Founding Artistic Director

Rachel Browne C.M.

Rachel Browne (1934 - 2012) founded Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers  in 1964 and served as the company’s Artistic Director, resident choreographer and teacher for over twenty years.  Under her direction the company grew from a local amateur group to a nationally recognized repertory company significant in the development of modern dance in Canada.

Rachel provided opportunities for a number of Canadian choreographers to develop and mount their works on the Company.  These included Stephanie Ballard, Ruth Cansfield, David Earle, Karen Jamieson, Judith Marcuse, Jennifer Mascal, Gaile Petursson-Hiley, Paula Ravitz, Tedd Robinson and others.

Rachel remained active as a choreographer, teacher and performer until her passing in 2012.  She continued to create dances of quality and relevance for WCD, the Professional Program of the School of Contemporary Dancers, and independent projects.  Her work has influenced generations of dancers whom she has trained and directed.

Rachel received numerous awards from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council, the Winnipeg Arts Council and private foundations.  These include the 1995 Jean A. Chalmers Award for Creativity in Dance, the 2000 Canada Council Jacqueline Lemieux Prize and the 2001 Manitoba Arts Council Great-West Life Lifetime Achievement Award.  In 1997 she was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada.  Rachel Browne’s biography, Dancing Toward the Light, by acclaimed dance artist and writer Carol Anderson, was published in 1999.

Sunstorm (2002), done to Chopin’s Twenty-Four Preludes, was remounted for WCD’s 40th Anniversary season in May 2004.  Sunstorm was also presented at the 2004 Dancing on the Edge Festival in Vancouver and the 2003 Stream of Dance Festival in Regina.  This creation received national attention with favourable reviews in the Globe and Mail by Paula Citron and Dance International, by Kaija Pepper.

Rachel’s recent activities included creating works for senior dance artists as part of her ongoing project, Older Women Dance.  Edgelit, featuring six senior dance artists, premiered at WCD’s 35th Anniversary Festival in 1999 and was produced in Toronto by Danceworks in 2000.  Rachel’s recent creations include Flowering (2005), an intergenerational work, Mein Ruhe Platz(2006), done to klezmer music, and Variations on Serenity, to music by Canadian composer Ann Southam, which opened WCD’s 42nd season on September 28, 2006.       

Rachel’s more recent undertakings included performing Flowering with Odette Heyn-Penner, Co-Director of The School of Contemporary Dancers, at the Older and Reckless series in Toronto, March 2007 and again at the renaming of our performance venue to The Rachel Browne Theatre in her honour in 2008.  Ceremonies, done to Ann Southam’s ‘Seastill’, premiered November 2007. Ceremonies was commissioned by three WCD dancers in an independent project entitled Transformations.


Below are links to WCD's articles about Rachel Browne's sudden and unexpected passing.

We are full of sorrow

WCD's obituary for Rachel.

Service Announcement


Remembered in Toronto