Dance Ontario Lifetime Achievement Award: Allen & Karen Kaeja

Jul. 10, 2019

The Dance Ontario Awards Committee (Lola Ryan, Jennifer Watkins, Sashar Zarif, Ofilio Sinbadinho) is delighted to announce that Allen & Karen Kaeja have been selected as the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.  Given to those who have contributed substantially to the development of dance in this province over a significant period of time, committee members were delighted to recognize Toronto's "coolest couple" (NOW Magazine).

Lori Endes, President of the Board of Directors of Kaeja d'Dance said of the couple in her submission "In nominating Allen and Karen for this lifetime achievement award, I am nominating two individually fierce artists who together have pioneered new dance techniques and festivals, created far-reaching programming and found new ways of captivating and expanding dance audiences. With 39 years of award-winning professional stage and dance film works, they are recognized leaders locally, nationally and internationally for breaking barriers between audience and performance through multi-cultural, multi-generational and economically inclusive performances, collaborations and workshops. I have personally participated in the first iteration of their award-winning Porch View Dances (PVD) with my family, in my neighborhood and have witnessed the impact that this program has on a community, and the city at large, annually. Karen has envisioned a collaboration between professional choreographers and local residents that celebrates life through dance and demonstrates a high level of artistic integrity and consideration toward inclusivity of our diverse population. Each summer, as huge audiences are led down streets to witness professional vignettes by professional dancers mixed with beautiful performances by community members, ending with an audience inclusive movement experience of Flock Landing, the overall impression is that contemporary dance has the power to reach everyone and reflect our collective human experience. Lauded across the country with performances throughout other Ontario neighbourhoods, PVD has been a catalyst for similar events and new ideas for several organizations/artists."
KAREN KAEJA is an award-winning performer, choreographer, community builder and project instigator. “The mastermind behind Porch View Dances” Toronto Star, she thrives on developing performance platforms provoking collaborative relationships between dancers, everyday people and the body. Co-Artistic Director of Kaeja d’Dance with Allen Kaeja, her awards include the CDA “I Love Dance” Community Award and the Paul D. Fleck Fellowship for Innovation. Her work has received 7 Dora Mavor Moore nominations, including 4 Dora’s for Crave (winning one). Karen is distinguished in The Canadian Who’s Who, was a finalist for the TAF Muriel Sherrin Award for International achievement in dance, the CDA Innovation Award, and NOW’s Best Local Choreographer and Best Dance Company. Commissioned and presented by performance series around the world from NFLD to Israel to Japan, she was the first resident dance artist for both MUN/Dance NL and the Guelph Dance Festival. Karen has created 16 original Porch View Dances works, is a Mentor and Dramaturge for many instrumental dance artists, is Co-AD with Claudia Moore of Cloud 9 and Artistic Advisor for Jaberi Dance Theatre. She is currently working on several commissions and performances to premier in 2020 and 2021.
ALLEN KAEJA is an internationally recognized and award-winning Choreographer and Dance Film Director, who has created over 170 stage works and 28 Dance Films. Allen is Co-Artistic Director of Kaeja d’Dance with Karen Kaeja, and he is co-founder of the CanAsian Dance Festival. Kaeja d'Dance was runner up of NOW Magazine’s Best Dance Company. His stage and film works have been presented in festivals around the world. Allen has received numerous national and international commissions, teaches Kaeja Elevations and Dance Film master classes worldwide. His latest dance film has toured to Japan and is aired on Bell Media and Marqueearts. He and Karen have recently toured to Japan, Singapore, Israel, China, Mexico and the UK. Allen’s awards include the prestigious Clifford Lee, KM Hunter, and Fleck Fellowship Awards (Canada), the Bonnie Bird Award (UK), the Katheryn Ash Award for Choreography, a UNESCO citation, and was nominated for Ontario’s Arts Education Award. Allen has also co-developed many site-specific and audience interactive engagement performance strategies with Karen Kaeja over the past 30 years.

Their response when notified of the award was “We are incredibly honoured to be recognized with this Award. We could not have persevered our experimenting and dreaming without the thousands of colleagues and supporters we’ve interacted with for four decades. We are grateful to live and breathe dance, together.”

Past recipients of the Dance Ontario Lifetime Achievement Award include Charlotte Holmes, Grant Strate, Lawrence & Miriam Adams, Brian Robinson, Trish Beatty, David Earle, Peter Randazzo, Lois Smith, Herbert Whittaker, Janet Baldwin, Boris Volkoff, Nesta Williams Toumine, Judy Jarvis, Joysanne Sidimus, Dr. R.N. Laidlaw, Rina Singha, Peter Boneham (1992), Gladys Forrester (1993), Vera Davis (1993), Carol Anderson (1994), Rose Hill (1997), Danny Grossman (1998), Patricia Miner (2004), Mimi Beck (2007), Roelof Peter (Ron) Snippe (2010), Nadia Potts Gomez (2013), Vivine Scarlett (2016).

Currently Lifetime Achievement Award recipients receive $1,000 and an original bronze sculpture, “Winged Torso”, cast in bronze.  Created by Patricia Moody, it is one of a limited edition and is imbued with a sense of motion and grace, ideally honouring its recipients. Patricia Moody was born in Staffordshire, England and trained at the Burslem School of Art.  She has been a member of the Group of Sculptors Nine and has produced a series of etchings at the Open Studio.  She is known in Canada and the U.K. and has been commissioned to produce bronze portraits.  Her works have been exhibited in Toronto at the Mantra Gallery.

The Kaeja's extraordinary achievements will be celebrated at a ceremony in January 2020.
Dance Ontario was founded in 1976 and has developed into a 700 strong membership-based association with six networks across Ontario. The province's all-inclusive dance service organization, we are central to the diverse sector's communications and networking systems, promoting and developing a vibrant and sustainable dance community.


Dance Ontario - celebrating lives in dance!

Photo Credit:  Nahanni Mckay, Banff Centre residency