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- Garland, Iris Lillian
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Iris Lillian Garland (1935-2002) taught dance from the University’s inception to her retirement as Professor Emeritus from the School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA) in 2000. As a charter member of SFU, Garland established and was involved in the growth of the contemporary dance program, which began as components of the Recreational Program in the Faculty of Education, and ultimately grew to become an academic degree program in the SCA.
Garland was born on June 23, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois. She earned a BS in 1957 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she majored in physical education and graduated in the top three percent of her class. She went on to earn her MSc in 1960 at the University of California at Los Angeles. Garland spent the next five years as an instructor in physical education at the University of North Dakota and then the University of Washington, before joining SFU as an instructor in the Physical Development Centre of the Faculty of Education in September 1965. It was at SFU that Garland also met her husband, James Warren Felter, who served as the first Curator/Director of the Simon Fraser Gallery.
Early on, Garland was an outspoken supporter of the creation of an academic unit offering credit courses and programs in the fine and performing arts at SFU. Meanwhile, she grew the contemporary dance program from its humble beginnings within the Faculty of Education into workshops and intensives offered through Kinesiology and a fledgling Centre for Communications and the Arts, bolstered by guest performers and artists in residence as instructors. With the establishment of the Centre for the Arts in 1975, dance was ultimately elevated from non-credit workshops to credit courses alongside those in film, music, theatre, visual arts, and art history. Garland’s continued efforts helped to establish an academic dance minor program in 1976, and a dance major program by 1980. After the Centre became the School for the Contemporary Arts in 1989, dance became an academic BFA degree program and part of an interdisciplinary MFA offered by the SCA.
Throughout her career, Garland continued her dance education, pursuing studies in modern, dance notation, and a voice intensive in theatre. She also studied ballet under Mary Ann Wells in Seattle and Mara McBirney in Vancouver. In 1983, at the University of Washington, she became a Certified Movement Analyst, a program incorporating Laban Movement Analysis, which Garland went on to feature in her teaching. A significant contribution to her teaching was the creation of the unique telelearning course, “Dancing in Cyberspace: Creating with the Virtual Body,” which she co-developed in the 1990s with Lisa Marie Naugle, a PhD student from New York University. The course was offered through SFU's Centre for Distance Education and utilized Life Forms, a software program developed by Dr. Thomas W. Calvert in the SFU Computing Science Department. Life Forms allowed for the study and choreography of animated human figures in dance and movement. The course was popular with distant education SFU students, as well as national and international learners. In 1998, Garland was invited to present “New Technologies for Choreographers: Life Forms Workshop and Seminar” to professional choreographers in Sydney, Australia.
Garland was popular with her superiors, colleagues, and students alike, and commended often for her hard work and dedication not only to the University, but also to the dance community as a whole both locally and nationally. In 1991, she was awarded SFU Teacher of the Year. In addition to her teaching, Garland served on multiple departmental and university committees throughout her SFU career. Within the dance community, Garland participated as an independent choreographer and performer at various dance festivals and concerts, first in the 1970s through the Burnaby Mountain Dance Company, which was originally formed with SFU dancers in 1973. She later showcased her work through the Off-Centre Dance Company, which began in 1985 under the direction of various SFU dance faculty and later absorbed into the SFU dance program to provide advanced students an opportunity to be part of an ensemble and perform publicly. From the late 1980s into the 1990s, Garland featured her work at Vancouver’s Dancing on the Edge Festival of Contemporary Dance, an event which continues today. At the national level, Garland was heavily involved with the Dance in Canada Association as a member of the board in the 1970s and as a conference organizer into the 1980s. Her dedication to the Association earned her an Outstanding Service Award in 1985.
In addition to her main research interests in early modern dance history, dance and technology, and dance analysis and choreography, Garland developed an interest in Spanish dancer Tórtola Valencia (1882-1955). She began researching the life of this early modern dancer in earnest, travelling to Spain to conduct further study, and presenting several conference papers on the topic in the 1990s. Garland had begun writing a biography of Tórtola Valencia when she was diagnosed with cancer in early 2002. She passed away in North Vancouver, BC, on October 29, 2002.