As co-founder and artistic co-director of Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, Bill Coleman’s previous creative endeavors include Bill Coleman & His North American Experience, co- founded with the composer John Oswald, and Heartland Events, co-founded with Michael Caplan. Coleman’s work is performed in North America, Europe and Asia.
Born in Berwick, Nova Scotia in 1961, Bill Coleman studied with the Doreen Bird dance theater school in London and began his professional career as a performer in 1979 with the Dublin City Ballet under Sir Anton Dolin. He danced in key roles for a number of well- known dance companies including Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane & Co., Tere O’Connor Dance, Wiesbaden Ballet, Toronto Dance Theatre, the Martha Graham Dance Company, William Douglas Dance, Laurence Lemieux, Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault and Tedi Tafel. As a choreographer, Bill Coleman has compiled over fifty original works to his credit both for his own company and for Toronto Dance Theatre, Dancemakers, the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre and Balletworks in New York.
There is an artistic purity to Coleman’s works that has earned him recognition as an uncompromising artist. Some of his more memorable works include Zorro, which was nominated for the Dora Mavor Moore Award, Shane, Baryshnikov: The Other Story, for which he received the Jerome Foundation’s First Light Award in New York in 1988, The Iowa Sheep Buggery Trials, Glory Days and Monsters Midway, which the Toronto Star likened to a Fellini-choreographed psychedelic dream. Coleman’s piece, Heartland, inspired Romanian born director Laura Taler to produce her award-winning documentary based on the life and work of Coleman, aired on the BRAVO channel.
In 2001, Coleman premiered Convoy PQ-17, the choreographer’s moving personal tribute to his father, a merchant marine stationed in Russia during WWII. Appropriately, the work was debuted in St. Petersburg. Directly inspired by that performance, the Russian filmmaker Alexander Sorokine produced Letter to a friend. Near Room, another Coleman work is the inspiration behind a famous scene in one of Mark Adam’s films.
Four years later, in 2008, Coleman choreographed Hymn to the Universe, a piece for seven dancers and performed with the Sun Ra Arkestra playing live on stage. Bill Coleman has also choreographed the opera Zurich 1916, which was presented at the Banff Center for the Arts, the Broadway musical, Sunday in the Park with Georg, presented at the Shaw Festival.
While in residence among First Nation communities, Coleman initiated four projects and continues to collaborate regularly with different groups and associations to produce community-inspired, unique dance theatre performance events. In this context, he created Welcome Back, Buffalo Bill in which the Native American pow-wow dancer and Vietnam vet Boye Ladd performed. He has created events with the Ojibway of Heron Bay, the International Trade Club of Toronto and the Pedahbun Lodge Residential Addiction Treatment Centre. Off the Beaten Track is a bold series of large-scale works where Coleman proves himself a pioneer in the world of dance. His site-specific performances, often in unusual settings use dance as a means to unite the community within its natural environment. The result is a happening that becomes a celebration of life and community and constitutes, as such, some of the choreographer’s most unusual and exceptional work. A line-up of internationally renowned artists have collaborated with Coleman on his works, and have included choreographers and performers such as Margie Gillis, Robin Poitras, David Earle, Peter Chin, Carol Prieur and Heather Ogden, composers John Oswald and Gordon Monahan, visual artist Edward Poitras, film director Anne Troake, designer Liz Vandal, and actress Jackie Burroughs.
In 2002, the Canadian Council for the Arts awarded Bill Coleman the prestigious Jacqueline Lemieux award, honoring his work in revitalizing the art of choreography.