Core Faculty Biographies

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Odette Heyn, C.M. & Faye Thomson, C.M. Co-Directors
Technique, Repertory, Composition, Paedagogy

In 1983, Odette Heyn and Faye Thomson founded the Professional Program of The School of Contemporary Dancers. Since that time, the Professional Program has made significant contributions to the contemporary dance arts community and the cultural fabric of Canada. Working in a partnership for over thirty years, they are the longest serving directors of a national professional dance training program in Canada.

As creators of one of the leading national professional contemporary dance training programs, Odette Heyn and Faye Thomson have made Winnipeg a renowned centre of excellence. Over several decades, the Program has been the source of virtually the entire professional contemporary dance community in Winnipeg. The Co-Directors continue to initiate numerous local, national and international collaborations. As Co-Directors, they have been the source of numerous artists performing with renowned choreographers nationally and internationally.

Odette Heyn and Faye Thomson have served as esteemed contributors to the Winnipeg and national arts community as performers, choreographers, 'Outside Eyes', rehearsal directors, jurors, assessors, consultants, panelists and arts board members. They were the creators of the first affiliation between a professional contemporary dance training program and a university in Canada. The Professional Program of The School of Contemporary Dancers continues its long-term affiliation with the University of Winnipeg.


Odette Heyn has performed with Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers, Rachel Browne, Brent Lott and Stephanie Ballard and Dancers. In 2013, she performed in Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers' Rachel Browne Tribute Tour. She has choreographed works, both nationally and internationally, including for the Festival of Canadian Modern Dance, the Olympics Danscene (Calgary 1988), the Kuan Du Arts Festival in Taipei, The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Malaysia Philharmonic Orchestra and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. In 2012, Odette choreographed for the off-Broadway production "Requiem for a Lost Girl" and, in 2013, "Mata Hari", in New York City.

Ms. Heyn served as a Guest Company Teacher for Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers for many years and was Assistant Artistic Director during Bill Evans' directorship. Previously, she was Founding Artistic Director of Sundance Children's Dance Theatre, created with the assistance of a Canada Council Explorations Grant in 1979. She has received several grant awards and has served as a juror and assessor for the Manitoba Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. She has also served as a member of the board of the Alliance for Arts Education.


Faye Thomson has performed with Stephanie Ballard and Dancers, Rachel Browne, and Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers including with Tedd Robinson. She continues to serve as an 'Outside Eye'/Rehearsal Director for Stephanie Ballard and Dancers for several projects, and has recently been Rehearsal Director for works presented by NAfro Dance Productions and Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers including for the Rachel Browne Tribute Tour. She studied and performed in South Indian Classical Dance for many years under the direction of Menaka Thakkar, including an acclaimed 1984/85 performance tour of India.

Ms. Thomson served as a Guest Company Teacher for Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers for many years and was Assistant Artistic Director during Bill Evans' directorship. For several years, she served as a member of the board of directors of the Winnipeg Arts Council and as a member of the Manitoba Arts Advisory Panel and continues to serve as a juror/assessor. She has received several grant awards including from the Manitoba Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Manitoba: St. John's College and a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours in Dance from York University. On November 6, 2016, Faye was made an Honourary Fellow of St. John's College: University of Manitoba.


Odette Heyn and Faye Thomson were nominated for the "Woman of the Year" award for Arts and Culture through the YWCA in 2006.

In June 2013, Ms. Heyn and Ms. Thomson were the recipients of the Winnipeg Arts Council's Investors Group Making a Difference Award 'for extraordinary contributions to the arts'.

Odette Heyn and Faye Thomson were recipients of Dance Manitoba's "Lifetime Achievement Distinction Awards for Excellence in Dance", January 30, 2016.

On December 30, 2015 Odette Heyn and Faye Thomson were honoured to be appointed as Members of The Order of Canada. One of the highest honours in Canada, these appointments were made "for their contributions to contemporary dance in Canada and the development of the next generation of dancers."

facultyStephanie Ballard Artist-In-Residence/Archivist
Repertory, Performance Technique, Dance Legacy

Stephanie Ballard is an acclaimed choreographer, personal coach and educator. She is a recipient of Canada's most prestigious awards for choreography including the Clifford E. Lee Award, the Jean A. Chalmers Award and the Jacqueline Lemieux Prize. Formerly an apprentice, company member, apprentice director and associate artistic director of Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers, she continues a close affiliation with the company as a guest choreographer and Legacy Advisor. Her work with the Margie Gillis Dance Foundation included thirteen years of extensive touring of Asia, the U.S., Canada and Europe. She has a Masters Degree in Therapeutic Counseling and has been active with Learning Through the Arts and Artists-in-the-Schools. She is a founding Director of Mouvement/Winnipeg Dance Projects and a choreographer for Drive Dance. She continues to create new work on a regular basis. Her "Landscape Dancing" continues to be performed throughout Winnipeg, at the Canada Dance Festival biennially and was a part of the opening ceremonies for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Ms. Ballard's ten-year Legacy Project was the seed for establishing The Winnipeg Dance Preservation Initiative. The WDPI organizes annual celebrations on International Dance Day, joining hands with UNESCO and the international community. Ms. Ballard is a member of the Society for Canadian Dance Studies and The Program Committee for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. She is an Honorary Advisor to Dance Collection Danse and is Artistic Advisor for Peter Quanz and QDance.
facultyGaile Petursson-Hiley Artistic Associate
Technique, Repertory

Artistic Associate of the Professional Program of the School of Contemporary Dancers, Gaile Petursson-Hiley is an outstanding master teacher with a strong commitment to the nurturing of a new generation of artists. As an independent Winnipeg choreographer, she has contributed to the Canadian dance community for over 30 years as a dance artist, dance educator and dance creator. She was a principal dancer with Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers, Stephanie Ballard and Dancers and Pacific Ballet Theatre and has performed throughout North America, Europe and Australia.

Gaile is a Founding Director of Mouvement/Winnipeg Dance Projects along with Stephanie Ballard. She is honoured to act as mentor and Artistic Advisor for Drive Dance in Winnipeg. Her work was presented at the Canada Dance Festival 2012 and 2014. In February 2014, Gaile's new creation, "Creatures", for Kathleen Hiley Solo Projects, premiered in the Cool N.Y Dance Festival in New York. Gaile's newest creation "Eclipse", a full-length work featuring the stellar artists of Drive Dance, premiered in September 2015. "Eclipse" celebrates beauty, emotion, physicality and vulnerability through contemporary dance. Petursson-Hiley's "Bronte" was presented to the Winnipeg public in September 2009. Holly Harris of The Dance Current wrote "Such is the beauty of this haunting work, with Petursson-Hiley's mature artistry creating compassionate bonds that blur across generations of time and space." Gaile's full-length work "Faeries" received its highly successful world premiere in Winnipeg in July 2006. It was reviewed as a 'magical debut for Mouvement/Winnipeg Dance Projects.' She celebrated her 20th anniversary as a choreographer in 2002 with the work premiere of "Cherry Blossom Pink" in Winnipeg. As Co-Founder and Co-Director of Dance Collective with Ruth Cansfield from 1989-1994, Gaile created over twenty original works for the repertoire of the Company.

Gaile has been awarded grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council and the Winnipeg Arts Council. In 1994, she received the prestigious Manitoba Arts Council Major Arts Award for the creation of "Waltz", a collaboration with composer, Holly Harris and visual artist, Susan Chafe.