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Remembering Dan Wild

Dan Wild graced dance stages for over thirty years
  • Dan Wild / Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh

Editor’s note: This version has been updated from the original, which stated that Stephanie Ballard was the director of Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers

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Dan Wild graced dance stages for over thirty years. His artistic work began in his youth in his hometown of Edmonton, with the Canadian Royalaires and Dickinsfield Crusaders Colour Guard and Drum Corps, followed by professional dance training at Grant MacEwan College (now MacEwan University). In 1987, he moved to Toronto to study at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. His dance company credits include nine seasons with Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers under the artistic direction of Tom Stroud (1990-2001), which included the 1994 national tour of Jean-​Pierre Perrault’s JOE, and eight seasons with Dancemakers (Toronto) under the artistic direction of Serge Bennathan (1999-2007). He had a twenty-six-year history with the Caravan Stage Company (1990-2016) under the artistic direction of Paul Kirby and Adriana Kaldor, travelling by horse caravan and tall ship, performing for audiences around the globe. 

A sought-after freelance dance artist, Wild worked with some of Canada’s finest creators and performers, including Stephanie Ballard, Patricia Beatty, Susie Burpee, Marie-Josée Chartier, Peter Chin, Allison Cummings, Lesandra Dodson, David Earle, Mairéad Filgate, Randy Glynn, Susanna Hood, DA Hoskins, James Kudelka, Nenagh Leigh, Shannon Litzenberger, Claudia Moore, Peter Randazzo, Tedd Robinson, Linnea Swan, Allen Kaeja and more. His exceptional artistry garnered him multiple Dora Award nominations for outstanding performance. His choreographic works were measured and poignant in their simplicity. He created A Simple Statement for this Mosaic (2008) – a solo for Marie-Josée Chartier –and Table and Sky for Everyday Marvels, Nuit Blanche (2013). In recent years, Wild shared his gifts as artistic facilitator, rehearsal director and performance coach for artists like Nova Bhattacharya and Louis Laberge-Côté, Andrew Hartley and Emma Kerson and Sasha Ivanochko. 

Wild was loved by audiences and deeply respected by his colleagues and friends. All who knew him were touched by his generous spirit. Whatever he did – dancing, cooking, sailing, writing or caring for loved ones – Wild did with kindness, artistry and grace. ​A celebration of life will follow in the future.

Born in Edmonton, August 30, 1965, Daniel Charles Wild passed away peacefully at Toronto Western Hospital on March 28, 2020. Dan leaves to mourn his loss parents Tom and Marg, brother Cameron (Simita, Sydney and Jon), his treasured Aunt Carol (Ron), cousin Heather (Ben and Isobel), nine cousins and many dear friends.

Friends and colleagues shared with The Dance Current the following memories of Wild:

Susie Burpee, dance artist living in Toronto

When I think of Danny, I think about his relationship to time. It was markedly different than most people I know. Sometimes in dance class, it would look as if he were going to be musically ‘late,’ but, with a flourish, he would always arrive in time. For Danny, time was a space to inhabit. He danced within time, stretching the membranes between moments, revealing time’s substance – the darkest of dark and the glorious light of day. I’ve never known anyone to so gracefully suspend time, and so graciously hold space, as Dan. Both on the stage and for those he loved. 

Paula Citron, freelance arts journalist and broadcaster living in Toronto

Dan Wild was an extremely handsome man, and that’s the first thing you noticed about him, at least I did. This meant he had ready-made charisma, as it were, simply by stepping onstage. But Dan was more than just a pretty face. I think he was beloved of choreographers (and what a starry list they be) because he was willing to try anything. When dancesmiths started to experiment with text, there was Dan. When they fused forms together, there was Dan. Nudity? Of course, there was Dan. In short, he was fearless. The arts were an adventure and Dan was there for the ride. He embraced his art as he embraced life – full on and non-stop. Through countless interviews, I don’t ever recall him being moody or grouchy, although I’m a critic, so people have to be nice to me. In short, he enriched all our lives, both onstage and off.

Stephanie Ballard, dance artist and director of Winnipeg Dance Preservation Initiative

Dan was deeply loved by so many that it is quite simply impossible to express the magnitude of what he gave to people as an artist and a human being. He had that very unusual ability to make everyone he knew feel like they were number one.

Dan was instrumental to the success of a number of works we co-created as well as work I created with his support. Everyone loved dancing with Dan. It could be complicated but was always completely inspired! He had an incredible verbal vocabulary, which always caught me off guard, but it was his ability to move like no other that will remain in the hearts and souls of all who were privileged to dance with him and all who were deeply moved by his unparalleled ability to perform.

He remains deeply loved by an overwhelming number of people. He touched so many lives in so many ways. He was a prolific and profound contemporary dance artist who can’t be replaced but will forever be an example of the kind of artist we can all aspire to be.  

Serge Bennathan, artistic director of Les Productions Figlio, former artistic director of Dancemakers

In 2011, I brought Danny Wild to Vancouver. It was to create Conversations, a work based on an imaginary encounter between Federico Garcia Lorca and his murderer, Juan Luis Trecastro.

I knew right away that I wanted Danny to be Lorca. Through the years, I considered Danny to be a poet, not just a poet of movement but a poet in the way he approached his life as an artist. He was, for whatever he happened to be doing, constantly on the edge, the precipice being two centimetres or the unknown. I loved to work with him on Conversations, feeling him diving into the text and the harsh physicality. I loved how he entered his femininity though his masculinity and his masculinity through his femininity. For me Danny was simply what I believe was Lorca, what his poetry is.

Danny and the poetry of Lorca are made of a rare essence of something so profound, something coming from the soil, breathing the air, juicy of the semen of the invisible. He possesses something apart from societal structure and, because of it, his essence comes through even more forcefully – sometimes softly like a warm day, sometimes sharp as a knife.

Witnessing him performing the work, through his eyes I could see the tragic, the beauty, an infinite fullness and his abandon to it. Danny was a magnificent poet.

Marie-Josée Chartier, artistic director of Chartier Danse

It is an almost impossible task to choose one memory from my collaborations with Dan. However, one of the most significant experiences we shared was during the creative process of Screaming Popes. I fondly remember our five weeks in residence at fabrik Potsdam (Germany) where the work would receive its premiere. These weeks of creation were filled with challenges on many levels. Dan was totally embracing the adventure and was with me every step of the way – from dancing wrapped in bedsheets (the costumes got lost somewhere), to our long chats over bratwurst and beer trying to solve the script, to him trusting me to give him a new haircut (we both laughed so much when he ended up looking like Rod Stewart), and finally culminating to his memorable performance as Pope, Evangelist, Referee and Angel. He could embody all of these roles with great panache.

Linnea Swan, dance artist living in Calgary

Dan was a formidable artist who could convey the full spectrum of the human condition with the simplest gesture. His profound reverence for the sacred work of the artist elevated and transformed everyone he encountered. Whether in the studio, on the stage or on a subway platform, he treated everyone he met with dignity, respect and compassion. He was always present when you needed support, listening without judgment, giving a reassuring look across the dance floor or simply holding space for you to surrender into his unconditional embrace. But perhaps his greatest gift was how he inspired those around him to believe in themselves and to see the beauty in all expression – be it an exquisite high lift, a visceral cry of grief or the quiet pleasures of everyday life. A flower on the table. The smell of onions cooking. Joni Mitchell on repeat. Sharing a laugh. 

Danny was a caring, humble and gracious friend. He will be dearly missed.

If desired, donations can be made to The AFC (Actors’ Fund of Canada).

A heartfelt thank you to Susie Burpee and Marie-Josée Chartier for their help in compiling bibliographic detail.

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