Saida Gerrard was a performer, choreographer, student, and teacher of modern dance. Born in 1913, she grew up in Toronto, Canada in a family of Russian Jewish immigrants. Her parents were amateur musicians who exposed her to music and dance at an early age. As a child, she studied music and dance at the Hambourg Conservatory of Music in Toronto and at the Toronto Conservatory of Music, including Dalcroze Eurythmics with Madeleine Boss Lasserre. She would go on to study dance and perform with some of the greatest individuals in modern dance, including Vilzak-Scholler, Margaret Craske, Hanya Holm, Louis Horst, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Martha Graham, Fe Alf, Amy Sternberg, and Benjamin Zemach.
In the late 1930s Gerrard moved to New York where she studied on scholarship with Hanya Holm at the Mary Wigman School. From 1943-1948, she studied modern dance techniques with Martha Graham. In 1945, she joined the Charles Weidman Company. During this time she studied composition with Weidman, Louis Horst, and Doris Humphrey. She was a principal dancer with the Charles Weidman Company on three national and five East Coast tours. Gerrard performed with Hanya Holm and Weidman for a festival at the New York City Center. She was also a principal dancer and soloist at festivals in Vermont, Massachusetts and New York. In addition to her dance performances she served as the Assistant Choreographer and soloist with the New York City Opera in performances of Aida, Traviata, and Love of Three Oranges. From 1945-1953, she frequently returned to Canada to serve as a guest artist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Gerrard taught the Graham Technique in New York from 1945 until 1950. From 1950-1953, she taught at the Humphrey-Weidman School.
In 1953, Gerrard moved to Los Angeles with her American pianist husband Aube Tzerko. While in Los Angeles, Gerrard taught master classes and gave lectures, demonstrations, and workshops at USC, UCLA, the Idyllwild Arts Festival, Los Angeles City College, the University of Judaism, and Pasadena City College, as well as a variety of other colleges and high schools throughout Southern California. She also gave performances and lectures on Hebraic dance and modern dance with Jewish themes at many of the Los Angeles area Jewish temples. From 1953-1960, Gerrard performed with the Saida Gerrard Theater Dance Company for the Long Beach Symphony, the Idyllwild Arts Festival, Bovard Auditorium at USC Schoenberg Hall at UCLA and at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. She choreographed and performed the operas The Consul at USC, Secret of Suzanne at the University of Judaism, and Hansel and Gretel for three consecutive years at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA.
In 1960, Gerrard began teaching at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. She was the Director of the Saida Gerrard School of Contemporary Dance, where she taught technique and choreography for adults, children, actors, and singers, from 1957-1970. From 1960-1964, Gerrard toured the West Coast with her Saida Gerrard Theatre Dance Company and performed twenty-seven concerts under the management of Columbia Artists. She choreographed and performed with a group of thirty dancers. Her company performed New Exodus with symphony and choir at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, and at the Shrine Auditorium and Wilshire-Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. She choreographed Don Giovanni in 1964, for the first season of the Los Angeles Opera, which was then called the Los Angeles Civic Grand Opera, at the new Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. From 1965-1969, Gerrard continued to perform and choreograph her works such as Marais and Miranda at the Morgan Theater in Santa Monica; Pimpinone at Royce Hall, UCLA; and The Bartered Bride at the Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles. In 1973, she staged two Los Angeles performances, The Measure Taken by Bertolt Brecht at the Mark Taper Forum and The Golem at the Gindi Auditorium. The following year she staged sixteen performances as the Director of Dance for Theater Arts Program of Los Angeles. In 1975, Gerrard received a grant from the California Arts Commission, which she used to stage a performance of Ancestral Memories, music by Aaron Copland, with the Theater Dance Company at the Gindi Auditorium in Los Angeles.
Gerrard began working in Aspen, Colorado in 1971. She taught, studied, danced, and staged performances there until 1977. She choreographed contemporary opera and works by Mozart, Stravinsky, and resident composers; attended seminars at the Institute for the Humanities; and conducted summer workshops for Colorado Mountain College. In 1971, Gerrard became the Director and teacher of dance and choreography for the Aspen Music School and Opera. She would continue in this position until 1977.
In 1977, Gerrard again focused her work in the Los Angeles area. She taught dance and choreography at the University of Judaism, where she also served as the Chairwoman of the Modern Dance Department, and at the Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles from 1977-1980. In 1980, she began teaching dance and choreography at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. She was also the Founder, Director and Choreographer for the Saida Gerrard Heritage Dance Company, which performed at the Immaculate Heart College, Temple Judea, University Synagogue, Temple Emmanuel, Stephen Wise Temple, and the Leo Baeck Temple, all of which are located in Los Angeles. The Heritage Dance Company focused on works related to her Jewish heritage.
Saida Gerrard's commissions included choreographed oratorios for the New York Philharmonic Chorus and the Toronto Peoples Chorus; Song of Miriam for the Detroit Folk Choir; New Exodus (Di Naye Hagode) for the Chicago Philharmonic Chorus and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Choir; and a grant from the California Arts Commission to choreograph Ancestral Memories. She performed as a soloist and principal dancer with the Toronto City Orchestra; Chicago Chamber Orchestra; Detroit Little Symphony Orchestra; Detroit Folk Choirs; Carnegie Hall and Town Hall Concerts, New York; and the Charles Weidman Theatre Dance Company. Gerrard served as the Director for the Carousel Dance Theatre for Children and the Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, III, Dance School; the Saida Gerrard Heritage Dance Company; the Aspen Music School and Opera; and the Modern Dance Department at the University of Judaism. She was the founder of the Sutro-Syler Dance Studio; the Carousel Theater; and the Heritage Dance Company. Her performances included Death and Transfiguration (1935); Dance Suite-Songs of Unrest (1935); Sea Shanties (1937), set to music composed by her husband, Aube Tzerko; and Die Naye Hagodah (1949), choreographed to Max Helfman's choral tone poem.
Saida Gerrard retired from dancing in 1989. Her husband Aube Tzerko passed away in September 1995. While in retirement Gerrard continued to promote dance and the arts in education. She remained in Los Angeles until her death in 2005.