Retired faculty from SFU School for the Contemporary Arts.

Santa Aloi

Professor Emerita, Dance

Areas: Dance, choreography.

Santa Aloi’s career as a contemporary dance choreographer, performer and teacher, began in New York City with Gus Solomons Company and Zena Rommett. It continued for 30 years in Canada where, with Iris Garland, she was co-designer of the Dance Major program at Simon Fraser University. She directed Transitions Dance Company at the Laban Centre in London, and has choreographed and performed as Artist in Residence in England, France, China, and throughout North America. Her collaborative work with fellow School for the Contemporary Arts faculty characterized much of her career at SFU.

As Professor Emerita she continues to teach and to choreograph in the community, with particular interest in combining tap, contemporary dance and theatre. Santa Aloi’s long service to dance and the community includes her present position as member of the Dancer Transition Resource Centre’s national Board of Directors, six years as Chair of the Vancouver Dance Centre Board, service as a director of the Dance Foundation Board among others, teaching seniors movement at the Roundhouse in Vancouver and on Pender Island, as well as advising community groups and individuals.

Colin Browne

Professor Emeritus, Film

Areas: Documentary and innovative film production, poetry, writing for the screen, poetics, critical writing, art history, Surrealism, the ceremonial art of the NW Coast and Alaska, opera, fiction, interdisciplinary performance, British Columbia and Canadian film history, documentary film history, archival film and film archives.

Colin Browne's films have been invited to national and international festivals. His has been nominated for the Governor-General's Award for Poetry; his recent books include Ground Water, The Shovel and The Properties, all from Talonbooks. He has made films for the NFB, is co-founder of the Praxis Centre for Screenwriters and is active in the preservation and conservation of archival film. He serves on the boards of B.C. Film, the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Kootenay School of Writing and The Capilano Review. He taught production, screenwriting, critical writing and courses in Canadian and documentary cinema.

Allyson Clay


Areas: Drawing; painting; photo-based work and video; artist book projects and image/text work; installation; contemporary feminist & critical theory.

Allyson Clay has a BFA in Painting from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, and a MFA in Painting from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 

Over the years material approaches in her practice have included painting, installation, photographs, text works, and video. The enclosures, pathways and permeabilities of the spaces and places of the affective city are investigated through these different media and, most recently, painting. Clay has exhibited locally, nationally and internationally and her work belongs to many Canadian and international public and private collections. These include the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the collection of the City of Perugia, and a permanent installation at the Maison Patrimoniale de Barthète, France. She has been the beneficiary of many awards including two Senior Artist Grants from the Canada Council, the Mexico/Canada/USA artist exchange residency, and the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Residency Program.

Degree and Studies:
Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma 1972
Temple University in Rome 1973
Loyola University in Rome 1974
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design B.F.A 1980
University of British Columbia M.F.A. 1985

Henry Daniel

Professor Emeritus / SFU Distinguished Professor

Areas: Dance, Performance Studies and New Technology.

Dr. Henry Daniel is an artist/scholar with a teaching and research specialty in Dance, Performance Studies and New Technology. He teaches at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His work strives to prepare students to be knowledgeable and well informed, articulate, as well as expert practitioners in their chosen discipline by exposing them to an arts education seen through the lens of arts practice as research. Dr Daniel also uses his funded projects as platforms for introducing both undergraduate and graduate students to the professional world. Through these projects they have the opportunity to establish first hand contact with other academics and artists working within as well as outside a university setting.

After training at the Boston Conservatory of Music, the Juilliard School, the Joffrey Ballet School, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Centre in New York, Daniel had an illustrious professional, international career as a dancer.

Professor Daniel’s current multi-year research Black Creativity in the Arts, Sciences, Technology and Business (2022-2024), seeks to inspire a radical shift in the thinking that supports the current system of inequity, maintains structural racism, and prevents a redefining of Blackness through Black lenses. His previous multi-year research Contemporary Nomads (2017-2022) investigated the large-scale movement of bodies across international spaces as a kind chaotic transnational choreography, one that speaks to the deep fragmentation existing between communities across national borders, between nationalized and personalized bodies, and between the social and political institutions that were originally designed to serve their communities. His new book, Re-Choreographing Cortical & Cartographic Maps, is a transdisciplinary approach to practice-as-research, complete with its own elaborate theory of practice and a set of four multi-year-performance research projects through which the theory plays out. The publication feflects the perspective of the author as scholar, choreographer, performer, and arts practitioner, with an extensive background in both the professional world of dance and the intellectual academy

Dr Daniel is a 2020 FCAT Research Excellence Award recipient, a 2021 Distinguished SFU Professor awardee, and a 2023 Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award Recipient. He's also the Academics, Research and Mentorship Officer for SFU's Black Caucus Committee.

Ph.D. Dance, Performance Studies and New Technology, Bristol University, UK
M.A. Dance Studies, City University London, The Laban Centre, UK.

Judith Garay

Associate Professor

Areas: Contemporary Dance, Modern Dance, Choreography, Costume Design, Performance.

Judith Garay is a ten-year veteran of the Martha Graham Dance Company. During her international performing career she performed with companies and choreographers in Canada the USA, France and England. At SFU Ms. Garay teaches all levels of contemporary dance technique, dance composition and repertory.  She is also involved in rehearsal direction and costume design and construction.  She has also taught extensively in New York, Holland and throughout British Columbia.

Judith is the artistic director of Dancers Dancing, a professional dance company since 1999. With Dancers Dancing she has choreographed, commissioned, produced, presented and toured. She has also mentored and taught professional and emerging dancers, created and engaged in educational shows and done extensive community outreach. She has linked her professional work with the SFU Contemporary Arts programs through apprenticeships and hiring graduates. She collaborates regularly with composers, video artists and costume designers.

Degree and Studies:
London School of Contemporary Dance, certificate.

Martin Gotfrit

Professor Emeritus


Areas: Music (improvisation, performance, electro-acoustics), Film (soundtrack related), Theatre (sound design, music), New Media (Interactive systems, installations, theatre).

Often collaborates with other musicians as well as artists from other disciplines such as dance, theatre, film/video, new media and installation art. His work has been presented both locally and internationally. An avid improviser and multi-instrumentalist, he is active in several local music ensembles.

Born Montreal, Quebec. Resident of Vancouver since 1977. Married with two children.

BA Music and Film Joint Major, Concordia University 1974
MA Communications, McGill University 1977

Rob Groeneboer

Senior Lecturer

P: 778.782.4262

Areas: Directing; editing; screenplay; film production

Film and Video maker. Written and directed several short films and videos which have been screened internationally. Teaches all aspects of film production.

Patricia Gruben

Associate Professor

P: 778-782-5982

Areas: Screenwriting; directing; story editing; Canadian and Indian cinema.

Patricia Gruben is a filmmaker, Associate Professor of Film and Director of Praxis Centre for Screenwriters. She has written and directed several experimental narrative shorts (The Central Character, Sifted Evidence), two dramatic features (Low Visibility, Deep Sleep) and a feature-length documentary (Ley Lines), which have been screened internationally in cinemas, on television, and at numerous festivals including Toronto, Sundance, New York and Edinburgh. Patricia also works as a script consultant and screenwriter, and has published several articles and book chapters on Canadian filmmakers, screenplay structure, and adaptation. She teaches screenwriting; directing and acting for film; film studies; and is Director of the SFU Field School in Art & Culture of Contemporary India. Her play The Secret Doctrine and installation The Veil of Nature were produced in Vancouver in 2013.

Gary Harris

Senior Lecturer, Theatre Production and Design

Areas: Set and Lighting Design, Arts Administration.

Gary brough his expertise garnered over years as a professional Production Manager, Stage Manager, Technical Director, and Scenic and Lighting Designer to his role as Production and Design Faculty with the School for the Contemporary Arts. He continues to be involved in the greater theatre and dance community, while mentoring students in the School as they prepare for their futures working in the arts.


Barry Hegland

Senior Lecturer

Areas: Production and Design: Lighting design, stage design, production techniques, performance in found spaces, non-conventional lighting sources and techniques, design for opera.

I am a Lighting designer for theatre, dance, and opera, and have designed lighting for numerous Vancouver contemporary dance companies including Jumpstart, Kinesis Dance, Jennifer Mascall Dance and Judith Marcuse. Lighting for opera and theatre includes works produced by the Vancouver New Music Society Turning Point Ensemble,Touchstone Theatre, Square Planet Productions, and Illinois Opera Theatre. Barry teaches middle and upper division courses in stage production, lighting and stage design, and production practicums.

Steven Hill

Associate Professor

Theatre Performance

Areas: Theatre Performance, Directing, Devising, Interdisciplinary Collaboration.

Steven Hill is an Associate Professor in theatre performance at the School for Contemporary Arts, SFU, where he has taught acting, directing and devising since 2007. His research includes ensemble collaboration, devising practices and emergent performance in contemporary theatre and is funded by private foundations, Canada Council, BC Arts Council and the City of Vancouver. Between 2001 and 2014 he was Artistic Director of Leaky Heaven Performance, an award-winning, experimental theatre company that created original devised works. In 2014, with Co-Artistic Alex Ferguson he launched Fight With a Stick, which premiered its first work Steppenwolf at the 2015 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. The company has several new works in creation exploring performance installation and ‘non-human expressivity’. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from York University and has worked as a performer and director in theatres across the country.

Cinerama (in one minute) by Fight With a Stick

Revolutions (exceprts) by Fight With a Stick

Rudolf Komorous

Retired Faculty, Music

Rudolf Komorous was born December 8, 1931 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Komorous studied bassoon and later composition at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. In 1957, he won First Prize in the prestigious Concours International d’Exécution Musicale in Geneva. As a result, he was invited to the Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where he taught bassoon and chamber music from 1959-61. Upon his return home, he became principal bassoon in the Prague Opera Orchestra, and co-founded Musica Viva Pragensis. Quickly gaining recognition as one of the premier ensembles in the world for the performance of modern music, Musica Viva Pragensis toured and made recordings in radio studios all over Europe up to 1968.

Komorous' involvement with the Czech avant-garde in the 1950s and '60s led to a close association with painters and sculptors. This circle, known as the "Smidra Group", was influenced by Dada and Surrealism. Their motto was the "aesthetics of the wonderful" through which common materials could be transformed into something sublime, mysterious or even magical. Komorous’s compositions of the mid-1960’s were radically innovative within a minimalist aesthetic. Here his experience with Chinese aesthetics played a part, as well as the influence of American composers such as Morton Feldman. His 1965 composition The Tomb of Malevich, of 1965, was the first electronic piece publicly presented in Czechoslovakia, and also the first electronic piece released by Supraphon on gramophone record. A number of his works from this period were published by Universal Edition, Vienna; they were performed at festivals such as the Venice Biennale, Warsaw Autumn, Donaueschingen, and Prague Spring. Other important works from this period that begin to show his later interests in melody and harmony include Gloomy Grace, York, and his unaccompanied opera Lady Whiterose. This opera has later been performed Buffalo, New York, Montreal, and Victoria.

In 1969 Komorous emigrated with his family to Canada, following the Soviet invasion of his country. After teaching for two years at Macalester College in St.Paul, Minnesota, in 1971 he joined the faculty of the School of Music at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. There he founded the Electronic Music Studio and later became the Director of the School. From 1989 until 1994 he served as Director of the School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, retiring to Victoria in 1996.

Upon his arrival in Canada, Rudolf Komorous developed an instant affinity for the west coast, and there was a dramatic flowering of his composition. In the early seventies, Komorous began a series of daring works for unusual combinations of instruments, juxtaposing musics of different styles and sometimes quoting or referencing music ranging from the baroque to boogie-woogie, waltz or jazz. His Preludes for 13 early instruments (1974) and Rossi (1975) are two extraordinary examples. Rossi received a number of performances including by New Music Concerts in Toronto and was later recorded by the Vancouver New Music Ensemble on Centrediscs records.

Komorous’s extensive catalogue of compositions written since the mid-seventies include works for orchestra (5 Sinfonies, including No.2, “The Canadian”), a large variety of works for solo instruments and chamber ensembles, and several choral works and songs. His opera No No Miya was commissioned by Vancouver New Music and premiered in 1989 with Judith Forst in the solo role. The opera was later mounted by Tapestry Music Theatre in Toronto and at the New Opera Days Ostrava festival. Many of his vocal and choral works utilize texts of early Chinese poets. These include his major work Vermillion Dust for chorus and orchestra (1980) based on poetry of Li Shang-yin and his 23 Poems about Horses (1978/85) for narrator and ensemble utilizing poetry of Li-Ho. The latter work was recorded by Vancouver New Music with Martin Bartlett, narrator. Other significant pieces of the last decade include his Lurid Bride (2000) recorded by Turning Point Ensemble on a complete disc of his work entitled Strange Sphere and Wu (2002/3), an hour long work for solo piano performed and recorded by Eve Egoyan.  Recent works include the opera The Mute Canary (2018), Stone House, written for soprano Cathy Lewis and his 85th birthday concert, and Minx (2010) written for and premiered by the Turning Point Ensemble.

The compositions of Rudolf Komorous since the mid-seventies have focused on his interests in original approaches to melody and harmony, also exhibiting eclectic associations including Japanese Noh theatre, jazz (Thelonious Monk and Hoagy Carmichael), and mannerism in art and poetry of the high Italian renaissance. For those who have interpreted his work as moving back to tradition, Komorous counters that he has remained avant-garde or looking forward: “Art goes on, and today the New Music is a historical term. Music has had to keep on moving in some direction and in my view the path forward is that we need to discover how to compose and invent melodies that are not pre-New Music but post-New Music.”

The body of work of Rudolf Komorous is substantial and distinctive, and interest in his work is growing on a national and international level. In 2000, he was a featured composer in the Vancouver International New Music Festival, and important articles on Rudolf Komorous have been recently written including on the edge – after Rudolf Komorous by Martin Arnold (MusicWorks magazine 2004), and The Composer Rudolf Komorous by Renata Spisarova (Czech Music 2006), and Rudolf Komorous and the ‘aesthetic of the strange’ (The Globe and Mail 2010). In addition to the two all Komorous discs already mentioned, recordings of his work have been made by groups such as ArrayMusic in Toronto, pianist Eve Egoyan and the guitarist William Beauvais. In Montreal, kore ensemble mounted a concert in his honour in 2003, and Quatuor Bozzini has performed his work on many occasions. Komorous' music has been performed internationally by numerous ensembles and soloists including: Ostrava New Music Days, Agon, The Netherlands Radio Orchestra, and the SWF-Sinfonieorchester.

Komorous is retired and lives in Victoria, B.C.

DD Kugler

Professor Emeritus

Areas: Dramaturgy & Directing & Playmaking.

DD Kugler, a Vancouver-based freelance dramaturg/director in theatre and dance, was the first Canadian president of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA, 2000-02); in 2011 LMDA presented Kugler the Lessing Award for Career Achievement. Kugler served eight seasons as Production Dramaturg with Toronto’s Necessary Angel Theatre (1985-93), and five seasons as Artistic Director of Edmonton’s Northern Light Theatre (1993-98). He adapted Marc Diamond’s Property, and (in collaboration with Richard Rose) co-authored Newhouse, as well as the adaptations of Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter, and Timothy Findley’s Not Wanted on the Voyage.  

Kugler has taught in the Theatre Area of the School for Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University since 1998, with a primary research focus on dramaturgy in theatre and dance, and writing about dramaturgy; in 2010 he received one of the three SFU Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas

Jacqueline Levitin

Associate Professor

Areas: Women and film; film theory and production; women, poverty and the media; third world film and women.

Dr. Jacqueline Levitin is a filmmaker and film historian. She is the co-editor of Women Filmmakers: Refocusing (2003), a collection of new writing by women filmmakers, critics and theorists. Her films and videos range from short experimental works to documentary and fiction features and live video collaborations with dancers and theatre performers. Building Bridge: a Housing Project for Women (2003) brings her early work in ethnographic documentary and participatory-style filmmaking to the exploration of ethical issues in imaging the poor and drug-addicted of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Her latest film, the experimental documentary Mahjong & Chicken Feet (2008), uses her family's history in Harbin, China to explore memory and history and the relations of China and her others. As an historian-critic, Jacqueline Levitin's special focus has been on women filmmakers, genre film, and national schools of filmmaking. She has lectured in Beijing, Chongqing and Shanghai and is an Associate Professor in both the School for the Contemporary Arts and Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies departments at Simon Fraser University.

John Macfarlane

Senior Lecturer

Theatre Production & Design

Areas: Technical direction and lighting design for the stage.

Lighting designer and technical director for dance and theatre. Began touring internationally with New York's Nikolais Dance Theatre in 1973 and continues to maintain a professional career. Teaches technical theatre, lighting design, stage and production management and arts administration.

David MacIntyre

Professor Emeritus, Music Composition

Areas: Music Composition, Interdisciplinary Composition and Collaboration.

Composer/Professor Emeritus David MacIntyre joined SFU faculty in 1979 when he co-founded the program in contemporary music. He has served as Graduate Program Chair for three terms and is a strong advocate of the School's interdisciplinary mission. As a composer with a specialty in music for the stage and interdisciplinary performance, Prof. MacIntyre has a extensive catalog spanning forty years that includes opera, music theatre, cabaret, choral, orchestral, chamber and vocal music, site-specific projects and collaborations in theatre, dance, and visual art.

B. Mus (with distinction) University of Victoria 1975
M. Mus University of Victoria 1979

Cheryl Prophet

Senior Lecturer | Dance

Areas: Performance and choreography, contemporary dance technique, experiential anatomy and body conditioning, dance improvisation, dance/movement analysis and dance repertory.

Cheryl has an extensive background in dance science and various somatic practices. She is a Certified Yoga Teacher and a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA) in Laban/Bartenieff Movement Studies. She also holds a certification in the Level 1 Franklin Method. She is also a choreographer with over 40 years experience. Her choreography has been presented nationally and internationally.

Formerly from Montreal, she performed and toured nationally and internationally with Le Groupe de la Place Royale, Fortier Danse Creation and Fondation Jean-Pierre Perrault. Before relocating to Vancouver to teach at SFU, she taught as a sessional instructor at Universite du Quebec a Montreal. Additional teaching highlights include the 2009 Guangdong International Dance Festival in China and core faculty member for the 2010-11 Vancouver-based Laban/Bartenieff and Somatic Studies International program. She has presented papers at national conferences, participated as a guest speaker for Vancouver’s Dance House Speaking of Dance series, and served as a dance consultant for media.

Cheryl has served as an assessor for Canada Council for the Arts, the City of Vancouver, Cultural Grants, the Dancers’ Transition Resource Centre, and as a board member for the Dance Centre, Mascall Dance, Canadian Society for Dance Studies, and Dancers Dancing Dance Company.

Albert St. Albert Smith

Retired Faculty

Areas: Pan-African drums, jazz, popular music; contemporary dance accompaniment and performance; Pan-African culture.

African American musician whose specialty is instruments from different African nations and their Diaspora. He has studied and played many musical styles; jazz, rock and roll, folk, classical, Latin, and the fusion of these styles, as well as traditional and modern African music. A professional performer for over 40 years. As a faculty instructor at Simon Fraser University taught in the area of music for dance at the School for the Contemporary Arts and director of the SFU Ghana Field School in the Arts. Over the years he has performed with Nina Simon, Freddie Hubbard, Ernestine Anderson, and toured with World Drums Master Musicians of the World. He has performed with and recorded with Almeta Speaks, African Heritage and Uzume Taiko and Ache Brasil.

Greg Snider

Professor Emeritus, Visual Art

Greg Snider is a sculptor and installation artist living and working in Vancouver, BC. His practice is considered a form of critical realism, primarily directed toward problems of representing labour and work in the public sphere. Through his interest in the working body in space and its relation to physical objects, he has had opportunities to produce stage design and objects for performance in interdisciplinary contexts with theatre, dance and music. From 1981-2009 he taught in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University, in visual art studios, critical theory seminars, technical theatre, and social art history. He has written criticism and served as Curator of Contemporary Art for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and for Open Space Gallery, in Victoria, BC. He has been the recipient of numerous grants, including Canada Council Senior Arts Grants, and is represented in a number of public and private collections in Canada, including the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and the National Gallery of Canada.

Penelope Stella

Professor Emerita, Theatre

Areas: Theatre performance, directing.

Penelope Stella is  a director and actor who has worked in Canada, the U.S. and the South Pacific. Her work abroad includes a two year period as artistic director of the National Theatre Company of Papua New Guinea where she worked in traditional and contemporary theatrical and dance forms. She has directed and co-wrote with her partner Marc Diamond a number of reinterpretations of the classics. She has a special interest in the performance and directing of the work of Samuel Beckett. She has worked extensively in the field of contemporary opera where she has directed five chamber opera pieces. She has twice been theatre director of Canada's prestigious National Choreographic Seminar. Currently she is an artistic director and performer with Square Planet Performance Group, an interdisciplinary company.

Owen Underhill


Music & Sound

Areas: Composition; conducting; contemporary ensembles; opera/music theatre; interdisciplinary collaboration; 20th century music theory; contemporary music curating and programming.

Composer and conductor. Research includes compositions for orchestra, opera, chamber and choral ensembles, and music for dance and theatre. Co-Artistic Director and conductor of Turning Point Ensemble, Former Artistic Director Vancouver New Music, Winner 2007 Western Canadian Music Awards Outstanding Classical Composition, Vice-President Canadian Music Centre and former Dean Pro Tem Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology. Teaches composition, conducting, contemporary music performance and 20th Century music theory. / Turning Point Ensemble

Chris Welsby

Professor Emeritus, Film

Chris Welsby has been making and exhibiting work since 1969. His films and film/video installations have been exhijbited internationally, at major galleries such as the Tate and Hayward galleries in London, the Musée du Louvre and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. Born in Exeter, UK, Welsby moved to Canada in 1989 to take the position of Professor of Film and Digital Media at the School for the Contemporary Arts. Welsby is also a member of ICICS (Institute for Computing, Information, and Cognitive Systems) at the University of British Columbia. He retired from his full-time academic duties in 2012.

In Memoriam

Ker Wells

Our dear colleague and friend Ker Wells passed away. His wit, intelligence, and generosity will be sorely missed. He brought genuine care and warmth to the School for the Contemporary Arts, which he shared with his fellow faculty, staff, and students alike.

It's difficult to articulate the loss we feel, so we're grateful for this moving obituary by Ker's sister, Jane, which we're sharing here:

Obituary for Ker Stewart Wells
May 31st, 1964 – August 30th, 2019 New York
Loving Husband, Son and Friend

On Friday August 30th, our beloved Ker died from pancreatic cancer. Ker was so central to so many of us, to how we saw and made art, hosted dinner parties, told stories, remembered jokes. His way through the world was fundamental to how we use our time here: for labour, for pleasure, for the joyful work of creation; but most importantly, in the company of people we love.

He leaves behind his adored wife Marianne Rendon; sisters Emily and Jane Wells, brother-in-law Rob Howard and nephew Hugh; parents-in-law Bob and Val Rendon. He will be profoundly missed by his uncle Chris Wells and aunt Lynne Douglas; by dear cousins and many many friends far and wide.

Ker was born in Munich, Germany and lived with his family in Europe until 1974 when they returned to the family farm in Alberton, PEI. This was the beginning of a lifelong connection to the natural world, a fascination with wild things, and an opportunity to teach himself about everything, from pig-rearing to carpentry, from snaring rabbits to planting trees. Although he never lived at the farm as an adult he devoted hours of "holiday" time repairing things, re-siding the barn, and planting trees. His final sustained project was killing that goddamned patch of knot weed invading the bushes beyond the back porch, a porch he had rebuilt a number of times, most recently in May (only May!).

Carpenter; wood chopper; caretaker of house plants and small animals; bread baker; collector of wild creature skulls and scavenger of scrap lumber; expert manipulator of copper tubing; relentless reader of the New Yorker - and rememberer of everything he read. And if he didn't remember it, he invented an equally convincing, if not better, account. And nobody in my life will ever be a better story-teller. (With apologies to all of you who are excellent storytellers, yourselves.)

Ker attended Westisle High School in Elmsdale, PEI and then Mt. Allison University, graduating in 1985. It was at Mt. A that he really discovered performance. His world revolved around Windsor Theatre, his shared student house at 88 King Street, and the marvellous group of friends he met there.

Ker went onto the acting program at the National Theatre School, and again forged deep lifelong friendships with his classmates. After graduating from NTS in 1988 he became a founding member of Primus Theatre in Winnipeg, with whom he performed, taught, and travelled extensively. The impact of Primus Theatre's performances and workshops has been felt far and wide; for those fortunate enough to see their work, it was an unforgettable experience.

After Ker left Primus he formed Number Eleven Theatre in Toronto, an opportunity to direct and create work in collaboration with a new group of actors; to find his artistic voice and follow that silver thread of curiosity and creativity that was uniquely his. In the years following Number Eleven, he continued to direct and collaborate with many fine companies and artists, too many to name here. However he returned most frequently to what he long felt was his artistic home with NaCl in Highland Lake, NY.

Ker continued to work as an actor periodically, after he left Primus, most notably in The Confessions of Punch and Judy with Tannis Kowalchuk and in his solo performances Living Tall and Swimmer 68.

In 2013 Ker graduated from the MFA program at York University, and shortly thereafter was hired as Associate Professor of Theatre Performance at Simon Fraser University's School for Contemporary Arts in Vancouver. And there, once again, he found and forged a community of like-minded souls - but it was only when he met Marianne that he began to feel it was home.

Ker's artistic influence has been powerfully felt as a teacher: transformative experiences, encounters with students and performers, amateur and professional, and community members, all charged by his dedicated attention, his tremendous physical and creative energy, and the singular pleasure he took in play. He taught and directed for a number of years at the National Theatre School of Canada, Humber College, and finally at SFU where he was recently granted tenure.

If we draw a line through the places Ker lived, worked, and taught, stringing yarn and placing pins, you would see the land mapped from coast to coast to coast; and at each pin, there would be a deep orange glow: at each pin he steadfastly made friends, expanded circles, fell in love, and invariably formed a rich community of dear companions, none more nor less dear than those of the previous home.

Ker's last great creative adventure was the River Clyde Pageant, which allowed him to spend a few glorious and (exhausting!) summers in Prince Edward Island, developing this joyous collaboration with the many wonderful people of New Glasgow and surrounding communities.

Being directed by Ker, or taught by him, simply being present with him, was not without effort. He was an effortless host, could simultaneously make the guacamole and the dinner, get you a beer and tell you a remarkable and funny story.

He was entertaining and gracious and made you feel like you were at the best dinner party going that night. But his demands on himself were huge, on every plain. He was rigorous and exacting, as a thinker and as an artist. He dedicated himself physically, emotionally, psychically, to every undertaking, be it making a fine wooden box for his mother, directing a show, reading The BFG to his nephew or baking bread.

With such fullness in our midst, how could we not want to do the same?

Donate to the Ker Wells Memorial Fund

In Ker Wells' honour, his friends and colleagues have established the Ker Wells Memorial Fund at SFU. Your gift will pay tribute to Ker by supporting performance students in the School for the Contemporary Arts. It is our wish to raise $20,000 in order to create an endowed award at SFU.

Donate HERE.

Iris Garland


Iris Lillian Garland (1935-2002) taught dance from the University’s inception to her retirement as Professor Emeritus from the School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA) in 2000. As a charter member of SFU, Garland established and was involved in the growth of the contemporary dance program, which began as components of the Recreational Program in the Faculty of Education, and ultimately grew to become an academic degree program in the SCA.

Garland was born on June 23, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois. She earned a BS in 1957 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she majored in physical education and graduated in the top three percent of her class. She went on to earn her MSc in 1960 at the University of California at Los Angeles. Garland spent the next five years as an instructor in physical education at the University of North Dakota and then the University of Washington, before joining SFU as an instructor in the Physical Development Centre of the Faculty of Education in September 1965. It was at SFU that Garland also met her husband, James Warren Felter, who served as the first Curator/Director of the Simon Fraser Gallery.

Early on, Garland was an outspoken supporter of the creation of an academic unit offering credit courses and programs in the fine and performing arts at SFU. Meanwhile, she grew the contemporary dance program from its humble beginnings within the Faculty of Education into workshops and intensives offered through Kinesiology and a fledgling Centre for Communications and the Arts, bolstered by guest performers and artists in residence as instructors. With the establishment of the Centre for the Arts in 1975, dance was ultimately elevated from non-credit workshops to credit courses alongside those in film, music, theatre, visual arts, and art history. Garland’s continued efforts helped to establish an academic dance minor program in 1976, and a dance major program by 1980. After the Centre became the School for the Contemporary Arts in 1989, dance became an academic BFA degree program and part of an interdisciplinary MFA offered by the SCA.

Throughout her career, Garland continued her dance education, pursuing studies in modern, dance notation, and a voice intensive in theatre. She also studied ballet under Mary Ann Wells in Seattle and Mara McBirney in Vancouver. In 1983, at the University of Washington, she became a Certified Movement Analyst, a program incorporating Laban Movement Analysis, which Garland went on to feature in her teaching. A significant contribution to her teaching was the creation of the unique telelearning course, “Dancing in Cyberspace: Creating with the Virtual Body,” which she co-developed in the 1990s with Lisa Marie Naugle, a PhD student from New York University. The course was offered through SFU's Centre for Distance Education and utilized Life Forms, a software program developed by Dr. Thomas W. Calvert in the SFU Computing Science Department. Life Forms allowed for the study and choreography of animated human figures in dance and movement. The course was popular with distant education SFU students, as well as national and international learners. In 1998, Garland was invited to present “New Technologies for Choreographers: Life Forms Workshop and Seminar” to professional choreographers in Sydney, Australia.

Garland was popular with her superiors, colleagues, and students alike, and commended often for her hard work and dedication not only to the University, but also to the dance community as a whole both locally and nationally. In 1991, she was awarded SFU Teacher of the Year. In addition to her teaching, Garland served on multiple departmental and university committees throughout her SFU career. Within the dance community, Garland participated as an independent choreographer and performer at various dance festivals and concerts, first in the 1970s through the Burnaby Mountain Dance Company, which was originally formed with SFU dancers in 1973. She later showcased her work through the Off-Centre Dance Company, which began in 1985 under the direction of various SFU dance faculty and later absorbed into the SFU dance program to provide advanced students an opportunity to be part of an ensemble and perform publicly. From the late 1980s into the 1990s, Garland featured her work at Vancouver’s Dancing on the Edge Festival of Contemporary Dance, an event which continues today. At the national level, Garland was heavily involved with the Dance in Canada Association as a member of the board in the 1970s and as a conference organizer into the 1980s. Her dedication to the Association earned her an Outstanding Service Award in 1985.

In addition to her main research interests in early modern dance history, dance and technology, and dance analysis and choreography, Garland developed an interest in Spanish dancer Tórtola Valencia (1882-1955). She began researching the life of this early modern dancer in earnest, travelling to Spain to conduct further study, and presenting several conference papers on the topic in the 1990s. Garland had begun writing a biography of Tórtola Valencia when she was diagnosed with cancer in early 2002. She passed away in North Vancouver, BC, on October 29, 2002.

Text: SFU AtoM (Access to Memory) is a collaborative venture of SFU Archives and SFU Library's Special Collections and Rare Books.

Grant Strate

Professor Emeritus, Dance

Grant Strate was a charter member of the National Ballet of Canada and passionate champion of the arts. The first resident choreographer for the National Ballet, he established York University’s Department of Dance in the ’70s, and then joined Simon Fraser University in 1980 as director of the University’s relatively new Centre for the Arts, the precursor to today’s School for the Contemporary Arts. The founding chair of both the Dance in Canada Association and the Vancouver Dance Centre, he also spearheaded funding for the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver. Strate was named a member of the Order of Canada in 1994 and in 1999 received an honorary doctorate from SFU, the University’s highest honour.