Gerrard, Saida (1913–2005) By Boye, Seika
Toronto-born Saida Gerrard was one of the first artists to import modern dance to Canada following study in the United States. Her early training included character dancing and Dalcroze eurhythmics in Toronto, and in 1931 she moved to New York City to train at the newly opened Mary Wigman School, where she studied with Hanya Holm and Fe Alf. She later continued her training at the Martha Graham School and danced with Charles Weidman through the Federal Theater Project. Gerrard eventually settled in California where she continued to teach, choreograph, and perform. From 1932 to 1936 Gerrard returned to Toronto for personal reasons and opened The Studio of Modern Dance, teaching adaptations of exercises in absolute dance (Ausdruckstanz) learned at the Wigman School. Her influence is seen through to the professionalization of modern dance in Toronto in the 1960s. Gerrard’s professional career blossomed during her return to Toronto. She performed her own work before crowds as large as 8,000 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, exposing many to modern dance for the first time. Her article/manifesto “The Dance” explains the artistic and philosophical impetus behind the developing art form. She eventually returned to New York where there was an infrastructure to support a professional dance career, which was not available in Canada at the time.