Celebrating Accolade with dance

York University and its Faculty of Fine Arts celebrate the official opening of The Accolade Project, York’s new $107.5 million state-of-the-art teaching, exhibition and performance complex, with a week-long Fine Arts Festival running March 20-26.

From March 23-25, the York Dance Ensemble (YDE), under the artistic direction of alumna and Dance Professor Susan Cash, will headline the inaugural performances in the new Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre in The Accolade Project, the new home of the Department of Dance.

Right: The Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre in The Accolade Project

This intimate, 325-seat proscenium theatre boasts generous stage, wings, sidestage and backstage space as well as a suite of dressing rooms. Equipped with a forestage with adjustable elevation for an orchestra pit, computerized lighting system, full counterweight fly system and traps, this outstanding facility is suitable for both dance and theatre.

Now in its 16th season, the YDE is a lively young company of dancers on the brink of their professional careers. For this special occasion, they will perform homegrown repertoire that pays homage to the past, celebrates the present and heralds a new era for dance at York. Spotlighting works by faculty, alumni and student choreographers, the YDE Showcase runs nightly at 8pm.

The program features the world premiere of Vermillion Arc, a work created by award-winning choreographer, York professor and alumna Holly Small (left). Together with music director and York gamelan instructor Nur Intan Murtadza, seven dancers move to the live music they create on a Javanese gamelan. Merging contemporary dance with traditional Indonesian music, this mysterious, ritualistic work evokes the journey from moonrise through night-time to sunrise.

Other highlights include a remount of Ever Falling Home, a gripping, dramatic work choreographed by Darcey Callison, director of the Graduate Program in Dance, and Slipping Glimpses, a new commission for the ensemble by award-winning independent dance artist and alumna Yvonne Ng (right). Ng draws on her diptych Paper Women and Emerald Lies to devise a startling collage of images in movement that create their own story.

Sashar Zarif (left), who is both an instructor and a graduate student in dance at York, offers the evening’s second world premiere: a trio titled Wait, contemporary choreography inspired by the Sufi ritualistic dance styles of Central Asia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Graduate student Jack Clark presents a reconstruction of the pioneering early 20th-century work Soaring by Doris Humphrey and Ruth St. Denis. And artistic director Cash contributes Fence (under de-struction), a light-hearted investigation of boundaries and borders, set to Cole Porter’s hit tune “Don’t Fence Me In”, sung by Gene Autry and Holly Cole.

Running in repertory with the YDE, the Dance Department also presents Dancing Worlds, choreography with an international flavour, on stage at The Sandra Faire and Ivan Theatre March 23-25 at 6pm. Dancing Worlds presents three works based on cultural, ceremonial and musical traditions of West Africa, choreographed by Artistic Director, Ghanaian dance artist and York Professor Modesto Amegago and two pieces by Sashar Zarif that draw on musical, spiritual and folk traditions of Central Asia. Rounding out the program is a whimsical work set to pop music, created collaboratively by Holly Small and York Professor, multi-media artist Don Sinclair, featuring 27 dancers, interactive video projections and two yellow bicycles.