If you are a regular reader of UrbanToronto's front page, you will know that much of UrbanToronto's coverage of Regent Park to this point has focused on developer The Daniels Corporation and their continuing commitment above and beyond their need to make a profit to create a functioning, neighbourly community in a part of Toronto that for years has been known more for its problems than for its successes. Now that the first several Regent Park Phase One projects are open - including both market condos and Toronto Community Housing sites - along with the first supermarket in the area in decades, Phase Two work is in progress. It includes the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre and the Regent Park Aquatic Centre, both of which UrbanToronto has reported on through their continuing construction. Typically community centres are not built before the residential components in new communities are complete, but Daniels believes these facilities are needed early on to create a real neighbourhood, and not just a dormitory suburb.
That said about Daniels' approach, it's time to switch gears, and introduce Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie (CLC), an extraordinary contemporary dance troupe formed in Québec in 2000. The company, headed by renowned choreographers and dancers Bill Coleman and wife Laurence Lemieux, relocated to Toronto and in 2007 bought the disused Salvation Army Citadel on Parliament Street south of Dundas, now 100 years old. Since their arrival in the Regent Park community, CLC has made themselves an integral part of it, engaging with residents through dance and yoga classes, and on occasion involving them in site-specific performances, notably for the closing of Nelson Mandela Park Public School for reconstruction, and the opening celebrations for Cole Street, Regent Park's first new through-street.
To work as CLC's new home and a functional dance centre, The Citadel needed significant work, and Daniels and collaborators Diamond Schmitt Architects knew they had to help support a group that was becoming transformative in the Regent Park community. To that end the companies have provided since 2009 many hours of pro bono services while coordinating the contributions of donated time and materials from many generous trades and suppliers. Yesterday it all culminated in the official opening of the fully renovated building.
The list of contributors is lengthy and impressive, and includes such gifts as all-new windows from Toro Aluminum, while financial help has come from government, corporate, and foundation arts grants, and much individual philanthropy. Not everything comes for free though naturally, so fundraising is ongoing! You can be a part of that as CLC celebrates their new home with the premiere of a new work choreographed and danced by Laurence Lemieux entitled Les cheminements de l'influence or The Pathways of Influence, from February 15 through 25 in their intimate new space (tickets are available at $25 here), a theatre which is now the first fully LED-lit dance studio in North America.
So, let's take a quick look inside, starting with the Studio Theatre during opening remarks.
The Studio Theatre seats 60 to 80 people and features a sprung floor donated by the National Ballet of Canada. Portable risers can be configured to suit any work. While those at the opening ceremony enjoyed a performance by celebrated countertenor Daniel Taylor, the room was much quieter when UrbanToronto first visited the space during construction in December 2011.
The Studio Theatre is a floor above grade, while beneath it and half a floor below grade is the Yoga Studio. As the building is all about inclusivity, an elevator was fitted inside the walls to make it all accessible.
Pay-what-you-can Yoga classes start this Saturday in the studio on a first-come first-served basis. The room highlights the 1912-built structure's original brick walls and stone foundation.
The top floor of The Citadel is becoming the home of Bill and Laurence and their children. A suite for visiting artists is also included in a layout that takes advantage of a third floor patio overlooking the city's skyline. While the photo is from early December, construction continues on this part of the project today.
If you don't know Coleman Lemieux yet, but you fell for Pina Bausch's Tanztheatre Wuppertal from Wim Wenders' superb Pina, now playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, you will want to know more about CLC. Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie's YouTube channel will give you an introduction to their work: it includes both theatre performances such as AllOneWord by CLC's world renowned Choreographer in Residence James Kudelka, as well as their site-specific construction ballet in Regent Park - On Broken Ground - which featured the late and beloved Canadian actress Jackie Burroughs and National Ballet dancer Heather Ogden along with the CLC troupe.
For a website where we revel in the bricks and mortar and concrete and rebar, The Citadel reminds one that city-building is not just about the buildings that house us, but what happens within the walls too. Coleman Lemieux and the generosity of their supporters means that culture and vibrancy has arrived in Regent Park in a big way, and arrived for everyone curious enough to peek inside the door.