Donald Himes (1930–2011)

By Amy Bowring
  • Donald Himes in his production of Babar the Little Elephant for The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, c. 1986 / Photo by Christopher Darling, courtesy of Dance Collection Danse

Donald Himes, pianist, composer, dancer, choreographer, teacher and somatic practitioner, died suddenly on January 3rd. Originally from Galt, Ontario, Himes moved to Toronto in 1952 where he taught piano and then soon began studying Dalcroze Eurhythmics with Madeleine Boss Lasserre at the Royal Conservatory of Music. He then travelled to Geneva to complete his studies at the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze. Himes taught Eurhythmics for several decades at the Royal Conservatory of Music, at the National Ballet School (NBS) when it opened in 1959, and also later at York University and the School of Toronto Dance Theatre. He was considered a master teacher and was awarded the Jaques-Dalcroze Diplôme Supérieur in 2010. In the early 1960s, he performed with modern dance choreographer Yoné Kvietys and introduced one of his NBS students, David Earle, to Kvietys’ work. Himes was among a group of young Torontonians, along with Earle, Susan Macpherson and Patricia Beatty, who studied at the Martha Graham School in New York in the mid-1960s. Back in Toronto, he played accompaniment for Beatty’s classes and performed in the debut concert of Beatty’s New Dance Group of Canada in 1967. A year later he collaborated with composer Ann Southam to write the music for Peter Randazzo’s Trapezoid for the premiere of Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT). He was heavily involved with TDT in its early years and was the first principal of the School of TDT in the 1970s; while there, he created a production of Babar that was performed for several years. In his later years, he used his practice in Feldenkrais to help dancers and musicians move more fluently. In 2003, Himes performed in Dancetheatre David Earle’s remount of Court of Miracles, a work he had performed in many times in its earlier inception. Other performance and directing credits over his career include the Canadian Opera Company, Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, Young People’s Theatre, Stratford Festival and Butternut Square with Ernie Coombs (Mr. Dressup). He is also known for composing the theme song for the popular CBC children’s show Mr. Dressup.



I will not be here on January 15th to say good-bye to Donald along with everyone. I will send a huge prayer out over the sea and into the big mexican sky for his peaceful journeying. Donald was so special, like no one else ever and of course he’ll be hugely missed.

~ Trish Beatty

Donald, you were such an inspiring and delightful presence. You taught and played for the first Graham class I took in Toronto, a miraculous fusion of dance and music in a sun-filled studio on Lombard Street. Your knowledge of the body and transcendent musicianship always made learning experiences memorable. I’ll treasure memories of studying with you and participating alongside you in so many different classes and workshops. I shared your conviction that there usually are, as you said last year in our plastique animée group, “a thousand more ways” to pursue a concept, whether in music or movement. I loved your sense of humour, which punctuated the on-going conversation and made organizational meetings fun. I also loved running into you so often at concerts and dance performances, and exchanging emails about what not to miss. Most of all I admired your sense of wonder. You several times remarked that Dalcrozians of venerable ages seem to “die in mid-skip” and so did you, dear Donald, because you never stopped sharing your wisdom and enthusiasm.

~ Selma Odom

The sometimes arcane flavor of Dalcroze Eurhythmics was never in evidence in one of Donald Himes’ adult classes in Toronto. Instead there was grace, there was whimsy, there was laughter, there was striving. And there was constant proof that music, while abstract, can indeed be “made flesh.”

I studied music and physical movement in classes with Donald at the Royal Conservatory for three years about a decade ago, and his musical outlook has become a decided and integrating influence on my teaching. Later, to repay this debt, I invited Don to tell his rich life story - as a musician, dancer, choreographer, and arts educator - to a salon audience in my home. Small surprise, he proved a born raconteur: he could seem shy, but he was also very much a man of the theatre, who delighted in an audience.

For the past several years he has graced my annual spring student piano recitals with his presence as a guest artist: he would always lead the performers and audience in some sort of interactive music caprice. Few realized he was improvising these Dalcroze-flavored educational games mostly on the spot, given his musical ease and refinement. I wanted to pay him for these lovely recital interludes, but that made him uncomfortable, so instead I took him to a different French restaurant in Toronto each year. That was Don’s idea of sufficient payment.

Sadly, when he died I was in the middle of making arrangements to
bring him to Williams College in Massachusetts this coming July, for
an adult music workshop I direct each summer. Donald was going to lead
our participants in a special day of immersion in his music-and-movement expertise, and I gather he was very much looking forward to joining us as a distinguished guest performer.

As in dance, a big part of the world of classical music is the connectedness between teachers and their students: I was privileged to have worked with this kind and playful man, who almost literally breathed music. Many will miss Donald Himes, and many are startled he is suddenly gone; I am one.

~ Peter Kristian Mose

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