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When Pat Richards died on June 24, 1998 a bright light vanished from the world. Patricia Richards was a remarkable choreographer, gifted dancer and loving mother and wife. As friend, teacher and colleague she gave unstintingly of herself and touched deeply many who came to know and love her. She was a tireless advocate for the arts and a passionate exponent of them. The dance community deeply mourned the passing of one of its most cherished souls, a pillar of strength and an inspiration to many.
Pat was a modern dancer and choreographer who trained at the Laban Center in England before emigrating to Canada with her husband, Tony. As a choreographer Pat exerted a significant influence on young dancers, encouraging and inspiring many of them to make their own work and draw on their own creativity. Among the many dancers who studied with her were a Randy Glynn and Ruth Ellen Kroll who danced for several years with the David Parsons Dance Company in New York. Her own work was profoundly influenced by visual art, particularly the work of painter Georgia O'Keefe. The vision and technique of Martha Graham had a great influence on her choreographic style and approach.
Pat was a leading expert in historical dance, specializing in the Baroque Period and was often called on to set dances for film, television, theatre and historical animations such as Fortress Louisbourg.
Pat was on the Board of Directors of the Dance in Canada Association during some of its most difficult years and played a pivotal role there. She was a founding director for the Association of Dance in Universities and Colleges in Canada and a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Dance Organizations. She sat on many Canada Council juries.
In her home province Pat Richards worked tirelessly and passionately for the cause of arts education, sitting as a member of the Education Minister's Advisory Committee on Arts Education and as part of the work group that created Dance 11, the province's first discreet dance curriculum. She was on the founding Board of the Nova Scotia Arts Council and served for many years as both a Board and jury member for the Nova Scotia Talent Trust. In 1996 she was presented with the Dance Nova Scotia Award, Nova Scotia's highest award, recognizing her outstanding contribution to the development of dance in the province.
A key member of Halifax Dance from its earliest days, she played many roles there; as teacher, choreographer, administrator, chair of the Board and chair of Halifax Dance's major fund-raining event, Black Tie With a Twist. Pat was a regular guest choreographer for the Halifax Dance Young Company. In 1996, endowed by Margaret and David Fountain, the Pat Richards Choreographic Award was created. It is adjudicated annually at Dance Nova Scotia and Kinetic Studio sponsored Taking Steps to Fly program to a young dance student who shows most promise as a choreographer. Over the past year she was a key creative contributor to OnAxis Dance.
As a faculty member of the School of Health and Human Performance at Dalhousie University, Pat created and taught courses on Arts and Leisure and on Arts Administration. Her passion for the art form, and her abilities to communicate and inspire were such that she awoke in many students who had never previously attended a live performance or visited a gallery, a lifelong interest and involvement in the arts.
As an adept administrator she was responsible for introducing dance classes into the Physical Education and Theatre curricula and taught a History of Dance Course in the Music Department. She was a much respected academic with a thorough knowledge of dance technique and history and of the spiritual and cultural roles of dance. Her academic contributions to this community and her research on the history and origins of dance in Nova Scotia laid important intellectual foundations for this discipline.
Pat was possessed of a natural gentility and a generosity of spirit which permeated every aspect of her life. She brought much joy into the lives of her friends and especially to her husband Tony and daughter Colleen.
She brought an unstinting commitment to every project she undertook, modestly stressing the accomplishments of others above her own. Through her work and her many contributions, there are structures, organizations and policies in place that will have a lasting effect in making Nova Scotia a richer artistic community. Many artists, students and children in our province live in a richer world for Pat Richards having been here. She leaves behind a legacy of dance works, rich in imagery and meaning.
If every there was an example of how the beauty, passion and transformative power of art can shine within a person and illuminate the world, Pat Richards was such a person. She was among the most respected of Nova Scotia artists - and certainly the most loved.
As a small token of our respect the Chebucto Community Net has dedicated it's dance section in loving memory of her, her many accomplishments and the profound influence she had on the lives of many. We hope her example will be an inspirtaion to all of us for years to come. We miss her, but we know that Pat would want us to get on with life, gardening, and the wonderful magic of telling our stories through the medium of art!
Recently Empty Mirrors Press have published a volume of poetry and prose entitled Sleeping With Geraniums. The book is composed of by poems by actor, director, educator and author June Mitchell, a lifetime friend of Pat Richards which 'converse' with extracts from the letters and journals of Pat Richards to weave a fascinating text which is an eloquent meditation on the world and its endless beauty and fascination. The book is a fitting tribute to this remarkable woman.
Memorial donations in Pat Richards' name can always be made to Halifax Dance in the name of Pat Richards.