York Dance Ensemble raises the bar at chocolate awards

The York Dance Ensemble (YDE) recently took on a sugary challenge – using contemporary dance to tell stories about some of North America’s best-known chocolate snacks, from Mars bars to M&Ms, and the business savvy behind them.

The 12 dancers were invited to perform at the Chocolate Heart Awards, an annual event that celebrates the successes of Mars Canada’s chocolate team. The theme of the evening was “Chocolate’s Got Talent”. The November event was held at the Match Restaurant & Event Venue in Woodbridge, Ont.

Right: With chocolate on their minds, members of the York Dance Ensemble prepare for their performance at the Chocolate Heart Awards

The Mars team, which comprises five divisions, including marketing, research and development, human resources, finance and sales all participated in the awards celebration. Each division identified a major milestone achieved in the past year. These milestones became the inspiration for the YDE performances.

The dances ranged from a jazzy number where a small group learned some new moves and then gradually coached reluctant dancers to join in, to a salsa-versus-ballroom duel that culminated in everyone dancing together. The first dance was based on a finance scenario about learning new software, while the second was about testing new sales strategies.

The YDE choreographed each vignette and York dance Professor and YDE Artistic Director Susan Cash and her teaching assistant, master of fine arts student Shannon Roberts, helped direct and refine all the elements. The artists devised original costumes inspired by the colour schemes of the wrappers of the candy they were dancing, and selected the music based on suggestions of favourites from the Mars team.

In addition to the artistic challenge and positive experience of creating new works for a specific purpose, and the opportunity to perform for a new audience, the YDE was awarded a $2,000 honorarium.

 Above: The ensemble performing at the Chocolate Heart Awards


“We had a fantastic experience working with Mars Canada,” said Cash. “It was a wonderful event, an appreciative audience and the dancers felt like stars the whole night. I want to thank the Mars team for their insight and generosity in assisting the education of young artists.”

The award committee’s entertainment chair Vicki Thompson, a category analyst in the sales department, was similarly appreciative. “It was really cool for the Mars teams to be able to see their accomplishments expressed in an artistic form,” said Thompson. “We were all very impressed with how easily you could follow what the dancers were communicating, and to see our business stories in their performances. From a community-building perspective, it feels really good to involve students in the celebration of our success.”