Dance faculty, alumni and students front and centre at global assembly

Several professors, alumni and students from York University’s Department of Dance participated in the World Dance Alliance (WDA) 2010 Global Dance Event July 12 to 17 in New York City.

More than 300 dance artists, scholars, educators and students, representing more than 25 countries, came together to explore the WDA ‘s 2010 theme, “In Time Together: Viewing and Reviewing Contemporary Dance Practice”.

The conference took place primarily at the Dance Theater Workshop (DTW) and the Kimmel Center at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education & Human Development.

Professor Mary Jane Warner, secretary of the WDA Americas division, moderated two sessions at the conference: Innovation & Exchange in Chinese Dance and a session titled Diversified Bodies & Contemporary Pedagogy, which featured York alumnus and contract faculty member Zihao Li (BEd & MA ’03) speaking on “How Today’s Technology Shapes our Way of Teaching Dance”. 

Left: Mary Jane Warner

“The alliance provides a venue for linking with colleagues with similar interests around the world,” said Warner. “Participants learn about new research, share ideas and make connections with others in many parts of the world. The Department of Dance was well represented and our faculty and graduate students were excellent ambassadors.” 

Also part of the sessions, York doctoral candidate in dance studies, Evadne Kelly, presented her paper “The Affective Experience of Time During Performance” as part of the Temporality & Contemporary Practices session.

Performance plays a central role to the WDA’s global assemblies and the 2010 conference featured six concert programs in addition to its paper and panel presentations, master classes and workshops. York dance artists were front and centre throughout the program.

Professor Susan Cash (BFA Spec. Hons. ’78, MA ’07) presented Tree Woman, a solo that premiered last season on campus (see YFile, Jan. 21), choreographed for and performed by her faculty colleague Keiko Kitano. Delving into the notion of innate roots and the instinctive pull of ancestral influence, the work blends the dancer’s Japanese heritage and the choreographer’s own Mohawk cultural inheritance and adopted Chinese traditions.

Kitano also performed in a work she conceived, and that she co-choreographed and performed with Li, titled Beyond. The piece explores the moment of death and depicts the sorrowful human destiny en route to leaving this world. Kitano and Li were accompanied by video projections by fine arts cultural studies Professor Don Sinclair (BA Hons. ’86, BA Spec. Hons. ’90, MA ’02) and student dancers they met while teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s 2010 Summer Dance Institute and Intercontinental Festival the week prior to the WDA.

Professor William Mackwood, who also attended the WDA designed the lighting for Cash and Kitano as well as lighting for a piece by Professor Holly Small (BFA ’77) that was shown as part of the final program.

Right: Holly Small

Contract faculty member Sashar Zarif (MA ’07) performed his self-choreographed solo Dancing Freedom, which also featured his own costume and sound designs. A quarry through the memories of revolution, war and displacement, Zarif’s work questions the notion of freedom through this creation. He asks: “Should we achieve freedom internally before seeking it externally? Should you ask for an open palm with a fist?”

In 2006, York University hosted the global assembly’s North American debut to great acclaim in the Faculty of Fine Art’s new Accolade performance facilities. In 2008, the assembly took place in Brisbane, Australia, and this year returned to North America for its first presentation in the United States.

The WDA is an international service organization that provides a forum for the exchange of ideas, and information expertise and resources in all areas of dance. The organization promotes an awareness of, access to and understanding of dance as an art, a ritual and traditional expression, and as a leisure activity in diverse communities throughout the world. Its global assemblies promote international exchanges and encourage dialogue among all people in dance.