Founded in 1996 by celebrated dance artist Claudia Moore, Moonhorse Dance Theatre (MDT) specifically celebrates the work of senior dance artists, revering their long-sighted artistry and bodies of knowledge. Unique in Canada, Moonhorse Dance Theatre breaks assumptions about dance career length and outdated notions about dance audiences and senior community participants. Senior dance artists’ voices offer richness, diversity and experience to dance in Canada. MDT has an important role to play in continuing to develop meaningful relationships and programming that serve to connect senior dance artists and the public.
Moonhorse’s commitment to sharing the gifts of senior artists is most evident in its core program, Older & Reckless (O&R), which is built on the essential pillars of equity, diversity and fairness. Presented annually in Toronto over several days, O&R features the choreography and performance of older artists of diverse cultural backgrounds. The programming also includes a Community Performance Project (a collaboration between senior dance professionals and community members) as well as other public events like Circle Dance Talk and workshops led by O&R artists. O&R has presented collaborations with Canadian and international artists in numerous cities across Canada.
The programming has grown to include a mentorship program supporting meaningful intergenerational exchange between artists. In 2019, MDT founded Engaging Seniors in Dance, a highly successful online dance participation program led by senior dance artists, which continues to foster communities of older movers.
Founded in the visionary, collaborative, generous and open-hearted passion of Claudia Moore, Moonhorse Dance Theatre is now an essential and unique part of Toronto and Canada’s professional dance community. As Canada’s population ages, MDT’s artistic mission is vital to nourishing seniors’ ongoing creative contributions to our communities.
While MDT was originally founded to support Moore’s own work as a dancer and choreographer, she quickly realized the importance of supporting a larger community of senior artists. In 2000, she created Older & Reckless (O & R), which promotes the work of dance artists over the age of 45. Since its inception in 2000, O&R has deeply resonated with audiences, who have embraced Older & Reckless with fervour.
Today, O&R programming is comprised of three main activities:
Older & Reckless – MDT’s main programming activity - presented annually at Harbourfront Centre Theatre, features choreography and performance by older artists of diverse cultural and artistic backgrounds, as well as a Community Performance Project. The O&R programming also includes a Circle Dance Talk and workshops led by O&R artists for the public. Older & Reckless has evolved to being a significant national event, attracting artists from Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, St. John’s, as well as Toronto and the GTA. O&R has been presented in Halifax, St. Catharines, and Kelowna. Canadian artists featured in O & R include such luminaries as Margie Gillis, Evelyn Hart, Christine Friday, David Earle, J P Longboat, Paul-André Fortier, BaKari I. Lindsay and Robert Desrosiers. International artists have included Douglas Dunn (NYC), Charles Koroneho (New Zealand) and Kitt Johnson (Denmark). Community Performance Projects have engaged movers in creative collaboration with renowned choreographers including Peter Chin, Marie-Josée Chartier, Roger Sinha, Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo, and Moore herself. A week of workshops leading up to each O&R season offers participants rare opportunities to connect closely with featured artists. The Circle Dance Talk offers a focussed discussion of topics of vital interest, such as dance and seniors’ mental and physical health, and Indigenous world views in dance.
Older & Reckless Mentorship Program – pairs mature and emergent artists in a biennial program of intergenerational knowledge exchange. Engaging diversity in the dance community, participating artists are carefully paired to promote and stimulate meaningful exchange across generations and approaches to artistic practice.
Engaging Seniors in Dance – is an ongoing activity connecting senior dance artist instructors and the senior population in classes and discussions. Launched in fall 2019, the program was immediately successful, studio sessions drawing 30+ senior movers. In response to the pandemic lockdown, Moonhorse quickly pivoted to offering online sessions three days a week. Continued programming includes movement instruction, choreography and discussions for participants to share their own practices and passions. The response to these ongoing sessions has been overwhelmingly positive. Engaging Seniors classes were clearly a lifeline for many through the isolation of the pandemic, offering social connection and wellbeing through motion. The faculty for Engaging Seniors are themselves older dance artists, all with long engagement in teaching and distinctive approaches to moving with seniors.