Long before European explorers came to Canada, aboriginal peoples had a rich, expressive culture that included music, dance, theatre and storytelling. These deep artistic traditions have been part of this land for thousands of years. Nonetheless, development of theatre and other performing arts in Canada has been shaped mostly by the traditions of European settlers rather than by indigenous traditions.
Live music, theatre, musicals, dance, opera, comedy, storytelling, spoken word, circus arts, interdisciplinary and media arts are all part of the performing arts in Canada today. Their appeal is remarkable: three in four Canadians reported attending a live, professional performing arts event in 2011.
In addition to touring artists’ performances in theatres, concert halls, stadiums, parks or taverns, Canadians attend hundreds of arts and cultural festivals each year. Some showcase the breadth of the performing arts, like Calgary’s High Performance Rodeo; some focus on new work in a particular genre, like the Canada Dance Festival; some celebrate Canada’s seasons, like the Frostbite Music Festival in Whitehorse; and some have become major tourist attractions, like Montréal’s International Jazz Festival.
The people who organize these festivals and other performance events are called presenters. Presenters can also work as artistic directors, general managers or program directors in non-profit organizations, municipalities, universities, schools or performing arts centres. They and thousands of other arts organizations are part of a dynamic, nation-wide performing arts ecosystem.
In this ecosystem, presenters are an essential link between touring artists and communities across Canada and help deliver numerous benefits that go far beyond the entertainment factor. Canadians recognize the deeper value of the presentation of performing arts. They identify energy and vitality as a main benefit of live performances in their community. And they agree that performing arts venues themselves contribute to their quality of life, as well as economic development and pride in their community.