Keith Urban was known to Canadian audiences for his striking performances and Adonis-like features. Urban grew up in Chicago but came to Toronto in 1968 dancing as a charter member of Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT). During the 1970s, he also danced for Dancemakers and taught at York University. TDT co-founder David Earle says Urban had an “innate dignity and a masculinity that gave him that everyman quality … he was a rare and ideal dancer.” The School of Toronto Dance Theatre Artistic Director Pat Fraser, who was a friend and colleague of Urban’s at Dancemakers, described him as a “glorious dancer” with a “classical look”. In 1979, Urban made his way west to join Regina Modern Dance Works (RMDW) as co-artistic director with Maria Formolo. Stepping into what was supposed to be a promising period of growth for the company, Urban suddenly found himself co-directing a company in financial crisis. Dancers were let go and RMDW sold its building to clear the deficit. As it was not financially feasible to operate a full company, Formolo and Urban performed solos and duets. When the board began dictating artistic policy in 1982, Formolo and Urban left to start their own company in Edmonton. Formolo and Urban Dance ran until 1985 during which time the duo toured internationally. From 1985–1987, Urban was chair of the dance department at York University. He later returned to the U.S. variously dancing, writing, teaching and practicing yoga. He taught at Stanford University’s dance division from 1999–2002 and then in Continuing Studies until he was diagnosed with cancer. He died October 28, 2010. Urban is among the dancers featured in the painting by Lynn Donoghue that hangs in the second-floor lobby of Toronto’s Fleck Dance Theatre. Memorial services for Keith Urban are being planned for locations in Toronto, Chicago and California in December.
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