Canadian modern dance pioneer Anna Wyman dead at 92


Anna Wyman, a trailblazer of modern dance in Canada, has died at the age of 92.

Born in Graz, Austria, Wyman was a choreographer, artistic director and dance teacher. She opened her own school in England before moving to Canada and established the Anna Wyman School of Dance Arts in Vancouver in 1968.

She started a dance troupe in 1971, beginning with a series of performances at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Eventually, the group toured across Canada and as far as China, Australia and southeast Asia, according to Max Wyman, a dance historian and Wyman’s ex-husband.

She was “foundational matriarch of a mini-dynasty of dance in Canada,” he said. 

“She was a very driven personality, she was totally devoted to dance and to movement.”

Wyman died at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday after suffering a heart attack at home in West Vancouver.

Wyman was keen on the technical side of dance and blended ballet and contemporary styles, Max Wyman said. She wanted audiences to be enticed by the theatricality, abstraction and improvisation of her dancers on stage, as well as the light, film and laser components she included, he added. 

She saw dance in any kind of movement and her creativity knew no bounds, he said. 

“It was like being with a firework. There was always a surprise, always something new, and flashing and sparkling coming out of her,” he said.

Anna Wyman wanted audiences to be enticed by the theatricality, abstraction and improvisation of her dancers on stage, as well as the light, film and laser components she included, Max Wyman said. (Submitted/Max Wyman)

Wyman’s choreography often included social, political and spiritual themes, he said. Her company ceased operations in 1990 but she continued to manage her West Vancouver dance school until this year. 

She was a “commanding” presence at the school but loved her dancers and students, Max Wyman said. 

She loved Vancouver and knew she’d spend her life in the area as soon as she arrived, he said.

Wyman was an advisor to the British Columbia Arts Council, was inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame and has her name engraved onto a star on the sidewalk outside Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre.

She is pre-deceased by her husband, Neil Christopher Wortley, and survived by her son, Trevor Wyman, and daughter, Gabrielle Capewell. 

“She had a very good run. She had a brilliant, long, full life and she lived it to the fullest,” Max Wyman said.

“She was able to stay at home until her last days and she would have been content with that.”

Read more at CBC.ca