Le Groupe Dance Lab to close

By Susan Kendal

After 43 years, one of Canada’s oldest dance companies will close. The board of directors of Le Groupe Dance Lab in Ottawa announced on July 31st that the company will not re-open in the fall of 2009; dancers had been laid off since the end of January 2009. Board Chair John Manwaring stated in a press release that “Many factors, financial and otherwise, have led to this extremely difficult decision.” He described the transition from the lab’s founding artistic director, Peter Boneham, to new artistic leadership as difficult and cited this situation as a contributing factor to the company’s closure. Le Groupe’s financial stability was shaken in late 2008 when the City of Ottawa proposed severe cuts to municipal arts funding; however, these cuts never materialized. According to funding results announced in June 2009, compared to last year’s funding cycle Le Groupe’s subsidy from the Ontario Arts Council was cut by more than $45,000 and the company shifted from multi-year operating grant status to annual operating grant status. Le Groupe Dance Lab began in 1966 as Le Groupe de la Place Royale in Montreal and was founded by Jeanne Renaud; Peter Boneham was a charter member of the group and played a significant role in the company’s development. When Renaud left the company in 1971, Boneham became artistic director. He was co-artistic director with the late Jean-Pierre Perreault from 1972-1980 and then sole artistic director until he was succeeded by Tony Chong in 2008. Boneham and Perreault moved the company to Ottawa in 1977. The shift in the company’s mandate from a modern dance company to a choreographic lab occurred in 1988.

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