In the spring of 1982, through an initiative of the then Department of Cultural Affairs and Associated Manitoba Arts Festivals, public meetings were held in which Manitoba dance teachers, choreographers and dancers were brought together to identify and discuss topics of common concern.
The discussions led to the formation of an organization to promote dance and dance development in Manitoba. First called the Manitoba Association of Dance, the name was changed to Dance Manitoba on February 24, 1983, when the organization was incorporated as a provincial non-profit organization.
Dance Manitoba’s first and largest program has been the Annual Manitoba Provincial Dance Festival. This program was run jointly with Associated Manitoba Arts Festivals for three years. Since 1986, Dance Manitoba has taken sole responsibility for its operation. The Festival has grown from a one-day program to a two week event, which features approximately over 1500 performances by dancers who come from all over Manitoba to perform and learn. It provides an opportunity for dancers and teachers to assess achievements, learn new techniques, share ideas and aspirations, and to be rewarded for their efforts. The Festival adjudications provide constructive input necessary for the promotion and development of all forms of dance.
Workshops have been an important part of the Festival since its beginnings, and each year Festival participants are encouraged to attend classes by the adjudicators, who are dance professionals known nationally for their performance and teaching abilities. Dance Manitoba has also, throughout the years, made an effort to hold additional workshops outside of the Festival; and when possible, to bring them to communities outside of Winnipeg, In 1987, Dance Manitoba held its first workshop in Thompson.
In 1984, Dance Manitoba presented its first annual Membership Showcase Concert. The Showcase is a unique cost-free opportunity for Manitoba dance schools and amateur groups to gain experience performing in a professional environment. It also provides the public with an opportunity to sample the range and diversity of Manitoba’s dance talent at a very reasonable cost.
In 1987, Dance Manitoba set up its current office in the historic Pantages Playhouse Theatre. The maintenance of a full-time office has enabled the organization to provide information on dance to individuals, organizations and government. Dance Manitoba publishes a bi-monthly newsletter, Footlights, and a bi-annual Provincial Dance Registry – a comprehensive listing of people involved in dance throughout the province. The organization maintains a small dance resource library, with books and videotapes, available for use by its membership, at no charge.
From its beginning, Dance Manitoba has also maintained an interest in the development of all forms of art in Manitoba and has worked co-operatively with several arts organizations. Dance Manitoba also maintains ties with other dance associations throughout Canada. The maintenance of a broad perspective regarding the development of dance in Canada helps the organization make more informed decisions regarding the development of dance in Manitoba. It also enables Dance Manitoba to provide more comprehensive information to the provincial dance community regarding opportunities that are available to them.