‘Dance Innovations: counter/point’ juxtaposes creative choreography

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Juxtapositions create a multifaceted whole in Dance Innovations: counter/point, the latest production of York University’s Department of Dance. York’s rising young dance artists are featured in this choreographic showcase, with two distinctive programs of new works running Nov. 28 to 30 in the McLean Performance Studio, 244 Accolade East Building on York’s Keele campus.

Dance Innovations story image featuring three performers on stage2010 Dance Innovations: Harvest. Photo by Andrea de Keijzer

The production is co-directed by acclaimed independent dance artists and York faculty members Julia Sasso and Carol Anderson, with lighting design supervision and production management by Professor William Mackwood.

The title and theme of the show play on the musical concept of counterpoint: a compositional technique or structure involving two or more distinct melodies or lines sounding simultaneously and “against” each other – unlike harmony, where distinct tones blend together into a single melody.

Anderson’s contribution to the playbill is counter/point cloudproject, a highly kinetic work for a large ensemble set to a sunny score by minimalist composer Steve Reich. Eighteen third-year performers rock cloudproject, which Anderson describes as “a rhythmic skyful of dancing.”

The two programs feature 17 original works on the counterpoint theme choreographed by fourth-year students.

The passionate but unstable relationship between a woman and a man is the subject of Alexandria DiFazio’s solo, The Letter. Deanne Kearney’s duet Epoch charts the tumultuous emotional progression of a relationship, from raw intimacy to jarring collapse. Undefined Beauty/Juncture, a trio by Julie Waxman, uses the “butterfly effect” to illustrate the aftermath of unforeseen consequences driven by rash decisions. Serena Finlayson’s quartet 50one explores the possibility that aliens are among us.

Several choreographers use counterpoint in both the bodies of their dancers and the composition of their works. Stephanie Williams’ Tender explores the loss of a sense of self through angular, swift movements. Drawing on primitive, distorted physicality, Samantha Callow’s duet Forest uncovers what lurks within the depths of a wood. Unexpected Measures by Jennifer Kehoe tackles the pivotal moments experienced in even the strongest of relationships, expressed through risky, fast-paced movement. Charlotte Wood uses floor work, partnering and a multi-directional physicality to investigate the relationship between resisting forces in her dance Volte-face. Charlotte Hannah’s Extraction looks at what happens when the body behaves in unusual ways and is thrown off balance, its parts experiencing uniquely complex isolation.

Dance Innovations second story image showing a group of dancers on stage2011 York Dance Innovations: Wind Over Mountain featuring dancer Marijean Nicholson. Photo by Andrea de Keijzer

Other choreographers take inspiration from those discordant moments when thoughts are in opposition to feelings or actions. Morgan Bascom’s physically demanding Through & Forward exposes vulnerable emotions and a sense of being lost and out of control. I am (I was) here by Rose Hajas explores movement drawn from a deep inner dialogue and our tendency to suppress mental and physical impulses. Emily Saunders’ piece, Weeds, investigates the notion that our passions and desires are ultimately wild and untamed. Emily McAuley’s Dimensional Depths carries the viewer through an emotional whirlwind of experiences. Allison Smith’s Float or Sink examines the choices we make and what we create as authors of our own stories.

Relationships that are less than harmonious are at the core of many of the works. My Hart by Madison Rath explores the connections, passions and experiences of two people in a danced collage of unspeakable love and hidden thoughts. Tracing life’s chaotic pathways, Machaela Croft’s If tests the boundaries of relationships. And Jason Tenn’s Different Skins illustrates the ever-changing mural of relationship and friendship.

Admission to each program of Dance Innovations: counter/point is $20 for the general public, $15 for York alumni and $12 for students, seniors and arts workers. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Fine Arts Box Office website or call 416-736-5888.