Patrick Parson, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, has been a dancer and musician from the age of 10. He continues to draw much of his artistic inspiration from the vibrant multicultural community that makes up the Caribbean.
Patrick spent his early years singing in choirs, composing and singing calypsos, playing with steel orchestras, dancing and drumming with community folk groups, and studying ballet and modern dance at the Caribbean School of Dance and the Dance Academy of Trinidad and Tobago. He was trained in the dance and drumming styles of Guinea and Senegal by Mor Thiam, the Artist Director of Les Ballets Africains, and in Canada graduated from The School of Toronto Dance Theatre.
Patrick's founding of Ballet Creole in 1990 brought Black Dance to mainstream Canadian stages, establishing the Company as the forerunner of Black Dance in Canada. Patrick is the recipient of the Entrepreneurial Award of Merit from the African Caribbean Chamber of Commerce, and the New Pioneers Award from Skills for Change, for his pioneering work in the world of dance in Canada. He has served as cultural adviser to the Toronto Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Metro Cultural Affairs, Ontario Arts Council, Harbourfront Centre, Laidlaw Foundation, and the Arts Advantage Program at Downsview Secondary School.
Patrick holds a Masters Degree in Dance Ethnology from York University where he has been a course director in the Faculties of Fine Arts and Kinesiology. He regularly conducts workshops and lecture demonstrations for universities and schools in Ontario. Through extensive studies at the Katherine Dunham Institute for Humanities, Patrick has been awarded certification as a teacher of the Dunham Technique, which he teaches in Canada where it is little known and practiced.
Patrick's message: Reflecting on 20 years of dance in Canada:
Black Dance in Canada is here to stay. More particularly, it holds a place on Toronto stages. It is very rewarding to know that Ballet Creole has helped to raise audience awareness of the artful expression possible in dance when Western tradition meets the multicultural vibrancy of the Caribbean.
When I first started Ballet Creole my desire was to create a professional company comparable to the internationally-renowned Astor Johnson Company that I had left behind in my native Trinidad. This is the kind of dance that I grew up with and sought to continue doing here in Canada. However, in 1990, in a city as multicultural as Toronto, such a company did not exist. This void was my impetus to create a company that brought that particular aesthetic to mainstream professional stages. At that time in the early 1990s Toronto was very receptive to this "new" artistic expression and thus the company began.
Additionally, this type of dance found an appeal with new dancers, unreleased artists who didn't feel compelled to dance ballet in the traditional sense, but who found personal artistic expression in the drumming and rhythm of the islands. These are the dancers who have trained in the professional training program, performed in the yearly Company dance presentations at Harbourfront and moved on, many continuing to promote this creative dance blend. The classes offered by Ballet Creole have made cultural dance accessible on a community level as well as on a professional level to all those who wish to participate. It has been very rewarding to have my own children catch my vision and help to advance what has become fundamental to Ballet Creole's philosophy.
Looking ahead to the next twenty years I anticipate Ballet Creole settling in to its place in the Canadian tapestry as a national institution, recognized by all Canadians for its role in promoting rich cultural artistic expression. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to those who have supported and continue to support this vision.