REGINA — Regina-based multidisciplinary and dance artist Robin Poitras said the day she received the call letting her know she had been selected as a new appointment to the Order of Canada, she was surprised.
“I was shocked, because it came out of the blue,” said Poitras.
Poitras is the co-founder, managing and artistic director of New Dance Horizons, a non-profit arts organization in Regina, and she was recently announced as one of five Saskatchewan individuals included on the 2021 list of appointees, released by Governor-General Mary Simon on Dec. 29.
The Order of Canada is one of the highest honours bestowed on Canadian citizens in recognition of their accomplishments. Poitras has been named a Member within the Order, an honorific title given in recognition of “distinguished service in or to a particular community, group or field of activity.”
According to the released statement from the Governor-General, Poitras was selected for her extensive contributions to the world of contemporary dance in Canada, in recognition of her decades-long career as an artist, teacher, choreographer and performer.
“It’s very humbling. I’m grateful and honoured,” said Poitras, of the honour. “It's an extraordinary group of people, to stand beside.”
Poitras has been involved in the dance and performance sector of the arts since the '80s and has travelled and performed across the world, exploring both performance as an art form and its intersection with other artistic disciplines. Her works have been featured across Canada as well as internationally, including in Spain, Mexico, Germany, France, Mongolia and more.
Coming from an artistic family and childhood, Poitras said she has always had an interest in the arts — one that helped her develop a unique interdisciplinary approach to performance.
In looking back over the years of her career, Poitras said there are a lot of moments that stand out to her as highlights — including the collaborations and partnerships that have sustained New Dance Horizons and the many programs the group has launched, like the Secret Gardens Tour fundraising event.
“It's a community event that features private gardens and also surprise performances,” said Poitras. “It's a project that I find quite profound. It shares the ephemeral nature of dance and the garden and is something that has really fed my spirit and inspired me.”
The Order of Canada will be the newest honour linked to Poitras’ career, as she was also named a recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, the Mayor’s Award for Business and the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 and the Women of Distinction Award for the arts in 2004.
Although there is no date set for a formal ceremony for Order recipients in the future, due to the pandemic, Poitras said just receiving the honour pins was an exciting moment in itself.
Poitras said she was delighted not only for the national recognition that comes with an Order of Canada appointment, but also to see a spotlight on the art of contemporary dance.
“It feels like an acknowledgement of the art form itself, of contemporary dance. I’m part of a pan-Canadian group of presenters and artists, and of course the Regina arts community,” said Poitras. “We don’t always get the same kind of acknowledgement in the arts [as other industries], so it's wonderful.”
She extended gratitude to all the individuals she’s worked with over the years — a long list that includes New Dance Horizons co-artistic director Edward Poitras, as well as staff, volunteers, the board of directors and the many artists and collaborative partner organizations.
Poitras also expressed recognition that all that New Dance Horizons does is supported by Sask Arts, the City of Regina, the Government of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts.
“I feel very blessed to have had this ongoing support in the arts and in this incredible community,” said Poitras. “I never imagined I would be doing this or be here for this long, so I feel really privileged and grateful for all that has come through New Dance Horizons and to have the opportunity to share this work with dance enthusiasts and newcomers to the art form.”
Poitras said she hopes that the flurry of excitement over the announcement will intrigue more people to turn their eyes towards the vibrant arts community here in Saskatchewan.
“I think that dance connects people with a deeper understanding of self,” said Poitras.
In speaking of the pandemic and its impacts on performance spaces, Poitras said that "the role of movement, creativity and value of imagination and art has been amplified as we all seek new ways of being with ourselves and others in presence and absence."
New Dance Horizons is currently celebrating it's 36th season in the Queen City, with plenty of upcoming projects and a virtual series available for interaction on their website. Poitras is also excited to have a work honouring her parents, renowned architect Clifford Wiens and ceramist Patricia Wiens, currently on display at the Mackenzie Art Gallery, as part of an exhibition curated by Timothy Long titled “Beyond the Stone Angel.”