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Margaret Grenier receives the 2020 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts

The $50,000 prize recognizes the artistic excellence and distinguished career achievement by a Canadian professional artist in music, theatre or dance

Choreographer, dance artist and Dancers of Damelahamid executive and artistic director Margaret Grenier has been awarded the 2020 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts. Photo by Ana Pedrero.
Choreographer, dance artist and Dancers of Damelahamid executive and artistic director Margaret Grenier has been awarded the 2020 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts. Photo by Ana Pedrero.

In a media release, Dancers of Damelahamid has announced choreographer, dance artist and the company’s executive and artistic director Margaret Grenier has been awarded the 2020 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts.

I have witnessed and experienced an immense shift in the world of dance as a result of our collective struggle to create space for our Indigenous dance practices and overcome colonial barriers. It is my hope that every achievement opens new possibilities and breathes strength into one another and our arts. – Margaret Grenier

The $50,000 prize, administered and presented by the Canada Council for the Arts, recognizes artistic excellence and distinguished career achievement by a Canadian professional artist in music, theatre or dance.

“I am deeply compelled as an artist by the desire to impact a shift in our collective consciousness that values and upholds all dance forms,” says Grenier in the release. “Receiving this award, as a traditionally trained Indigenous dancer from the Northwest Coast, is a great honour and gives recognition to the depth of this art form and to the dedicated efforts that revitalized these dances.”

Born in Prince Rupert, BC, and currently based in Gibsons, BC, Grenier is of Gitxsan and Cree ancestry. Having trained from a very young age in traditional Gitxsan dance by her parents, Kenneth and Margaret Harris, 2019 Dance Collection Dance Hall of Fame inductees, Grenier has worked as a professional dancer since 1991, performing with the Dancers of Damelahamid – the company she now leads as executive and artistic director. Dancers of Damelahamid, an Indigenous dance company, emerged in the 1960s out of an urgency to ensure that their ancestors’ knowledge was not lost.

Grenier is also the producer and director of the annual Coastal Dance Festival. Established in 2008, the festival has formed a community that reaches throughout the Northwest Coast, nationally and internationally.

Grenier’s vast choreographic achievements have appeared across Canada and around the world.

“I have witnessed and experienced an immense shift in the world of dance as a result of our collective struggle to create space for our Indigenous dance practices and overcome colonial barriers. It is my hope that every achievement opens new possibilities and breathes strength into one another and our arts,” adds Grenier.

Presented for the first time in 2001, the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts was created from a $1.1 million donation to the Canada Council by Toronto businessman and philanthropist Walter Carsen. The prize is awarded annually on a four-year cycle between dance, theatre, dance, music. Grenier is the 19th winner of the prize.

For more information on Grenier, the Dancers of Damelahamid, and the Coastal Dance Festival, visit damelahamid.ca.