"Fate at every turn took over," said Grant Strate, CM FRSC in an interview upon receiving the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996, referring to the brilliant career which took him from charter member of the National Ballet to become one of Canada's leading dance educators, choreographers and administrators - a self-styled "squeaky wheel" furthering the cause of dance in Canada.
Strate passed away peacefully at his home February 9 following a brief battle with cancer. He was 87.
Born in Cardston, Alberta and trained as a lawyer, Strate danced for fun but gave an instant "yes" when Celia Franca asked him in 1951 to join her fledgling ballet company. A soloist with the company and its first resident choreographer, he stayed twenty years, leaving to become the first chairman of the Department of Dance at York University. Ten years later he went west, to head the School for Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University.
Teaching was for Strate "the highest order of business". He likened it to gardening: "When things grow, it's magic!" Widely beloved in the dance community, he was known for his rigorous but fair judgments as an adjudicator for the Canada Council and other agencies.
Contact with young people in Canada and abroad on teaching assignments in China and elsewhere fed his youthful spirit, essential to his own continual need to create.
In 1994 Strate was made a Member of the Order of Canada in recognition for being "a creative and tactful presence on arts and dance committees nation-wide". In 1996, he received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts. In 1999 he was awarded the Canada Council for the Arts Jacqueline Lemieux Prize in 2006, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. A Centennial Medal, the Queen's Jubilee Award and the 1979 Dance Ontario Award also marked his success.
Funeral arrangement will be announced shortly.