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Helen Goodwin

Alternate Names:
Vital Dates:
Born: 14 July 1927
Died: 18 December 1985


Helen Goodwin was an English-born Canadian artist, teacher, and organizer who specialized in dance and choreography. She worked in collaboration with many other multimedia artists in festivals, shows, and artist-run centres in Vancouver in the 1970s and 1980s, and formed a dance troupe best known as TheCo.

Goodwin was born in England on July 14, 1927. In the 1950s, she moved to Canada with her husband Michael P. Goodwin, who was a real estate agent and later a cab driver. Her archival records indicate she may have lived in a house at 5857 Toronto Road, Vancouver, an address on the University of British Columbia Endowment Lands. She eventually sold her house and moved to an apartment at 1608 Maple Street, Vancouver. For a couple years starting in 1970, Goodwin moved to New York City before moving back to Vancouver, where she lived until her death.

Goodwin's peers attest that she was Laban-trained before leaving England. Around 1955, she became a faculty member at the University of British Columbia Physical Education department, and taught stage movement with the Theatre Department. She was a firm lobbyist for contemporary and creative dance classes at UBC. In the 1960s, she gave birth to her son Simon. Goodwin was involved in the Festival of Contemporary Arts at UBC, and on February 3-5, 1964, The Medium is the Message, an interdisciplinary work by Goodwin, artists Takao Tanabe and Iain Baxter, and architect Arthur Erickson, was performed. Goodwin also performed a reading.

In 1966, Goodwin along with Al Neil and Sam Perry founded the Sound Gallery on 4th Avenue in Kitsilano, which operated for a few months before moving to 1236 Seymour Street, a building found by Goodwin's husband in his real estate business, and changed names to Motion Studio. Perry and Goodwin collaborated on multimedia dance and art pieces under the name WECO. Perry committed suicide at the end of 1966 and Goodwin changed the name of her dance troupe to TheCo, also known as The Co., THECO, and VECO. In 1967 Motion Studios moved to 575 Beatty Street and incorporated as Intermedia, a non-profit society under the BC Societies Act, which was the first artist-run centre in Canada to receive funding from the Canada Council for the Arts. Goodwin was a founder and member of the Board of Directors. In the same year, Goodwin travelled to Big Sur, California, with Anne Ngan, an artist who created many of TheCo's costumes.

Goodwin was known for collaborating with other artists to create "environments" with which her dance troupe would interact. In 1968, the Vancouver Art Gallery hosted Intermedia Nights. Goodwin's dance troupe performed Plus Minus 216 on May 21. On April 12, 1969, Goodwin's dance troupe was exhibited again at the Vancouver Art Gallery as a part of Electrical Connection. The Intermedia Spring Show - Dome Show was exhibited between May 19-31, 1970 and included a performance entitled Dance Night / Dance Loops by TheCo.

In 1970, Goodwin moved briefly to New York City to chair the Dance Department at the New York University Tisch School of Arts, but returned to Vancouver in 1971 to produce Environmental Opera, a performance by TheCo and other artists at Spanish Banks on June 21. By 1972, Intermedia dissolved and was absorbed into Intermedia Press, a publisher run by Ed Varney and Harry Rappaport. In 1974, Goodwin founded Box 80 Theatre Society with other artists to sponsor performances in Vancouver.

Goodwin's son Simon passed away due to an accident on a camping trip in Washington State at the age of 12, and Goodwin separated from her husband after their son's death, though they later lived together on Maple Street when Michael was diagnosed with cancer. After Simon's death, Goodwin's friends say she was struggling with depression.

On December 18, 1985, Goodwin walked into the ocean near Spanish Banks and drowned. A wake was held the following week nearby. On December 21, 1987 at 3:45pm, a performance of Winter Solstice was performed in memory of Goodwin at the UBC Museum of Anthropology.

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