, instead of going through the very onerous, lengthy, and complex process of having to go through the labour market impact assessment program. I urge Canadian Heritage to continue to allow artists from abroad to come under the international mobility program, which allows us to collaborate with artists from abroad, because it's vital that we do so. I urge Canadian Heritage to remove some of the restrictions.
     I will talk about the ripple effect of bringing international artists here. They actually open up direct opportunities for artists from Canada and companies such as ours to go into foreign markets, because these artists are returning to India, talking about the wonderful work that was done in Canada, and are speaking to presenters in India and taking our work back to India and other parts of Southeast Asia. I cannot overstate the importance of disseminating Canadian work across the world. Canadian art, I would emphasize, should not be seen as art that just comes from Eurocentric traditions. I think Canada today is a very pluralistic arts community and we need to be looking at Canadian art as being extremely diverse in both its interdisciplinary work and its artistic voices.
    I also would urge Canada—

  (1650)  

    Ms. Pada, I'm going to have to—
    Am I out of time?
    You are quite well past the time, but you will get a chance to expand upon it in the question period.
    We will now go to Calgary, Alberta, to hear from Kathi Sundstrom. You have the floor for up to eight minutes.
     Good afternoon. Thank you for providing me this opportunity to talk to you about dance in Calgary, jazz dance, and DJD.
     Decidedly Jazz Danceworks was born in 1984 out of the University of Calgary. Vicki Adams Willis had founded one of the only jazz dance programs at a Canadian university and had two graduating students who wanted to pursue their passion for what they had studied, and they did not want to have to move away to do so. They convinced Vicki to join them in starting a dance company. For the first couple of years, DJD existed as a part-time company on summer employment grants. They had a dream of hiring 10 dancers for 10 months to work full time to train and perform.
     In 1987, DJD applied for a Canadian jobs strategy grant, a program not designed for this type of project. But armed with a strong application and piles of reference letters from the community, it was a success. That was the launching pad to become a full-time company. Who would have thought then that today, 29 years later, we would be partnering with the Calgary Foundation to build a $43-million facility?
     DJD, now in our 31st year, has an annual operating budget of $2 million to $2.5 million. Fifty per cent of our expenses are paid to people: dancers, admin staff, dance teachers, musicians, designers, and theatre technicians.
    The cornerstone of DJD is to employ dancers and to offer respectable contracts, wages, and benefits. We strive to employ 8 to 12 dancers full time for 32 to 42 weeks. We invest in their training and professional development. Sadly, for the last five years we have had to reduce the size of our company and the number of weeks of work. This is a direct result of the lack of growth in operating funding, combined with ever-increasing operating expenses.
     We face a chronic shortage of male dancers, so we have often hired American, Cuban, Jamaican, and Brazilian male dancers. This past season, we had a male dancer from Brazil. Because our style is unique, rarely can we hire a dancer above what we refer to as an “apprentice”. Now, an apprentice, in our definition, is someone who has trained for years, has danced professionally, and often has post-secondary dance training. We have to meet what is deemed by Service Canada as the prevailing wage. In 2014, it was $17 an hour. This year, when we started the process to renew his work permit, the prevailing wage was deemed to be $25 an hour, a dramatic acceleration and completely unfounded based on our wages and those of the Alberta Ballet and the other dance companies we researched.
     The process does not allow us to dispute or challenge that wage level, even though we can prove the data to be incorrect. If we can't pay the wage, our application is denied. So in this next season, we'll be short one male dancer position and will not be able to build on the training we have invested in this Brazilian dancer.
    I would like to talk about the wages for dancers. First of all, our philosophy at DJD is that we base all wages on what we pay a dancer. We benchmark our dancers' salaries against three to four other contemporary companies in Canada. In a city like Calgary, you can imagine the challenges we face in filling some of our roles in marketing and development with lower salary envelopes.
     Sadly, the arts sector is not one you pick if high wages are expected. We pay an apprentice $595 a week at $17 an hour, and the biweekly take-home pay is $978. If you look at a five-year dancer, you'll see that their pay is $770 at $22 an hour, with a biweekly take-home of $1,233. DJD covers 100% of their health, dental, and short-term disability.
    You can imagine that in a city like Calgary, where the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,409, it is beyond challenging to make ends meet. With the present operating realities of increases in operating costs, no growth, and some decreases in operating grants, combined with the challenging climate for fundraising growth post-2008, it is impossible for us to make meaningful increases to wages.
    Jazz, as you may or may not know, is truly a North American art form. Jazz dance was born in North America as a result of the melding of the influence of European art forms and the African traditions of song and dance that the slaves brought with them. DJD invites audiences and students to experience how jazz music shapes movement and feeling, to explore the connection between personal expression and collaboration, and to move.
     We strive to bring dance to everyone: to the professional dancer and to the audience members. Performance is one way in which we do that, but equally important are education and community outreach. We offer community classes for all levels and from ages 2 to 90. We work in the school system. We work with special groups, such as high-needs schools, and unique communities, such as Parkinson's patients and adult women recovering from addiction.
    DJD has one of the only Canadian professional training programs for jazz dance. In the words of Dr. Darwin Prioleau, who is in the Department of Dance at SUNY Brockport, New York, “Who would have thought I'd have to come to Calgary Alberta Canada?.... It's the only place in North America where you can study authentic jazz.”

  (1655)  

    This past year, in our professional training program, we had 12 students from across Canada studying for 32 weeks. We have a partnership with U of C and Ryerson, and our dream for this program is to expand it in our new facility. We have made initial inquiries regarding the Canadian arts training fund, but we understand this program is highly subscribed to and there are limited opportunities for new intake.
    DJD moved into its current facility in 1993. It is 9,500 square feet, and we paid $30,000 a year in rent. Every five years, our rent doubled. When we reached rent of $140,000, we had maximized all opportunities for increased earned revenues in our schools, and we were still under market on what we paid for rent. If we could not solve our facility problems and ideally find some kind of philanthropic partner for a landlord, we would be out of business.
    In 2005, we began conversations with the Kahanoff Foundation, which was looking to expend its Kahanoff Centre, which is a one-of-a-kind facility that rents to charities at 75% of market in downtown Calgary. We were invited to become part of their expansion. This journey has taken 10 years and has not been without many challenges. Projects of this size are a bit like a house of cards; you need many partners to make them a reality, and some support is contingent on other support and you have to balance different budget years.
    There are many moving objects. But I am proud to say that in April of 2016, we will open the DJD dance centre on budget and on schedule. This 40,000 square foot facility is the podium of a 12-story tower. The first five floors will be for DJD, with seven studios, one that converts to a 200-seat theatre, a community living room space, costume construction area, and administration offices. It will be a major expansion for DJD, but most importantly, an important cultural hub for Calgary and a home for dance.
    DJD's capital fund is $26 million. We have now raised $23 million and are in the final stretch to raise the last $3 million. And yes, I must say, I'm a wee bit worried about how the downturn in Calgary will affect us.
    The establishment of an operating endowment is a critical piece to our future financial plan. The opportunity for matching by the Canadian heritage endowment incentive program has been a significant piece to motivate donors. Our cities need strong and vibrant arts organizations. We need stable funding to continue to make the impact we do in our communities. Many of us are small organizations working hard with very limited resources to accomplish what we do.
    Speaking from the point of view of an executive director of a $2 million company with a small administrative staff, I would say it serves us more effectively to have a base of stable operating funds than to have a maze of various program grants to search out, apply for, and hope for a positive outcome.
    As we approach the 150th anniversary of Canada, we do have to pause and celebrate that moment. We will do that celebration very much using culture and arts, for that is what defines us as a society. I encourage you though, along with having a celebration, to demonstrate a commitment to the healthy future of our sector by making important needed investments to ensure we have healthy, vibrant organizations. We need to nurture and train our artists, and we need to have places to employ them.
    I recently had the pleasure of hearing Zita Cobb, the force behind Newfoundland's Fogo Island, speak, and this quote has stayed with me: “Nature and culture are the two great garments of human life.”
     Thank you.

  (1700)  

    Thank you very much.
    We will now go to the questions, starting with Mr. Young for seven minutes.
    Thank you, Chair.
    Thank you, everyone, for taking the time for us today. The presentations were very interesting too.
    First, Madam Pada, would it be helpful for you to have a free minute to finish off your thoughts?
    Certainly. Thank you very much for that.
    I was going to speak about the importance of the dissemination of Canadian dance internationally. That's why Canadian Heritage's support to Canada Council for international touring is truly valuable.
    I recently sat on a jury, and it was heartbreaking because there were so many deserving individuals and companies that were not successful due to budget constraints at the Canada Council. I would ask that Canadian Heritage consider enhancing support to the Canada Council to take Canadian dance across the country and internationally. I also cannot speak enough about the importance and the power of dance to build social cohesion. We work a lot in the schools and at seniors centres and at new immigrant centres, and I can see the impact that dance makes in the lives of young people, in the lives of new immigrants who do not speak the language or who have no experience living in Canada, and particularly for seniors. I think there has to be support to allow artists and dance companies to provide these very important aspects of social and emotional identity and social cohesion.
    That would be all I was going to say.
     Thank you very much.
    Kathi Sundstrom, I'm very interested in what you're saying. My daughter lives in Calgary now, so I'm extra interested in what you're saying.
    Did you say you raised $23 million for a facility?
    Yes.
    First, I want to say congratulations.
    Ms. Kathi Sundstrom: Thank you.
    Mr. Terence Young: I was really surprised to hear about that. It must have been a tremendous project that you worked on for a long time.
    Yes. It's been very exciting and it's been a lot of work.
    We did receive $1.9 million from the Heritage fund as part of that $23 million.
    Well, congratulations. I'll be very interested to see what happens with jazz dancing in Calgary in the future. That is so cool and really fascinating. Thank you very much.
    Thank you.
    Margaret Grenier, I have never heard dance described, or heard the importance of dance described, as you've described it, as not just communication but reconciliation. It's like the ultimate in communication: helping repair historic injustices, which is fascinating to me, and promoting cultural understanding, which is not an entirely new idea, but coming from you, it has a somewhat different meaning, I think.
    How many people of other cultures have the opportunity to participate in first nations dance?
     I can speak in terms of my experience.
     Our dance company in many ways goes back several decades. Back in the 1960s, when the work began with my parents and my grandmother, there was a really strong focus to revitalize practices within our communities. I have seen within the past decade or longer a lot more opportunity for collaboration. As I mentioned, our family began a collaboration even before that with Karen Jamieson Dance. When Karen first approached my father with regard to that collaboration, he had to explain the political context, he being a hereditary chief, and how to navigate that. At first he said no.
    It's been quite a lot of work. Even today, it's still through developed personal relationships.

  (1705)  

    Thank you.
    Can you comment on how dancing and the performances help develop the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the dancers and help them connect with the audience?
    For the most part, the work that's done by dancers on the west coast is still very much an intergenerational practice and one that has really strong ties to community. It's not only something where you're exposed to traditional knowledge from elders and knowledge keepers. It's something where, by being immersed in that practice, there's growth in the young artists. They are receiving something that is incredibly nourishing at a time when many people are coming from places where there's brokenness—broken ties to that ancestral knowledge, broken ties to community. Cultural identity is something that is strengthened by these opportunities.
    Just by demonstrating that as a performer, and showing that to audience members who may not have any direct knowledge or contact with this kind of practice, we often receive feedback on how inspiring that is. I believe that's the source of where that feedback has come from.
    Of course it is. Thank you.
    Kathi Sundstrom, can you please explain, just functionally, what you said about not being able to challenge the salary rates for dancers and about how, speaking practically, that holds you up in getting male dancers? I think that's what you said.
    Oh, I think that from a young age, sadly, boys aren't encouraged to dance as much as girls. There's a supply and demand issue in that there are many more trained female dancers than male dancers. A male dancer with any talent has a greater opportunity for contracts. Often you will find that they may venture into the more commercial side of things, doing commercial work or video work that not in a non-profit environment.
    We're not going to pay inequitably by the sexes. We're going to pay everyone the same, whether they're a man or a woman. So if we find a promising male dancer, they won't necessarily work for the wages that are prevalent.
     All right, thank you very much.
    We'll now go to Ms. Sitsabaiesan. You have the floor for seven minutes.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you to all of our witnesses.
    I'd like to acknowledge the fact that today we have seen very diverse witnesses from diverse forms of dance. Thank you to all of you for being here.
    Ms. Grenier, you've mentioned that you are, and I might say it wrong, a Gitxsan dancer?
    Yes, that's correct.
    You said it's an educational tool and that you're sharing it with students and schools at all levels—elementary, middle, intermediate, secondary, and post-secondary—in doing your workshops.
    I've been asking all of our witnesses about the impact we can have in integrating the various forms of dance into our educational curriculum, just as sports has been integrated. So my question for you, since you're already doing this, is how has it affected the children or the youth in the schools? Has it broadened their interest in aboriginal dance education? Has it also broadened non-aboriginals' interest in aboriginal dance education?

  (1710)  

    Yes, I think there are two answers to that question. Fundamentally, what I see when we do our workshops, especially with young people, is that there's a very open response. They respond with whatever feelings they've evoked in the moment. There are no preconceived ideas as to what they're going to see. We always say that it's a very “open-hearted” relationship that is built between the dancers and the young people.
    Therefore, in terms of the impact, I know that there are very positive experiences through both the performance and workshops. The young people are going to carry that forward with them. They are going to have positive perspectives that are going to be influential in their relationships with aboriginal people. I think that's what's so beautiful about working within schools and in a context where you're bringing together aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities.
    Further I think because dance integrates language, movement, story, and traditional teachings, it's something where you're able to expose young people to more than just an art from. They really are learning cultural knowledge, as well as appreciating the distinctiveness and diversity of the first nations people.
    Thank you.
    I'll segue from there. Ms. Pada, it's great to have you here and to have bharatanatyam and South Asian dance as part of the Canadian landscape, as you've mentioned.
    For me, it was through dance that I learned and figured out my cultural identity, that blend between my roots of where I come from and my Canadian identity, and what that means. I know you're doing that for many of our young people in the western GTA.
    You and Ms. Sundstrom spoke of the difficulties you are experiencing with the temporary foreign worker program. Ms. Pada you also mentioned specifically the international mobility program and how it helped you bring five dancers for your last production, and the ripple effect of that.
    I'm going to focus on the ripple effect piece, because I think you were very clear about the international mobility program. Is the government currently doing enough to help establish international partnerships so that you, as a dance school and then as a dance company, take the production you are producing here locally and are able to tour or to take it to the global market?
     Thank you, Rathika.
    That's an important question. Support right now for touring internationally comes directly from the Canada Council's international touring program, and as I said earlier, it's just not well-subscribed. The program just doesn't have the budget to respond to the number of requests and applications they receive.
    It's very interesting when you tour abroad. In the same way that people want to know about Canadian cuisine, they want to know what Canadian culture is. That's a very important part of what we need to express as a nation, namely, that we are a very diverse nation and that our identity comes from first nations first and foremost—their cultural identity—but as much as that, from all the other diverse cultural communities that also live and work across Canada.
    I do believe there is a ripple effect from the Canadian commissions in the various countries also providing support to Canadian artists touring abroad. We seek their support, but their budgets are also very limited when it comes to supporting the performance of a Canadian artist in the city where they're located or across the country. So in my case I would speak about the Canadian High Commission in India. They've always been very supportive in marketing our programs, but they just have no other way of supporting artists who come to travel and perform across India. I give that as an example only.

  (1715)  

    Ms. Sundstrom, did you want to add your comments? I have 30 seconds apparently.
    We recently did a project with a guest company from Brazil. We brought in five dancers and shared an evening of work. We did half the work; they did half the work, and then we did a collaboration. We would love this to be a much larger project and to tour to Brazil, but there isn't the support now that we can count on to make that happen. It was interesting. The piece that the audience members in Calgary liked the most was when the two companies worked together. We used the best of each and created something that was very exciting, and we'd love to be able to expand that and take it to Brazil, but currently there is not enough funding for that type of project.
    What is the type of support that you're actually looking for, that you think would help?
    Well, it would be touring support and just various programs that we can access for funding.
    Thank you very much.

[Translation]

    Mr. Dion, you have seven minutes.

[English]

    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    Thank you very much to the three of you, mesdames, for being with us.
    You address the issue of the support that you receive from the arts councils, the Canada Council. Is it only a matter of money, that you want more money, or is it the way the programs are designed that must be improved?
    The three of you may answer, if one of you will volunteer to start.
    Madame Pada, you were the first one to mention the issue of the arts council. Do you want to start, Madame Pada?
    Thank you.
    Yes, of course, it is a question of being able to diversify your support. There used to be trade groups and various other programs at Canadian Heritage that at one point supported international touring. That was withdrawn quite a few years ago, and now international touring is funnelled and supported directly through the Canada Council. So, for sure, their budget for international and national touring has to be increased to be able to facilitate taking Canadian art abroad. And very little of Canadian art—“art” meaning the performing arts, visual arts—is seen across the world. We have a surfeit of other forms, but we never see much from Canada. So definitely my recommendation is that it should go directly to the Canada Council to enable the council to support such artists.
    Madame Grenier, did you want to intervene on the Canada Council issue?
     Yes, I believe the continued development of the program is essential to be able to best serve artists, especially because of their diversity. As well, the experience of the Dancers of Damelahamid is certainly that our success has been because of the program officers we have worked with—especially with the Canada Council for the Arts, which really listened to us as individuals, looking at our needs and our projects and making it possible for our company to grow in the manner it has.
     However, throughout all of this process, there is an ongoing need to have to look at program criteria and do your best to sit within those boundaries. I think that always places limitations on artistic practices, especially when your artistic practices are coming from a place that is so distinctly unique and often not completely in line with the way the program criteria are set out now. I think a continual effort to move that forward is just as necessary as the funding itself.
    Thank you very much.
    Madam Sundstrom, what are your comments on the same topic?
    I'm a big believer in operating funding. We need operating funding to allow us to do what we do. I went to a presentation last week, and I know that Canada Council is streamlining all its grants. As a small organization—even the $2 million organization, which you may think is big, is small—we have limited administrative staff. So, we have to apply for layered grant on grant on grant. We need that base of operating funding so that we can make wise decisions.
     I would very much support an increase to Canada Council for operating funding. It would be wonderful if the federal government could do that and also encourage the province and cities to follow suit, by your example.

  (1720)  

    Good.
    Madam Sundstrom, you were the one, if I'm not wrong, who mentioned the issue of the preparations for the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Can I ask if you received a clear sense of what you need to do to be part of these celebrations? Do you need to prepare? Do you have the sense that government, or the minister, gave to the arts community of Canada a direction about how you may be involved?
    At this point, the only one I know specific details about is the Building Canada fund, which would be for renovations of the facilities and which we would not be eligible for. I have not seen the details. I've heard that the details are going to come, but I haven't seen details of the other programs that may be available to us.
    Would you say that it's not a problem because 2017 is a long way from now? Or, do you think you need some leeway or some time to prepare yourself appropriately?
    Oh, 2017 is very close, and time goes very fast. In order to do something properly, we need more advance notice, yes.
    May I ask Madam Grenier to intervene on that? Do you feel that you're involved in the preparations for the 150th anniversary of Confederation?
    I think at this time there's information that is beginning to surface. Up until this point I don't feel that I have had the opportunity to receive a lot of information leading up to the celebrations or how an arts company such as ourselves could be more involved.
     Certainly what I would like to see is something like the coastal first nations dance festival, where we are doing our best to serve as broad a community as we can. That could help to serve as a platform to bring artistic expression to that conversation and a celebration of that scale.
    Thank you.
    Madam Pada, would you like to intervene on the same topic?
    I'd like to echo what Kathi said, that 2017 is around the corner, and we certainly would like advance notice and some clearer direction or indication of what the government is planning for 2017, especially in the arts sector, so the sooner the better.
     Thank you.
    How much time do I have left now?
    You have 30 seconds.
    Which one of you three would like to respond? Okay, I will choose because otherwise you will take time on it.
     Madam Sundstrom, with regard to the temporary worker program, what would be the right balance between having that program too open, to the point that some abuse may happen, and too cumbersome to the point that you cannot bring in people that you need?
    The paperwork is massive and the rules change continuously. We have a lawyer who does it all for us pro bono. If we didn't have that, we wouldn't be able to do it. There was no example that I know of, of abuse in the cultural sector. From having run auditions across Canada for 10 years, we can clearly prove that we're not getting enough male dancers. We would much rather hire a Canadian if there were one, and we've been able to prove that year on year on year, yet the landscape changed.
    All right. Thank you very much.
    We'll go to Mr. Hillyer. You have about three minutes.
    Okay, thank you.
     Ms. Pada, you talked about the international mobility program being a more effective way of bringing international talent in. Is it that with that program you can't bring in as many workers as you would like? Is that the reason why you can't use it more than you already do?

  (1725)  

    Up to this point, we had to apply for the labour market opinion. I believe it's now called the labour market impact assessment. That particular process took over six months, and there was a great deal of disparity in what the per-application fee was. In some cases it was up to $1,000 per artist that you were bringing in, and in some cases it was $250. There was a great deal of confusion and lack of clarity with that program, and that was about the time that the whole issue of the foreign worker permit was being discussed in Canada. But as Kathi said, there's never been any abuse of it in the cultural sector.
    But did you say you used the international mobility program to bring in foreign workers at one point?
    We just used it, yes.
    How was that better? What's better about that?
    What's better about it is that we do not have to go through a labour market opinion. We don't have to deal with Service Canada. All that we have to send to the particular visa offices are our contracts with the artists and supporting material about their own calibre and background, and a commitment from the company that they will be hired only for the particular project we're bringing them into Canada for and for the time period that we've asked for them.
    I would ask that the international mobility program not be restricted to just a few weeks of engagement for foreign artists. I would request that they would consider a longer period, because sometimes we go on tour with foreign artists. Three weeks is not enough, because we do a home season, which takes three to four weeks, and then we tour across the country for another six or eight weeks. So I would urge you to consider changing the international mobility program to allow artists to come for a longer period. It has been very effective thus far, but there's still a lot of confusion, I know, in the dance community about that program and who's eligible to apply to it.
    Thank you.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Hillyer, and thank you to our witnesses.
    This is the last panel for our study on dance, so if any of you have any further contributions to make, can you please get them into us by tomorrow because I know that our analysts have already started on our report.
    I'd like to thank all of you for participating, and thank you for coming to us via video conference.
    At this point, we will briefly suspend.

  (1725)  


  (1730)  

     We're going to call this meeting number 48 of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage back to order.
    For this last half hour, pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, November 5, 2014, our topic is Bill C-597, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day).
    Mr. Dykstra.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair. If you allow me just a moment to clarify what we're prepared to do, it might expedite the process of voting on the bill.
    I would move that that Bill C-597 be amended by deleting lines 12 to 14 of clause 1, which state, “on Remembrance Day, the Canadian flag on the Peace Tower shall be lowered to half-mast.” If that is agreed, we would be prepared to support the rest of the bill, on division.
    Mr. Harris.
    We would certainly support that amendment. It honours an agreement to eliminate that clause, which was made before the bill was brought forward for second reading. That's what helped us to get it fast-tracked through second reading.
    Mr. Valeriote.
    The Liberals would support that recommendation as well, Mr. Chair.
    (Amendment agreed to)
     If that's the case then we would have to deal with clause 1 first.
    (Clause 1 as amended agreed to on division)
    (Clause 2 agreed to on division)
    The Chair: Shall the title carry?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    An hon. member: On division.
    The Chair: Shall the bill as amended carry?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    An hon. member: On division.
    The Chair: Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    An hon. member: On division.
    The Chair: Shall the committee order a reprint of the bill as amended for the use of the House at report stage?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    An hon. member: On division.
    The Chair: As there is no further business, the meeting is adjourned.
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