Canadian Maxine Heppner is an international dance and inter-medial creator, performer, director and teacher of contemporary dance and interdisciplinary performance. Her work focuses on contemporary creation founded in physical expression be it pure choreography or multi-arts projects. Known for bold massive ensemble pieces and intimate chamber works, she has received numerous awards, grants and commissions in Canada, the USA and abroad in her 40-year career.
Maxine's early training was in Montreal with masters Elsie Salomons, Seda Zare, Eva von Guensey and Sifu Li. She moved to Toronto in the early 70’s, an exciting time that fostered many of Canada’s leading artists and is now a major centre of arts in North America. Groups she was active in include the MusicDance Orchestra, 15Dance Lab, Pavlychenko Studio, Theatre Centre, Music Gallery, Phyzikal Theatre. In 1989 her career became cross-hemispheric collaborating with prominent dance, music, theatre and visual artists in Canada, the USA, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan & throughout Far-East Asia. In 1995 she first toured Europe where she now works regularly. Since 1996 she leads Across Oceans Arts to facilitate collaborative artmaking across arts, generations, abilities and heritages in Canada and internationally.
Honours include Now’s Top 10 dances of 2009 and 2010 favourites "KRIMA!"; The Star’s 2012 best “Volare”; Audience favourite at Guelph Dance Festival 2012 “Here&There”; Critics' Choice and Audience Favourite International Bienale Indonesia 2006 “shoe show”; Japan Foundation International Collaboration Award 2012 “Rage: My heart is a Spoon”; International Puppetry Assoc Citation for Creativity (1995 Shadowlight collaboration “In Xanadu”); 3 Toronto Dora Mavor Moore Awards and 2 nominations.
Maxine’s explorations in creation and education have run concurrently throughout her career, with all ages, all abilities in inner cities, rural villages, professional training programs, companies, universities, festivals worldwide. She teaches creative process, choreography, performance, integrated voice-movement, her Cycles Practice, and she is a trained Action Theatre™ teacher.
Always deeply involved in the environment of the creation with ongoing relationships and residencies over many years, Maxine has quietly and consistently distinguished herself through her creative work as an inspiration in performance, education, and community projects. She is known as an individual of extraordinary empathy and creativity and being instrumental in foundation building with fellow creators, performers, students, educators, communities and international networks.
As well as her career in performance, Maxine's photography and movement videos have been seen internationally and she is production manager for TV and film for the likes of National Geographic, History Channel, Japanese TV and Canadian, Italian and Indian features.
Pure movement pieces and creations spanning dance, theatre, literary and visual-media arts, Maxine’s work is grounded in physical impulse as the generator of all expression. She is known for large vision projects, fantastical intermedial works, and intimate chamber pieces that respond within the environment of the creations and draw out the many facets of human experience. Her work has been presented across North America, throughout Far East Asia, Australia, and Europe.
"Walking into Old Stories is walking into another dimension. "
Brittany Duggan of The Dance Current, 2015
“The theatrical environment is surreal, flooded with visions of fantasy, memory, fear and longing.”
Sarah Hampson, Globe and Mail, Toronto, 2012
“Wow…dance that springs from inspiration of brain and nerve impulse is just exactly “dance and natural media” !!!
Dance-Media Japan, Tokyo, 2006
“Visually arresting...tweeks the senses... This is dance that wants experiencing.”
Dierdre Kelly, Globe and Mail, Canada, June 1999
“From the outside it would be called her own style. From the inside it is an unfolding of observed detail into formalized expression.”
Arts educator in Canada and abroad, Maxine teaches and coaches creative process, pure movement and interdisciplinary performance techniques, choreography, integrated movement-voice technique, Action Theatre™, and her Cycles Practice.
Over 40 years of teaching experience and explorations have led Maxine to an approach both rigourous and open to each individual’s distinct characteristics. Working across cultures and across abilities has helped define a perspective that tries not to presume imperatives, responding to expressive needs of the moment.
Maxine regularly gives workshops for all levels and abilities in Toronto and abroad. She is invited worldwide as mentor and particularly to teach the “Cycles Series”: her performance & creation method based on neurological patterning and on energy impulses and cycles, and to teach her integrated movement-voice technique. Her work as a guest and resident artist has integrated her into arts centres and communities across North America, Europe, throughout Southeast Asia, and Australia.
“Maxine teaches with passion, integrity, intelligence - authentic, bold & in tune with her time.“
J Goodwin, Toronto
“Inspiration & full dedication, the practice was rich in complexity and creativity”.
R. Soutter, Ottawa.
“Challenges movement awareness, opens possibilities & new layers to work on, combine, construct or deconstruct. It feels like the motion is inexhaustible in resources & possibilities.”
S. Premus, Slovenia.
“A rare person, teacher & choreographer, precious to the development of the art-form”.
M. Nestora, Athens
“Maxine’s process and understanding of movement is at a high theoretical level that also is profoundly human. Her methods first intrigued me and now have actually changed the way that I perform. She has managed to develop a practice that integrates both intuition and intelligence: Content & meaning translated into impulse, control of physical energy, and three-dimensional space. The result is dance that is more detailed, more grounded, more substantial, more sensual, more human. She has led me to dance right to my nerve endings – exhilarating!”
T. Segawa, Japan
“out of our usual framework, you allowed me to break free of pressures I had felt previously and had repressed, pushing us to focus on creative capacities.”
“A memorable stimulating experience that has left a deep impression.”
Lee MW, Singapore
Always humanistic in themes and approach, in 1996 Maxine founded “Across Oceans: collaborations in contemporary arts” facilitating platforms for in-depth research, presentation of new work and community engagement in Toronto and internationally.
Canada: Maxine founded the dance department of Toronto's Claude Watson High School for Performing Arts and developed foundation curriculum for dance in the TDSB system (1982-86), and led contemporary dance at the Koffler Centre School of Dance (1977-91). In Montreal she was faculty at Concordia Contemporary Dance Department (1993-2000) and at LADMMI and Studio 303. She has been faculty at Drama Departments of York University (1988-1991) and University of Toronto (2009), Artist-in-Residencies include University of Toronto’s University College (2010), Brock University (St. Catherines 2012-14) as well as guest artist at professional schools, studios and companies in Canada and abroad. Earlier includes dance therapist and movement specialist for all abilities: Clarke Institute CAMH(1978-1980), Reena Foundation, Browndale Schools(1981-86), Insight Players (1983-85), Show of Hands Theatre (1986-89), St. Christopher House (1980-1983). She is currently facilitating development of a Toronto professional training platform, "PREP", for DDM professional performers. Her Choreographic Marathon Exchange (over 20 years) has become seminal to many movement artists' growth.
Overseas: include ongoing mentor Studio Hanafi and Sumber Cipta (Indonesia) since 1991; The Duncan Centre for Dance Research, Eniamorfo, Kinitiras, Yelp companies (Greece) since 2001. Visiting-mentor of the Associate Artists’ program of Singapore's Substation (2004-2007) and returning guest artist at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, National Dance Academy of Hanoi (VietNam), Nanyang Academy for Art and SIA-Lasalle College for the Arts (Singapore), Philippines Arts Centre, throughout the network of STSI National Indonesian Arts Institutes, to mention a few.
Her writings about collaboration and creative process have been published by many journals and international conferences.
Dancer. Actor. Vocalist. Soloist. Ensemble player.
“Her ability to metamorphose attracts, fascinates, amuses and moves. Young and old, pretty and ugly, rejoicing, rebelling and despairing, she is deeply penetrating.”
Glos Pomorza, Poland, 1995
“a breath of fresh air”
Tempo magazine, Indonesia, 1991
"The performance was inspiring, unsettling, beautiful, and haunting"
C.Gable, Mindjack: beat of digital culture, San Francisco, 2001
influences and training
Elsie Salomons teaching circa 1960's
Maxine's formative influences were the surround sound, images and stories of her multilingual multi-ethnic community in Montreal from 1954-1973.
Her mentor Elsie Salomons taught modern dance and improvisation highly influenced by European expressionists particularly Mary Wigman and Kurt Joos. Maxine also studied with Seda Zare (Vaganova Ballet) and Eva von Guensey (founder Les Ballets Jazz). Critical was being a dedicated young student of one of Canada's first Tai Chi Chuan masters, Sifu Li.
Expressionist and philosophical influences that began in Montreal with Elsie Salomons and Sifu Li, continued in Toronto in the 70's, at York University particularly with Julianna Lau’s use of Laban analyses as a foundation for dance therapy methodologies, then in New York studying with Alwin Nikolai and associates. Pre-professional training also included Graham, Cunningham, and Limon techniques, as well as inter-disciplinary studies with George Manupelli and in the burgeoning New Music, Peformance Art and World Music scenes.
Maxine was deeply ensconced within the Toronto experimental performance community of the 70's and 80's as a member of The MusicDance Orchestra, 15DanceLab, Pavlychenko Studio, the Theatre Centre and collectives that became current groups such as Array Music, The Glass Orchestra, Evergreen Club Gamelan, Danceworks and Dancemakers. Explorations in inter-arts creation and performance deepened as co-director of Phyzikal Theatre with Philip Shepherd and Jay Fisher, with voice master David Smukler and his interpretation of Linklater vocal techniques and through the demands of creating and teaching professional and mixed abilities dance, theatre and performance in Toronto and Montreal. In the 1990's she became bi-hemispheric with windows opening her aesthetic and philosophical approach to improvisor Ruth Zaporah’s Action Theatre, Larry Reed's Shadowlight Productions, Gamelan Sekar Jaya, with contemporary artists in dance, music and visual arts in Far East Asia and Eastern Europe (including Guismiati Suid, Hanafi, Farida Oetoyo, Alma Yoray) through commissions, collaborations and her own instigations, that continue today.
The fantastical challenge to integrate a lifetime of such varied influences has led to the flexibility of vision that is recognized in her present work and that makes Maxine unique in her field.
Creator, producer and member of collaborative projects throughout her multi-faceted career, Maxine's current work reflects the influence of long relationships with artists at home in Canada and in many international ventures including residencies in the vibrant contemporary arts milieux of the Southeast Asian regions, Japan and Greece.
Her vision recognizes the plurality of artistic expressions. Rather than melding already vibrant forms into hybrid combinations, projects are dialogues between collaborators’ and her own cultural perspectives and aesthetic foundations. Her directions in performance and teaching have become driven by a search for a basic physicality that might be a common link between different forms of artistic expression.
Some of these collaborations include:
ti KRIMA… what a shame : "A coups!" NOW’s 10 best Dances of 2009. 7 iterations since 2006 in Canada and Greece. Created for approximately 100 performers of all ages, shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, the site-specific event brings together performers from across each local arts community to create an event that explores how we as individuals respond to unexpected “disaster”, be it a momentary bruise, a city blackout, a world event. The powerful and poignant work draws the audience momentarily into the “heart of the unexpected”. Also in partnership for fundraising for Daily Bread food bank, street centres and immigrant aid centres.
The Rage Project: exploring expressions of rage in arts and society: international cooperation with Japan 2010-12 Symposium with University College, UofT; community talks with Japan Foundation; Lacan Society; Manga Film Fest; Research with Sephanic Arts Japan and Kinsei R&D including the dance-media production My Heart is a Spoon (2012) (Japan Foundation International Collaboration Award)
Six: Dance Ontario Commission 2018: collective of 6 Toronto dance artists from 6 heritages researching and performing their personal and shared relation to the land that they live on and share.
7 Days of Creation: Shared dramaturgy as artists experiment and create work: Sashar Zarif, Lo Bil, Gayle Young, Maxine Heppner & Elizabeth Chitty 2013, Miguel Frasconi, David Fancy, Gerry Trentham, Maxine Heppner 2012, hosted at Brock University’s Department of Theatre Studies.
Volare: In Globe & Mail’s favorite site specific pieces of 2012, with performer Diana Damelio, produced by Porchview Dances Toronto (Kaeja d’Dance commission).
Papoutsia: shoe show: Audience Favorite, Critics choice.: installation: Heppner's dance videos with M.Hanafi’s 2 and 3D artworks. Jakarta National Art Gallery and Indonesian International Bienale Jogjakarta. 2005
Harbour Symphony, European City of Culture 2006 with composer Rob Power, 50 girl and boy scouts, 20 volunteers and 12 ships, orchestrated a symphony of ships horns in the main harbour for the entire city of Patras to hear.
(Harbour symphonies were first produced at St. John’s Newfoundland Sound Symposiums)
Boat Ballet in Budapest Park - YYZ Wade Festival: included pro and semi-pro performers, a war canoe team, and a cotillion of miniature tall-ships, to create a modern legend about explorers and indigenous peoples on the banks of Lake Ontario, Toronto, 2006
The Memory Project: 5 year science-dance-technology interface: 2002-2007 explorations into the links between neurological research and contemporary creative process and dance, in cooperation with Dr. Tim Kennedy and his laboratory of the Montreal Neurological Institute. Led to a series of performative laboratories exploring science, intuition and technology. Also leading to the development of Maxine's training and creation method "Cycles Practice".
Duets for Dance and Piano : with composer/pianist John Sharpley, chamber concerts performed worldwide 1995-2000
Steel: Singapore Dance Dimensions Project’s 1999 commission explored contrasting qualities of metal and bamboo in an environment where modernization had spring up out of the forest in just 15 years. From this came “Steel Solo” (premier Canada Dance Festival 2000, performed worldwide) the dancer’s vocalization connected her inner life with slow undulating pathways of movement, and dangers of passing through a maze of steel rods crisscrossing the stage space.
Windows : dance, writing and spontaneous painting with Lim Fei Shen, M.Hanafi. The Substation, Singapore, 2000
AtHOME project and festivals 2001-2003: Long experience in the highs and lows of international collaborations led Maxine to produce the 3-year “AtHOME project" bringing Canadians engaged in international collaborations and their foreign counterparts, home to Toronto to have time and space for development work, and to share their understandings and discoveries with the arts and general community. Exhibitions, performances, open studios, discussions and forums, over 200 artists explored ways to bridge the ever-perceived gap between contemporary artistic intent, and the public’s ability to contextualize it. The book/dvd “Writings on collaboration” published by Across Oceans, gathers, under one cover, many of the discoveries from the project.
My past follows like a dragon’s tail: Dora Award nomination best performance 1998.: created for Toronto dance artist Yvonne Ng, symbolically traced an immigrant’s passage from the “old” country to the “new”, performed worldwide.
Studies for Distance (1 to 7): seven performance and painting installations with visual artist M.Hanafi. Jakarta/Depok/Bandung/Toronto/AlbionHills 1994-2001
PHYZIKAL THEATRE 1985-2000: 3 Dora Awards, 2 nominations: Stage creations and professional training projects developing integrated and indivisible performance of dance, mime, theatre and music. Co-directors: Jay Fisher, Philip Shepherd, Maxine Heppner with collaborators often including David Fox (direction), David Smukler (voice) R.W.Stevenson (music), Mary Kerr, Jerrard Smith (design). Shows include: "Klown", "Gilgamesh", "Edvard's Scream", "The Table".
Maxine has written articles for journals and peer-reviewed publications, curriculums and scripts for many performance projects. She was editor of Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists’ Newsletter (1995-99) and wrote a bi-monthly column for the Dance Current magazine putting advocacy issues into context with everyday realities (1999-2000).
In 2008 Across Oceans released the book/dvd collection Writings on Collaboration for Across Oceans publications for which she was a writer and editor.
As 2010 artist-in-residence at University of Toronto, her UC Drama working group researched the need for an online resource on current modes of collaborative processes, revealing artists’ “how do we do it”. Process Online is now an ongoing Across Oceans project
writing and public presentations
Speaking appearances and conference presentations include:
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, Singapore 2019 "Story without words" with composer John Sharpley
CAPACOA, Ottawa 2017 "Finding Common Ground with Uncommon Partners"
Sonic Design, Singapore 2016 "Where Sound and Movement Meet: Embodied musicianship"
National University of Singapore: Performers Present Conference 2016 "Musician as instrument"
University of Toronto comparative literatures: Joy Conference 2014 Keynote presenter: "Joy embodied"
World Dance Alliance, Centre Choréographique d'Angers, France 2014: "Integrated Movement & Voice: Impulse Energy Form" 2014
Nitaidai University, Tokyo, Japan: "My dancing life"
Canadian Society for Dance Studies 2012: "International Collaboration: Why?"
Dance Ontario Conference 2012 “Connecting Dots: Professionals and Community”
“Lighting for the 21st Century” 2012 with Kinsei (Fujimoto Takayuki) UC Drama University of Toronto, Brock University Theatre Department St. Catherines
Psychonalysis and Arts Series 2012 “Speaking about Dance” with Dr. Mavis Himes
Japan Foundation Toronto 2012 “Dancing Manga from Edo to Now”
PAEE Performng Arts Educators Exchange- Stratford Canada 2011 "Collaboration or Cooperation?"
Mills College-Oakland California 2007: "Having a personal arts practice"
Univ. of California-Berkeley 2007: "Canadian Art and Globalism"
York University, Toronto 2007: "Cycles: a process"
UNESCO Dance Congress Athens Greece 2006: "Audience as Creator"
World Dance Alliance Toronto 2006: "Audience’s creative process"
International Dance on Screen Festival, Jakarta, Indonesia 2005: moderator
Society of Canadian Dance Studies Conference 2003: " Daily Practice & Training for Choreographers"
AustralAsian Piano Pedagogy Conference 2003: "The music of dance"
International Network for Cultural Diversity Conference 2001: "Grassroots of arts making"
University of California-Berkeley Canadian Studies Program: 2000 "On the creation of Canadian culture"; 2001 "Canadian Dance- seriously…”
Canadian Dancers Transition Resource Centre (Several conferences and publications)
International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden Univ, Netherlands 2000 "Perceiving performance from a non-analytic perspective"
CINARS international presenters’ forum 2000: "Arts and culture in the global economy: an overview of lobby efforts in favour of pluralism"
World Dance Alliance Conference, Manila 1998 "The sum of the parts is not equal to the whole- against analysis in dance"
Pacific Bridges Conference, University of California-Davis 1995: "This is my paper: breaking boundaries between performance and academia"
Philippine Dance Congress 1994: "Trends and Avant garde in North American contemporary dance"
An active arts advocate, Maxine is an invited consultant for curriculum development and writer of mission and policy statements on status of artists, arts in community and education, and arts and diversity.
She has served on many boards and committees and has been a spokesperson at conferences, policy meetings, and government round tables at home and internationally.
Some positions Maxine has held are:
Canadian Dance Assembly Committee for Pluralism in Dance (current)
Board Member Intergalactic Arts Collective (current)
Co-founder and a past chairperson of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists
National representative for dance to the Board of Governors of the Canadian Conference for the Arts
Co-chairperson of the International Network for Cultural Diversity (INCD, now with UNESCO)
Chairperson of Dance Ontario
Juror for the Dora Awards and various Arts Councils
Across Oceans community arts projects are dedicated to integrating professionals and community players in expression through the arts