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.
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.