Ruth Cansfield, dancer, choreographer, artistic director, company founder, administrator, educator (born in England 1960). Ruth Cansfield came with her family to Amherst, Massachusetts, before arriving in Winnipeg. Her early dance training included Graham and ballet technique before further studies in College Park, Maryland, with Jennifer Muller and Lar Lubovitch companies. She studied with Ruth Currier (Limon technique), Larry Rhodes (ballet technique), and Kei Takei (composition) in Durham, North Carolina, and with Bill Evans (Laban Movement Studies, Bartinieff, Feldenkrais), Fred Mathews (Limon technique), Gary Masters (Limon technique) and Sandra Neels (Cunningham technique). Cansfield also furthered her ballet training at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.
After graduating from The School of Contemporary Dancers in 1979, Cansfield performed with Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers for 8 years and was described by the London Times as "a dancer of singular beauty and poetry." She was resident choreographer for her last 3 years with the company. She co-founded the Winnipeg-based Dance Collective with Gaile Petursson-Hiley in 1989, before establishing Ruth Cansfield Dance (RCD) in 1995.
Cansfield's choreography has been hailed for its unique, expressive style that pushes dancers to their physical limits. Her compelling works are rooted in ballet and modern dance technique, with the dancers frequently appearing sculptural. Stylistically her pieces are quirky, explosive, dramatic, athletic, and intellectually engaging. They often include a subtext that allows viewers to create their own narrative and derive their own meaning. Many of Cansfield's pieces draw heavily on gesture, such as Beat Speak (1998) and Navigating Space (1999), while others, like The Gypsy Dance (2009), explore cultural roots through folk dance idiom.
A hallmark of Ruth Cansfield's work is her sophisticated choice and use of music. Her harrowing solo Black Angel from the Flux Trilogy (2002) is set to George Crumb's string quartet Black Angels, in turn inspired by the Vietnam War. Balance (1993) features Rachmaninoff's sublime choral work Vespers. Totem (2007) is an enigmatic duet set to Debussy's Piano Préludes (Book 1) that impressionistically underscores the dancers' movement as they emerge like carvings from stone.
Cansfield's choreography garnered critical acclaim during the company's guest appearance at the 2008 Canada Dance Festival. Performed at La Nouvelle Scène, the triple bill included Black Angel (2002), Totem (2007) and the evocative, Maurice Ravel-inspired tartan (2007). In 2010 RCD presented tartan and 2 propulsive, angular duets excerpted from Stanza (2010), a work-in-progress set to Schubert's Piano Trio No. 2, at Winnipeg's Park Theatre.
Throughout a career spanning more than 3 decades, Ruth Cansfield has helped to shape dance in Canada by pushing dancers and the art form itself to greater heights.