Core Faculty Biographies

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 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.

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.”


Stephanie 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 has served on 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.

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Gaile Petursson-Hiley Artistic Associate

Technique, Repertory

Gaile Petursson-Hiley has contributed to the Canadian dance community as a dance artist, creator and educator for nearly four decades. As a principal dancer with Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers, Stephanie Ballard and Dancers and Pacific Ballet Theatre, Gaile toured throughout North America, Europe and Australia. In 2018, Gaile was awarded the Dance Manitoba Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Dance.

Gaile is a Founding Director of Mouvement/Winnipeg Dance Projects. Her work has been presented both nationally and internationally in New York,  Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Whitehorse and most recently Mexico.

“Eclipse”, Gaile’s full-length work featuring the stellar artists of Drive Dance, premiered in September 2015 in Winnipeg. In 2016, Gaile was  commissioned by Kathleen Hiley Solo Projects to create an original work for KHSP’s full length Solo Production, 2016.   Her choreography, for this company premiered in the Cool N.Y. Dance Festival in New York.

In a review of Gaile’s 2009 “Bronte”,  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.”

As Co-Founder and Co-Director of Dance Collective with Ruth Cansfield from 1989-1994, she created over twenty original works for the company.

Gaile has been awarded numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council and Winnipeg Arts Council towards her creative practice. She was the recipient of the  prestigious $25,000 Manitoba Arts Council Major Arts Award for the creation of ‘Waltz’, a collaboration with composer, Holly Harris and visual artist, Susan Chafe.

Gaile is Artistic Associate for the School of Contemporary Dancers and reveres her craft and role as a master teacher, creator and mentor, sharing her ongoing work with the School and Community.