Dance Innovations is SpringLoaded with 16 world premieres

York’s Department of Dance will cap its 2008-2009 season with Dance Innovations: SpringLoaded, a dynamic two-part program running May 7 to 9, featuring 16 world premieres directed by acclaimed indie dance artists and York instructors Terrill Maguire and Julia Sasso.

A highlight of the playbill in Program A is the debut of In Motion, Maguire’s new work for a large ensemble of 23 dancers, set to live music composed by York music student Lendl Barcelos. In Motion is inspired by the emergent energies attending the coming of spring, paralleling the blossoming talent of the youthful dancers.

A dancer and Chalmers Award-winning choreographer, Maguire has created numerous works for the concert stage and site-specific environments, including Simple Lines of Inquiry (2008), Grove (2002), Bilé (1999) and Sanctuary (1997). She has also choreographed for television, film and theatre including Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe and the John Gray musical Amelia!, produced by the National Arts Centre.

Left: Christina Blakely performing in bigBANG choreographed by Julia Sasso. Photo by Paul C. Wye

Sharing Program A, and catapulting to centre stage in Program B, are 15 original dances by up-and-coming fourth-year choreographers under the artistic direction of Sasso, a choreographer, performer and artistic director of her own company, Julia Sasso dances. Recognized as “one of the foremost dance artists in the country” (The Dance Current), she has created more than 50 original works including choreography for feature film, television and theatre.

Both Sarah Douglas and Ruth Madden found the inspiration for their quartets in historical figures who left an indelible mark on the art and science of their age. Douglas used the artwork of Salvador Dali as a conceptual theme for her work, oyster, generating moves that create an unearthly atmosphere. Madden’s Origins celebrates Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday by exploring the survival of the fittest.

Questions of identity are a recurring theme in the show. Kristin Di Nino’s .efil for four dancers takes a fresh look at essential philosophical questions about life, looking forward, backward and standing still. Vanessa Cappello’s trio, curve )(, asks how many ways can a woman be defined in a work that acknowledges the complexities and marvels of being female.

Shift, a quintet choreographed by Katie-Joan Lawson,focuses on journeys, with travellers passing through or getting swept up in it all. Ali Smith’s duet see 18E2 was inspired by the mystery of vintage photographs, exploring the shifting relationship between the mind’s eye and the permanent product of a camera’s single click.

Dreams led four choreographers to spring into action. Holly Newton’s solo Day Residue follows a daydreamer who seeks to escape reality through a dream of flying. Laura Bolender’s trio One Could shows that anything is possible. Kayleigh Anne Crook’s sextet Trace makes a stand within a dream of pursuit with no escape, and Samantha Ippolito’s trio fly explores the mystifying sphere of human consciousness, transporting the audience into a dream-like dimension.

Not all inspiration springs from a joyful place. Kathryn Jones’ trio dis/connect contrasts the starkness of solitude with the intimacy of loneliness. Niomi Anna Cherney’s trio The Gathering Towards reveals the futility of desire through a series of intimately crafted duets. Alex Thompson’s quartet Numb challenges the expectation of emotional reaction in the struggle between feeling something and feeling nothing.

Works by Maxine Cowlin and Ida Gerasolo round out the program. Lighting design supervision and production management for the entire show is by dance Professor William Mackwood.

York’s Dance Department has been a springboard for a generation of leading Canadian dance artists. Distinguished alumni include Debra Brown (BFA Spec. Hons. ’78), choreographer of ten Cirque du Soleil productions; Christopher House (BFA Spec. Hons. ’79), artistic director of Toronto Dance Theatre; Patrick Parson (MA ’99), founding artistic director of Ballet Creole; Denise Fujiwara (BFA Spec. Hons. ’79), artistic director of CanAsian International Dance Festival; Karen Kaeja (BFA Spec. Hons. ’84) co-artistc director of Kaeja d’Dance; and dancer-choreographers Shannon Cooney (BFA Spec. Hons. ’92), Santee Smith (MA ’04), Andrea Nann (BFA Spec. Hons. ’88), Yvonne Ng (BFA Spec. Hons. ’87) and Lata Pada (MFA ’96).

Dance Innovations: SpringLoaded will run from May 7 to 9 with Program A at 7pm and Program B at 8:30pm in the McLean Performance Studio, 244 Accolade East Building, Keele campus.

Admission is $12. For tickets, visit the York Box Office Web site or call ext. 55888.