A Garden Party in Barb's Garden

Fundraiser for Ottawa Dance Directive featured series of outdoor contemporary dance performances
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Dancers performed a series of short contemporary pieces on the front lawn of an Ottawa home at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden, held Sunday, May 29, 2022, in support of Ottawa Dance Directive. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Thirty years ago, Yvonne Coutts was one of the young professional dancers who performed at the arts benefits that Barbara and Glenn McInnes used to host in the idyllic backyard of their Island Park Drive-area home.

On Sunday afternoon, Coutts returned to that same flower-filled garden, but this time as the artistic director of Ottawa Dance Directive (ODD), a small professional contemporary dance centre that's currently celebrating its 11th season.

“It’s really wonderful to be back and to have you all here to create this support and momentum,” Coutts told attendees while offering her heartfelt thank you to Glenn McInnes for holding the fundraiser for ODD. She was joined by Lana Morton, associate director and production manager, as well as their fellow co-founder, Natasha Bakht, who, along with being a law professor at the University of Ottawa, is an accomplished dancer.

The dancers performed a series of short pieces at different locations on the property, including the front lawn, back alley and main garden area. There were also flower arrangements created specifically for the party by emerging artist Jocelyn Keays from SPAO: Photographic Arts Centre that guests could bid on. The photo-based artist donated one of her works to the silent auction, as well.

The garden party was all McInnes’ doing.

Last July, Barbara, a well-known professional fundraiser and community leader passed away from colon cancer at age 77. Her community involvement included the TELUS Ottawa Community Board, Shorefast Foundation, the Equality Fund and PAL Ottawa. Professionally, she led and grew the Ottawa Community Foundation for many years, until her retirement in 2014. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Ottawa Chapter a month before she passed.

A Garden Party in Barb's Garden was a way for everyone to feel her positive and smiling presence through the beauty and joy of movement. Dance can also provide a space for collective mourning, said McInnes, who was touched after meeting Belgian dance dramaturg Guy Cools and reading his 2021 book Performing Mourning: Laments in Contemporary Art. It addresses how the performing arts have helped us to deal with grief during the pandemic, when public health restrictions prevented people from grieving together.

Barb and Glenn McInnes were always very passionate about the dance community in Ottawa, and would throw garden parties in support of Peter Boneham’s Le Groupe Dance Lab. Coutts danced with the cutting-edge organization for a decade and was also associate director for several seasons. Coming back to the McInnes backyard was a full-circle moment, she said.

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Glenn McInnes, joined by his daughter Emily, founder and CEO of Eye Buy Art​​​​​, at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden held Sunday, May 29, 2022, for Ottawa Dance Directive. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Yvonne Coutts, executive director of Ottawa Dance Directive, with Natasha Bakht, who helped to found ODD, at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden held Sunday, May 29, 2022, in support of the professional contemporary dance centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Professional dancers with the Ottawa Dance Directive could be seen performing from the alleyway at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden, held Sunday, May 29, 2022. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Ottawa Dance Directive artistic director Yvonne Coutts and Lana Morton, associate director and production manager, at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden held Sunday, May 29, 2022, in support of the professional contemporary dance centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Diane Hodgins, chief financial officer for Shorefast, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building economic and cultural resiliency on Newfoundland's Fogo Island, with Jeffrey Miller, partner at GGFL Chartered Professional Accountants, at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden held for Ottawa Dance Directive on Sunday, May 29, 2022. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Dancers with the Ottawa Dance Directive performed some short contemporary pieces at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden, held Sunday, May 29, 2022. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Melinda Manson and Mike Manson with Natasha Bakht at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden held Sunday, May 29, 2022, for the Ottawa Dance Directive. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Kathy Godding with Claudia Chowaniec and arts management consultant Victoria Steele at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden, held Sunday, May 29, 2022, for the Ottawa Dance Directive. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Dancers with Ottawa Dance Directive perform a short contemporary dance piece on the front lawn at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden held Sunday, May 29, 2022. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Emerging photo-based artist Jocelyn Keays created bouquets for A Garden Party in Barb's Garden held Sunday, May 29, 2022 in support of Ottawa Dance Directive. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Dancers with the Ottawa Dance Directive performed a series of short contemporary dance pieces at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden, held Sunday, May 29, 2022. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Danny Chamoun, Khatera Akbari, Ottawa Dance Directive board member Kateri Khoury and Phil Khoury at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden, held Sunday, May 29, 2022, for the Ottawa Dance Directive. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Sarah Hopkin, Myrielle Bernier-Acuna, Katherine Ng and Jacqueline Ethier performed for guests at A Garden Party in Barb's Garden, held Sunday, May 29, 2022. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Guests gathered for A Garden Party in Barb's Garden on Sunday, May 29, 2022 in support of Ottawa Dance Directive. Photo by Caroline Phillips

McInnes was joined by his daughter, Eye Buy Art founder and owner Emily McInnes, while other daughter, fundraising consultant Leah McInnes-Eustace, had come down with COVID.

There were sparkling virgin mojitos, hors d’oeuvres and charcuterie prepared and served with volunteer help from Kathy Godding and some of the younger dancers with ODD.  As for the garden, it was exactly the way Barb had kept it, blooming with irises, alliums and lush with leafy ferns.

Ottawa Dance Directive features a resident company. It also runs a professional presentation series showcasing the works of local, national and international dance artists. As well, it does professional development, which is what it focused on during the worst of the COVID-19 restrictions.

ODD has been very busy these days with three back-to-back, sold-out shows this spring, said Coutts.

It’s preparing to present a celebration of Peggy Baker Dance Projects this Thursday through Saturday at ODD Box Studio Theatre at Arts Court.

caroline@obj.ca