Contemporary dance matriarch Rachel Browne dies

By Alison Mayes

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Rachel Browne, the nationally respected founder of Canada’s oldest contemporary dance company and the matriarch of the dance scene in Winnipeg, died suddenly in Ottawa on Saturday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/06/2012 (3758 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Rachel Browne, the nationally respected founder of Canada’s oldest contemporary dance company and the matriarch of the dance scene in Winnipeg, died suddenly in Ottawa on Saturday.

Browne, 77, died peacefully in her sleep at an Ottawa hotel, said Stephanie Ballard, her fellow choreographer and friend of 40 years. The cause of death has not been determined.

Browne was in Ottawa accompanying students from the School of Contemporary Dancers who performed at the Canada Dance Festival on Saturday.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Rachel Browne is seen in 2008 at the official naming of the Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers' dance theatre the Rachel Browne Theatre.

The trailblazing dancer, choreographer and teacher founded Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers (WCD) in 1964 and started its school in 1972.

Born Ray Minkoff in Philadelphia in 1934, she trained as a ballet dancer. She came to Winnipeg from New York City in 1957 to join the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. After four years with the company she retired to raise her family, but missed dance and began to choreograph in a non-classical style.

Browne served as artistic director of WCD for nearly 20 years. In the early days she toiled as the administrator, fundraiser and publicist as well as the main dancer and choreographer.

After leaving the company, she continued to work as a nationally respected choreographer and teacher. Many of her works dealt with women’s experiences. She had an ongoing close association with the company and its school.

In 2008, WCD renamed its performance venue the Rachel Browne Theatre in her honour. Her other honours included the 1995 Jean A. Chalmers Award for Creativity in Dance and the 2000 Canada Council Jacqueline Lemieux Prize. She was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1997.

A biography of Browne, Dancing Toward the Light, was published by Carol Anderson in 1999.

Browne is survived by her children Annette Browne (John Shultis), Miriam Browne (Kevin McElrea), and Ruth Asper (David Asper) as well as by her grandchildren Daniel, Rebecca and Max Asper.

History

Updated on Sunday, June 10, 2012 4:14 PM CDT: Updated with additional detail on Ottawa trip

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