Evolution Dance Theatre also known as EDT is a federally registered not-for-profit company that develops, promotes and performs original Middle Eastern-inspired multimedia and multidisciplinary spectacles to both entertain and provoke dialogue on social, spiritual and humanistic themes.
The company is committed to producing unique, one-of-a-kind performances which are visceral, visually captivating and have broad universal appeal. Evolution Dance Theatre has a mandate to entertain, educate and inspire. In addition the company emphasizes Women’s empowerment and showcases multiculturalism while maintaining heritage.
EDT utilizes Middle Eastern dance forms in combination with a variety of other dance genres to tell stories that cross boundaries of gender and generations to bridge the global gap of cultural interchange and to reinforce the universality of the human condition. EDT showcases original stories that reveal the Middle Eastern traditions and display the rich and colourful culture that is so mysterious to many of the Western world.
Unlike other belly dance-inspired productions, Evolution Dance Theatre uses dance as a canvas to create a spectacle that incorporates music, performance, video and other genres to create a one-of-a-kind storytelling experience while celebrating diversity.
Evolution Dance Theatre’s core values of unity, universality and integrity are reflected strongly in all of its productions as well as in the spirit of the company.
Board of Directors
Armineh Keshishian: President and Artistic Director
The founder of Evolution Dance Theatre, Armineh Keshishian brings the discipline and skills she practices daily in her professional life as a Certified Financial Planner to her role as the visionary behind these productions.
For Armineh Keshishian, dance is an outlet that has allowed her to celebrate her life journey and foster greater understanding of complex cultural issues. Finding her way to the stage, Armineh’s passion for dance and performance began as a young child. Armineh has had an extensive performing and choreographic career, spanning more than twenty years. Armineh has incorporated her creative skills with her financial knowledge and has committed herself to dance theatre. “I like to express my body not in an isolated form as an individual expression but as a cultural awareness, a story or a history where I am connected to the world” she says.
Keshishian has created and produced a number of multidisciplinary and multimedia productions and she adds “By creating Evolution … of the Human Kind, my objective was to show the differences of power in its variations such as implied power vs. true power where the latter comes from within”. “And with behind the Veil “another creation, she adds “I approach the story as a current phenomenon with a reflection on the past”.
“My work is influenced by the context of my upbringing; I was born Christian and raised in a Muslim country and this has given me an insight into these two different worlds, of what is allowed and what is not. The stories are influenced by the fact that my mother was an independent woman who encouraged me to have higher education and be financially independent. Because I did not want to follow the traditional rules and regulations as a socially obliging Middle Eastern girl I went on to find my path as an artist and as a woman who can express herself” says Keshishian. She adds; “I strive to create cultural fusion through art. I like to tell current Middle Eastern stories that have universal appeal. My aim is to bring people and cultures together by focusing on our commonalities vs. our differences.”
Meredith Wrede: Vice President and Associate Director
Meredith Wrede is a Toronto-based dancer and choreographer who uses the art form to explore the human spirit. Her career has been marked by constantly evolving means of expressions. From the early stages of her career, her search for new creative forms was apparent. After studying classical dance at York University and modern dance at the Toronto Dance Theatre, she worked as a choreographer and instructor in Canada, Germany and South Africa. She quickly gravitated away from more conventional dance structures by teaming with independent artists in Toronto as well as becoming an Artistic Director for the Collective Unconscious Collective, which aimed to explore esoteric themes through experimental live performances while breaking from traditional models.
Meredith would soon find freedom in branching out into solo projects. Hoping to push interdisciplinary collaboration to new extents, she worked along with photographers, musicians, artists, actors and costume designers and took to the streets where she explored the possibilities of spontaneous creation. Her filmmaking has been in keeping with her curious spirit pushing to find alternative ways of capturing movement on film and editing her stories together in innovative ways, gladly abandoning pre-conceived notions to leave room for something new to appear. She now returns to the more conventional stage production to understand the workings behind the scene and to be part of the magic made when seamlessness plays a part of the larger scale production.
Nicholas Stirling: Administrator and Musical Director
Nicholas Stirling brings performing, composing and studio recording experience through his LuxuriaMusic studio.
He has composed and performed for several decades, with formal studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music (piano / clarinet), Toronto Tabla Ensemble (tabla) and African drumming (djembe) with Saiko Saho.
A long-standing member of the Screen Composers Guild of Canada (SCGC), he provides original music scores for award-winning film and television productions for networks and broadcasters including CBC Newsworld, TVO, NFB, TLC and Discovery USA.
In the community, Nicholas continues to facilitate hand drumming sessions for patients in the Schizophrenia and Medical Withdrawal units at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), with over 160 sessions since 2009.
Recent music scoring includes music theme packages for Cinefix Productions, and Women in Film and Television (WIFT) Crystal Gala Awards 2011-2014.
On stage, Nicholas is active as percussionist with the Persian-Canadian quintet INSOU UNSOU.
His 2013-15 performances include Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, Beit Zatoun House, Hart House Toronto, Parya Trillium Foundation, Iranian Women’s Organization of Ontario and Iranian Heritage Day at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Assik Dror: Treasurer
Bio coming soon!
Shaaron Crawford: Barrister
Barrister, LLB, LLM (London)
Member of the Bar, England and Wales and the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn
Additionally licensed as Attorney-At-Law, CLE, Bar of Caribbean
Shaaron works as a commercial mediator and arbitrator in Toronto. Shaaron has Certificates in ADR and ADR Advance from Faculty of Law, University of Windsor, and a Certificate in Practical Ethics for Working Mediators from the ADR Institute of Ontario.
Shaaron has volunteered in community-based programs and fundraising initiatives in the education sector. Organizations include Street Haven Womens Shelter, Out Of the Cold, Ve’ahavta, Havergal College, St. Stephen’s Conflict Resolution Services, and Coalition for AIDS Prevention.
Shaaron is excited to be involved in Evolution Dance Theatre and inspired to be working with talented team plus EDT is a female-led organization dedicated to showing and showcasing Toronto’s diversity in innovative and educational ways. Shaaron believes that Evolution Dance Theatre can be an important vehicle in demonstrating that inclusivity isn’t just about people feeling welcomed, but also a means to create and foster traditional and new bonds between our multi cultures.
Denise Jayawardene : Advisory
Denise Jayawardene has extensive stakeholder relations, public consultation, communications and project management experience in the public transit, energy and infrastructure sectors.
Denise provides strategic advice and recommendations to senior executives of high profile public service corporations. She identifies opportunities for community engagement, emerging challenges, and develops policy and best practices for community relations and economic development.
Denise graduated from the University of Waterloo with a degree in Environmental Studies and also holds a Business Management Certificate from Ryerson University. She attended Richard Ivy School of Business Entrepreneur training and earned a Spanish language certificate when she lived in Spain.
Denise has a passion for supporting the arts in Toronto. She was a writer for the Scarborough Arts Council where she featured local artists and events to promote their awareness and foster the growth of the Toronto arts community.