A patch of sun set Linda Rabin to a career in dance, while the spotlight of the Order of Canada now illuminates her 50-year contribution to the art.
Her appointment as a member of the order was announced on June 27, the lapel pin has arrived in the mail and the medal ceremony is still to come for this prodigious talent who shaped modern dance in this country.
Rabin’s love of dance began with the first class she took with Elsie Salomons as a tween. “I felt a little self-conscious,” she says, until the live piano accompaniment inspired her to physicalize the sensation of “breaking out of prison. There was a patch of sunlight coming in from the window. I remember feeling the sunlight and I was free. That was my opening to creative dance.”
Her parents, who had sent her to United Talmud Torahs, expected their daughter to take a more traditional path in life, but supported her decision to apply to the Juilliard School, where she graduated with a BFA in dance in 1967.
“I ended up living in Israel for five years, from 1968 to 1973,” she says. “I worked there professionally with the Batsheva Company as rehearsal director and teacher.”
There, she met Brian Macdonald, who then took over Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and gave Rabin choreographic work in Montreal. Ballet Rambert in London, England, contracted her to choreograph, teach and act as rehearsal mistress for a year, then a Canada Council grant jetted her off to Japan to study dance theatre and traditional dance forms.
“I came back to Montreal and knew I needed to have a school and not be guest teaching the way I had been. I and Candace Loubert, a colleague I had met when I was choreographing at Les Grands, co-founded a school in 1981, where we could pool our resources of body awareness work, what we call today somatic education, together with creative process and strong technical training.”
Les Ateliers de danse moderne de Montréal, now known as L’école de danse contemporaine de Montréal, was Rabin’s world until she left dance in the mid-1990s to find further fulfillment in body-mind centring and continuum movement, becoming an authorized teacher of its skills in 2001 (though she still teaches a creative research class at the dance school).
Continuum takes its cue from what’s going on inside the body.
“It is the essence of dance and movement, how all living bodies flow from within. It’s not about making movements in space. It’s about being movement. The waters in our bodies, on the planet Earth and in the atmosphere, are resonant with each other. They are not separate. It’s like one big system,” says Rabin.
“Continuum is a coming together of my love of movement and my interest in the more philosophical mystery of life.”
Her classes explore how human tissues respond to the vibration of vocal sounds, which stimulate the movement of fluids within the body. Breath is also key, as is “tuning in to the sensations you’re experiencing within yourself,” says Rabin.
“Continuum can be applied to any field. Because I come from dance, there’s a tendency for dancers to take the classes. It helps them be aware of what’s going on around them onstage, while staying in the moment. But I also have people who are interested in meditation through slowing down and awareness. It’s the idea of being present. You begin to feel an exquisite world of life going on inside.”