New dean of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts appointed

Barbara Sellers-Young, a former dancer, choreographer and director whose research on the intersections of dance, body and globalization has taken her around the world, will succeed Phillip Silver as the dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University.

She officially joins on July 1, 2008, to begin her five-year term as dean, after a continent-wide search. Sellers-Young comes to York from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), near Sacramento, where she has been a professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance for over 15 years and was Chair of the department from 2001 to 2005.

"It is a privilege and an honour to have the opportunity to work with a faculty that has a national and international reputation and at an institution that has a far-reaching educational mission," says Sellers-Young, who served as the 2005-2006 interim executive director at the Mondavi Center, a performing arts venue with an $8-million budget and 66 productions a year at UC Davis.

She is also the president-elect for the Congress on Research in Dance – an international organization with 500 members that holds an annual conference as well as special conferences in Taiwan, Paris and Montreal, and publishes the Dance Research Journal.

Right: Barbara Sellers-Young

"York University is fortunate to have attracted such a strong international scholar and administrator as the new dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts," said President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. "We look forward to welcoming Barbara Sellers-Young and working with her to build on the strengths of the Faculty in the years to come. I also want to thank Dean Phillip Silver for his decade of leadership of the Faculty."

Interested in integrating contemplation, reflection and action into a variety of performance explorations to help performers expand their awareness, Sellers-Young has taught workshops and classes in dance and movement for international organizations such as the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and the International Federation for Theatre Research, where she was also a convener of a research group – Theory and Practice of Performance.

As a professor, Sellers-Young has taught at universities in England, China and Australia, while her research projects on the moving body have taken place in Sudan, Egypt, Nepal, Japan, China, England and Australia. "I believe this background will serve in the profile that York is creating as an international university," she says.

In addition to an extensive academic background that includes administrative experience at the divisional and university levels, Sellers-Young says she also brings a passion and commitment to the arts. "I have a deep love of and commitment to all forms of art – music, theatre, dance, film, visual – and its diversity of performance styles from the classical to the cutting edge." 

She is the author of Teaching Personality with Gracefulness (University Press of America, 2002), a discussion of Kanriye Fujima’s life and teaching of Nihon buyo, or Japanese classical dance, to Japanese Americans in the US Pacific Northwest. She is also the author of Breathing, Movement, Exploration (Applause Books, 2001), a movement text for actors. Its groundbreaking approach combines body mechanics and eastern and western philosophy to create a new visceral awareness of the performance process.

Sellers-Young is the co-editor of Bellydance: Orientalism, Transnationalism and Harem Fantasy (Mazda Publishers, 2005), which traces the impact of bellydancing from its initial introduction to the west through the writings of Flaubert to its enormous popularity in the 1970s and 1980s in the wake of the feminist movement and finally the globalization of the form in the 21st century.

Her research has been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Centre for Cultural Research into Risk at the Charles Sturt University in Australia along with a Davis Humanities Fellowship. Sellers-Young has also received several grants, including a Pacific Rim Planning Grant and a Video Development Grant from the Teaching Resources Center and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.

She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology, Master of Science degree in dance and a PhD in theatre from the University of Oregon and continued to study various western and Asian physical disciplines, including Laban, mask, meditation, yoga, t’ai chi, wu chi and chi gong. Before entering academic life, she was a dancer, choreographer and director who performed extensively in the Pacific Northwest and at Mumokan Theatre in Kyoto, Japan, and University Theatre in Manchester, England.

Sellers-Young looks forward to continuing to build on the momentum of the Faculty of Fine Arts, saying, "The current dean, Phillip Silver, and the Faculty of Fine Arts have established strong programs in the fine arts which encompass both theory and practice as well as developing a high-profile space for the arts in the Accolade Project. I hope to work with the Faculty of Fine Arts to build on these initiatives."