Vivid Variations and Celestial Navigation dance to centre stage

York University’s Department of Dance takes centre stage in two productions this month: Vivid Variations: re/creating classics (March 13-15), showcasing the York Dance Ensemble (YDE) in a collection of vintage and bold new works; and Celestial Navigation (March 26-29), premiering a dozen original pieces that explore the symbolism of the cosmos. Both shows put their best feet forward as part of the third annual York Fine Arts Festival taking place at York’s Keele campus.

Vivid Variations comprises eight dances by a stellar group of established and emerging choreographers, brought to life by the YDE under the artistic direction of York professor and independent choreographer, Susan Cash (BFA ’78, MA ’07).

Left: Dancers in the York Dance Ensemble perform Interbeing, choreographed by Professor Susan Cash and York dance alumnus Sashar Zarif. Pictured, from left are York dance students Ivana Matovina, Kate Nankervis and Jennifer Templeton. Photograph by Paul C. Wye.

The spirited repertory company of York’s dance department, YDE features outstanding young artists on the brink of their professional careers. Since its establishment in 1988, the ensemble has debuted many works by Canadian and international guest choreographers, faculty and students. Joining the 10 YDE members for Vivid Variations are guest dancers Keiko Kitano and Simi Rowen.

Program highlights include a partial remount of the contemporary classic, Baroque Suite, by celebrated Canadian dance artist David Earle, and the newly minted Radiant, by award-winning York dance Professor Holly Small (BFA ’77), which features fog screen video projections and original music by John Oswald (BFA ’77). Cash offers a restaging of her solo, icefields, excerpted from a larger work titled Body/Space/Desire, originally commissioned by Dancemakers, and a redeveloped Interbeing, a collaborative inter-cultural work bubbling with mystical gossip, created with choreographer, dancer and York dance alumnus Sashar Zarif (MA ’07).

Other York faculty contributions to the variations are a contemporary ballet titled Without a Word by Jennifer Bolt (MA ’01), and a reworking of Darcey Callison’s scintillating Reinventing John, a highly kinetic, subtly nostalgic and physically humorous ensemble piece inspired by John Travolta’s iconic solo in the film Saturday Night Fever. Rounding out the program are Oceanids, commissioned from urban choreographer and York alumna Susan Lee (BFA ’90), and the wry Vanity Fair, by up-and-coming choreographer, fourth-year dance student Kate Nankervis.

The dance department’s season finale, Celestial Navigation, is co-directed by acclaimed independent dance artists and York instructors, Terrill Maguire and Julia Sasso. The two-part program features the premiere performances of dances on a cosmic theme created by 11 fourth-year student choreographers, plus the debut of bigBANG, Sasso’s explosive new work for large ensemble, set on 30 heavenly bodies.

These imaginative new pieces chart a path through memory and mystery, poignancy and humour, from light to dark and from the past to the present, exploring the myriad events that take place in and under the sky.

Packed with cosmic energy and celestial imagery, bigBANG takes performers and audiences on a trip beyond the moon and stars. York’s third-year dancers navigate the firmament through white-hot meteors amid swirling galaxies and shifting northern lights under Sasso’s guiding hand.

Vivid Variations: re/creating classics, runs March 13-15, at 8pm, in the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre, 110 Accolade East Building, on York’s Keele campus. Admission is $14, students and seniors $8.

Celestial Navigation, on stage March 26-29, offers two programs: Program A at 7pm, and Program B at 8:30pm. Both take place in the McLean Performance Studio, 244 Accolade East Building, on York’s Keele campus. Admission is $8.

For tickets, order online at the Box Office or phone 416-736-5888.