The two Winnnipeggers who received the Order of Canada this morning for their work on contemporary dance say the honour belongs to the entire art form.
Faye Thomson and Odette Heyn became members of the Order of Canada this morning during a ritzy ceremony at Ottawa's Rideau Hall presided over by Gov. Gen. David Johnston. The pair are co-directors of the School of Contemporary Dancers and founded its professional program together 30 years ago.
The high-profile position puts a spotlight on contemporary dance, which the partners said is often overlooked by mainstream audiences.
"It comes with an absolute responsibility," said Heyn. "For modern dance, which doesn't get a lot of visibility, this is -- it's not just an award for us but it's an award for the art form, which is so crucially important."
The pair said they were notified about their induction about eight months ago in a breathless phone call.
"I think I reverted to about being 12 years old," Heyn said. "I was completely speechless… You didn't get a letter and have time to ponder it. You received this call from Ottawa and you suddenly were thrown into the awe and excitement of the moment."
'I feel called'
Thomson said dance was a calling.
"I feel called to be a creator," she said. "For me, the creative process is the creation of the artist, and that's something we co-create with the dancers through the work in the program."
"It's that vision of being a creator, but in our case, it's the creation of the actual artists themselves."
Looking back more than 30 years to the birth of the studio, both women said they could never have predicted receiving the award.
"The goal was not about what we might achieve personally, but what we could achieve within the dance world, and what we could achieve for our students, who are very talented, eager, passionate young dancers," Heyn said.
The Order was established in 1967 to recognize outstanding achievement and community.
Also honoured was Donald Brinton, a former Winnipegger and pioneer in Canada's broadcasting industry. Britton helped establish new TV stations in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton and Vancouver, where he now lives.
The three are among 46 inductees who received the honour this morning, joining more than 6,000 Canadians already on the list.