Jill Officer, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 1979


Jill Officer joined the University of Waterloo as a part-time lecturer in 1969 and has been a full-time instructor since 1971. She has been an assistant professor in the dance group of the Faculty of Human Kinetics and Leisure Studies since 1976. Professor Officer holds one of the most highly respected credentials available to a teacher of classical ballet technique, namely, the Advanced Teacher’s Certificate of the Royal Academy of Dancing, London. From this basis of achievement in the traditional discipline, she has launched a number of successful innovations which have been instrumental in the development of the honours dance programme. The University of Waterloo is one of only two universities in Canada which offer an undergraduate dance degree. The dance programme here has become known not only in Canada, but throughout North America as one which is innovative, forward-looking, and academically sound. This achievement is the result of seven years’ work by a team of individuals with a variety of backgrounds and expertise in dance. Jill Officer joined that group in her capacity as a member of the professional dance community. Jill Officer’s success in teaching at least partly reflects her success in learning. As the evolving dance programme had a scientific emphasis, Jill proceeded to study anatomy, physics, and biomechanics, auditing regular courses, and reading voraciously on the relationship between human movement and human biology. With what effect? I now quote her chairman in reply: "Within a few years, she was preparing unique undergraduate courses linking traditional dance techniques to their anatomical and mechanical basis, and challenging the dance world to stretch beyond the accepted artistic approach to dance training … Persuading undergraduate dance students to understand ballet technique from a more scientific basis has been no mean undertaking. The fact that her teaching ratings are so high attests to her strength as a teacher.” Jill Officer’s students are full of praise for her teaching: one says, “She has the gift of making information come alive.” Her students and her colleagues also appreciate professor Officer’s contributions as choreographer for the Waterloo Repertory Dance Company, as the driving force behind the Waterloo Renaissance Dancers, as a scholar compiling history of Canadian dance and its companies. One of Jill Officer’s unique contributions to the scholarship of dance is her development, jointly with a colleague from the department of system design, of CHOREO – an interactive computer model for learning and interpreting dance notation which uses computer graphics to simulate the dance being described. Finally, her students wish to pay tribute to Jill Officer for her encouragement, her friendship, and the good advice which she gives them in the lecture courses which they take from her, in the dance studio, and as the undergraduate officer of the department.

[Professor Officer died in 2012]