This article is published through our Regional Reporter Program. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts through the Digital Now initiative.
Established in 2010 by the renowned dance artist Kenny Pearl in Toronto, Great Moving Dancers, most often known as GMD, offered drop-in modern and contemporary classes for intermediate students and professional dancers.
GMD was a small community that created connections between dancers, teachers and all artists involved. In 2017 Pearl was awarded a Dance Ontario Community Service Award for his dedication to keeping the classes running.
Last month, the organization, which didn’t have its own location and rented space from the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre, announced its closure due to a variety of factors including costs and lower attendance, according to a note by Pearl on the collective’s website.
The Dance Current asked participants from over the years why GMD was important to Toronto dancers.
Louis Laberge-Côté, Assistant professor in the dance performance program at Ryerson University and GMD teacher
GMD has always been more than simply a place to take a class. Going to GMD was an opportunity to feel part of the Toronto dance community – a chance to reconnect with old friends and former colleagues while becoming acquainted with new people. The Toronto contemporary dance scene is mostly freelance, which allows for a beautiful sense of diversity, independence and individuality. However, the downside is that it can be easy for dance artists to feel isolated and removed from each other. GMD was one of the few places in the city that consistently offered dance professionals a space where they danced together and truly felt part of a collectivity. I will miss it. Thank you, and kudos to Kenny and the entire GMD team for keeping it going throughout all these years!
Jesse Dell, Toronto dance artist and part of the GMD administration team
GMD was important to Toronto dancers because it was a place to gather and share, a place to practise consciousness and joy, a place to dance together and be together.
Pulga Muchochoma, Toronto dance artist
GMD was so important to Toronto dancers because not only would people go there to train, but also most young dancers built relationships with established choreographers during or after classes. It was a place of learning and a place of discovery.
Anaya Bobst, Producer, choreographer and dancer
GMD was a vital space for Toronto’s dance community as it provided excellent and accessible drop-in contemporary dance classes like no other place in the city. The teachers and musicians facilitated a dynamic opportunity for us all to collectively practise the art form and share our energy, passion and love for dance. GMD classes were a highlight each week for all of us. I truly hope that GMD is able to find a way to reopen.
Lukas Malkowski, Toronto dance artist and choreographer based in Berlin
GMD was important because it was a place for dancers to come together. Sometimes drop-in class is the only way to get on the scene and be seen, especially if you’re new or if you’re not working. I made a lot of friends at GMD, and I got some jobs from taking classes here. It was also one of the places I first started teaching professional drop-in classes. I’m sad to see GMD go, and I’m hoping dancers will flock to the other professional contemporary drop-ins, like Westside Movement Sessions.
Jillian Peever, Toronto dance artist and choreographer
GMD was a gathering space for dancers, and it was a very supportive space for me. It was a place for me to keep up my training and to network as an emerging artist. I’ve made lifelong friends. Many of the teachers were inspirational, and the artists who came to dance were equally so. I really began to feel the generations of dance coming together there, with experienced older dance artists like Dan Wild and Marie-Josée Chartier and Sylvie Bouchard coming to dance, as well as young dancers coming in from institutions like York, School of Toronto Dance Theatre, George Brown and X University.
More on the generations of dancers: Susie Burpee would come to teach while pregnant, and then later, with her children in tow. I was so happy to see the space being made welcoming. Once I became pregnant, I felt very comfortable there. When I later had a child, I felt welcome bringing him to class, and many were supportive in offering to entertain him while I took my turn dancing across the floor. He even had a buddy (Natasha Frid’s daughter!). It really felt like family. Kenny and all those that supported GMD over the years did a wonderful thing keeping this space available for so long. How wonderful it was for me to bring my son into such a creative atmosphere. I will always remember that magical time.
Susie Burpee, Performer, choreographer and GMD teacher
I always felt like GMD was sort of a home, a place to connect with colleagues and feel a sense of community through dance and music (oh, the amazing accompanists!). One of my favorite memories is setting up a little mat in the corner for my toddler so that I could take class. I could bring my fully human self to GMD, and I’ll always be grateful for that welcome.