Dancing on the edge: York Dance Ensemble is Fired Up!

Blasting winter with a burst of heat, the York Dance Ensemble (YDE) ignites the stage with Fired Up!, a collection of works running Feb. 1 to 3 at York University.


The YDE is the spirited repertory company of the Department of Dance at York. Directed by Susan Cash, a professor in the Department of Dance, the company features outstanding young artists on the brink of their professional careers, working with leading choreographers at the cutting edge of contemporary dance. Fired Up! will showcase the YDE in seven works, including three world premieres.

Cash has collaborated with her dance department colleague, Sashar Zarif, to create "Interbeing", a trans-national piece full of quirky little stories and gossip, with text from the Japanese poet Yukio Mishima.

A seasoned dancer, choreographer and educator, Cash has been performing and presenting her own work for more than 10 years on the alternative theatre circuit and in formal performance venues across Canada and the USA. She has served as the YDE’s artistic and managing director since 2003 and has worked with the company for over a decade, contributing numerous works to its repertoire. Zarif, an interdisciplinary artist with broad cross-cultural interests, has toured extensively throughout North America, Europe and Azerbaijan with his own company, Sashar Zarif Dance Theatre. He is currently completing a graduate degree in dance at York, where he teaches world dance.

"Sky Shadow", choreographed for the ensemble by York professor and veteran dance artist Carol Anderson (BA ‘73), echoes formal processions, old rituals and cycles of renewal in the shadow of winter. The dance is set to music by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, performed live by pianist Erik Geddis and York music professor and cellist Mark Chambers. A founding member and former artistic director of Toronto’s Dancemakers, Anderson is an alumna of York’s dance department, where she teaches modern and contemporary dance.

Gary David De Matas, artistic director of the Astor Johnson Repertory Dance Theatre and a graduate student in the Department of Dance, has been involved in the Trinidad and Tobago dance scene for 25 years as a performer, teacher and choreographer. He contributes two pieces inspired by the infectious rhythms of Africa and the Caribbean: "Harmony", based on traditional music and folk dances, and "Feet in the Soil", a new work created for this show. Celebrating freedom and unity, "Feet in the Soil" is accompanied by percussionists Joseph Adamick and Erik Geddis.

Adding fuel to the fire are works by three independent Toronto-based choreographers, all alumni of York’s dance department.

Tracey Norman (BFA ’03) offers a restaging of "Are we there yet?", an edgy, urban dance charged with driving force and fast-paced athleticism.With  "Teddy’s Last Stand", choreographer Viv Moore (BFA ’90) sends the dancers to a very different teddy bears’ picnic, laced with her trademark sardonic wit and poignant sense of humour. And Emily Cheung (BFA ’02, BEd ’05), associate artistic director of Little Pear Garden Collective, presents "Legendary Warrior", a fiery solo inspired by martial arts, adapted from the Beijing Dance Academy.

Since its establishment in 1988, the York Dance Ensemble has debuted many works by Canadian and international guest choreographers, faculty and students, and has helped launch the careers of many dance artists. Alumni of the company include Pascal Desrosiers, Shannon Cooney, Daniel Bélanger and Meredith Thompson.

Fired Up! runs Thursday, Feb. 1, to Saturday, Feb. 3. Performances begin at 8pm at the Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan Theatre in the Accolade East Building on York’s Keele campus. Admission is $14. Tickets are available through the box office at ext. 55888 or online at www.yorku.ca/perform/boxoffice.