Garay's unique choreography draws praise

July 07, 2005, vol. 33, no. 6
By Roberta Staley

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One cannot be a principal dancer in the company founded by the 20th-century's most renowned contemporary dancer and choreographer, the late Martha Graham, and not absorb some of her fiery genius.

Certainly this is true for Judith Garay, one of SFU's busiest professors who, as artistic director of the independent Vancouver company Dancers Dancing, is creating some of the most spellbinding and innovative choreography today.

Garay (pronounced Gary) garnered accolades for her latest show, TWO, a 44-minute collage of movement and visuals, held in May in Vancouver. Garay, who was a member of the Martha Graham dance company in New York before coming to Vancouver 13 years ago, was inspired by news photography and imagery from local newspapers, which served as the eclectic backdrop for a “cascade of overlapping duets” by four dancers.

TWO was funny, sad, profound and thought provoking, brushstrokes of light and dark, “because that is what colours our world. That's reality,” Garay says. At its heart, TWO was an “investigation of the world we live in, as well as a way of creating dance that people can relate to.”

At the age of 53, Garay is blond and slender, with a ballerina's effortless carriage. She has led a peripatetic life: Kamloops-born, Garay's childhood was spent in Victoria, London, England, Halifax and Edinburgh, following the twists and turns of her father's naval career.

She continued a gypsy lifestyle, studying dance in England before moving to New York in her early 20s, where she toured with Double Dancing, a duet company that she co-directed with Anthony Morgan, the man who is still her life's love.

The pair, however, has a long-distance relationship. Morgan is a contemporary dance professor at Florida State University.

Later, when Garay was asked to join the Martha Graham dance company, she spent much of the next 10 years touring Europe and North America. She continued touring with Double Dancing after leaving Martha Graham.

Six years ago, Garay decided to quit dancing, realizing it was impossible to perform as well as choreograph and teach full-time. “I had a long performing career. I didn't need to keep doing that.”

Garay now channels her creativity into her students and other dance projects. She is planning another ambitious show based upon the TWO concept. The project is dependent upon Garay receiving a federal fine and performing arts grant.

The show, which will take three years of planning and work before it is ready for staging, will feature 10 dancers: five professionals and five SFU students. Garay is excited about training students to such a high performance level. “I love to teach,” she says. “It fascinates me, it feeds my creativity.”

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