Photo: Scotiabank Dance Centre Open House: Wen Wei Dance © Chris Randle
Step into Scotiabank Dance Centre and you’ll feel the energy pulsating from every corner. The sound of tap shoes against hardwood, the forceful breath of contemporary dance, the rhythmic beat of Indian classical dance—it’s a hub for dance in Vancouver, and it’s all thanks to a few visionaries who refused to let the dance community go unnoticed.
Veteran dance curator and producer Mirna Zagar remembers the community as she found it when she arrived from Croatia 30 years ago: fragmented, often hidden away in poor and even dangerous spaces with unsuitable floors and lighting. But today, Scotiabank Dance Centre stands as a testament to the transformation that has taken place, and is renowned as one of Canada’s flagship dance facilities.
Zagar has been at the helm of The Dance Centre, the non-profit organization which spearheaded the creation of the building and manages its operations, since 1998.
It all began in the 1970s, when a group of B.C. visionaries recognized that dance was critically underserved in the province. They set their sights on creating a home for dance, and Scotiabank came on board as a supporter, providing the ground lease for a former bank branch in downtown Vancouver. The Dance Centre and its sister society, the Dance Foundation, raised $12.5 million, and the facility opened in 2001 with its inaugural dedication by Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson.
Designed by Canadian architectural icon Arthur Erickson, it was unique in North America at the time, as a purpose-built facility designed to provide a home for a diverse community—a model that has since been emulated elsewhere. Today, every genre of dance takes place within the studios, from ballet and contemporary to ballroom, tap, classical Indian, Highland, flamenco, belly dance, hip hop, and beyond. Performances, workshops, classes, auditions, meetings, and special events run all year round—everything from accessible and family-oriented events to cutting-edge and world-acclaimed performances.
But Scotiabank Dance Centre is more than just a building. It’s a catalyst for change in the community, a place where people of all ages, abilities, professions, and backgrounds can come together through dance. It provides high-quality studio space, but it’s also a nurturing environment that supports the creative potential of dance artists. It strongly focuses on supporting professional dance artists, who are frequently under-resourced and face high rents in one of Canada’s most expensive cities.
The impact of Scotiabank Dance Centre extends far beyond Vancouver. It’s nationally recognized and an established participant in a cultural network connecting B.C. to organizations worldwide, facilitating national and international cultural exchanges. And it’s not just professionals who benefit—programming includes workshops for seniors, elementary and secondary school students, and immigrant and refugee youth.
“It has been immensely rewarding to see how Scotiabank Dance Centre, which began as a dream so many years ago, has contributed to the arts scene in our city and the growth of B.C.’s dance community,” said Zagar. “Dance is transformational. It embodies confidence, stimulates innovation, and builds a sense of belonging and contribution.
“The prevailing diversity of dance forms that are being supported and nurtured at Scotiabank Dance Centre is a reflection of our society today. It is truly a place where people can connect through the art of dance.”
To learn more about Scotiabank Dance Centre, visit thedancecentre.ca
Established in 1986 as a resource centre for dance professionals and the public in British Columbia, The Dance Centre is a multifaceted organization offering a range of activities unparalleled in Canadian dance.