Although Jarvis was recognized as a brilliant dance soloist, it was in her role as a teacher that she made her most important contribution to the evolution of Canadian dance.
Judy Jarvis, dancer, choreographer and teacher (b at Ottawa, Ont 6 June 1946; d at Toronto, Ont 1 Nov 1986). The maverick child of a wealthy family, Jarvis chose a career in dance after showing great promise as an athlete. Inspired and transformed by her studies under the great expressionist dancer Mary Wigman in Berlin (1965-67), Jarvis devoted her life to impressing this distinctively European aesthetic on the Canadian dance scene. At a time when contemporary dance was dominated by the work and theories of American dancer Martha Graham, Jarvis represented an approach to her art that was unique in Canada.
Although Jarvis was recognized as a brilliant dance soloist, it was in her role as a teacher that she made her most important contribution to the evolution of Canadian dance. As a tireless peripatetic teacher of classes and workshops in Canadian universities and colleges, she inspired many young dancers. Between 1967 and 1983 she was the animating force behind a series of companies that became the vehicles for the ideas and talents of Jarvis and her pupils. The Judy Jarvis Dance and Theatre Company toured throughout Canada and to both Berlin and the Edinburgh Festival.
Jarvis's choreography demonstrates the great range of her talent - from the earliest gemlike studies such as her signature Bird (1967) to the bleak vision of Just Before and In Between (1974), and from the intimate introspection of Shell (1979) to the sparse, black-humoured theatricality of Three Women (1974). In 1974 Jarvis was the first modern-dance recipient of the prestigious Jean A. Chalmers Award in choreography.
In 1983, when funding from the Ontario Arts Council and the CANADA COUNCIL was withdrawn for her company, Jarvis returned to teacher's college. She was teaching dramatic arts in Toronto at Madonna High School at the time of her sudden death.
Jarvis's works continue to be performed by dance companies, including those of Gina Lori Riley, Denise Fujiwara and Danny Grossman. In 1988 the Judy Jarvis Foundation was set up to promote and protect her work. Archival material on Jarvis is held by DANCE COLLECTION DANSE in Toronto.