A virtual dance performance with choreography by York’s master of fine arts students will feature the York Dance Ensemble (YDE) in the annual showcase of talent titled “Intersections.”
Running March 12 and 13, the event is a collaborative effort that features new choreographic works by four of the Department of Dance’s MFA students performed by the department’s resident student company, the York Dance Ensemble.
“In this time of sweeping transitions, understanding how we as a community of artists intersect and how the intersectionalities of race, gender, ethnicity, power, place and time affect the present is more critical than ever,” said Susan Lee, artistic director. Lee was excited to invite MFA choreographers Rachel da Silveira Gorman, Jessica Stuart, Ashvini Sundaram and Yui Ugai to create choreographic works inspired by the theme of intersections.
In “Golem,” choreographer da Silveira Gorman explores the transformation of humans from homo economicus – humans who create worlds based on economic power and rationale thought – to homo environmentalus – destroyers of the natural world. During the creation process, da Silveira Gorman, who is also a faculty member in the School of Health Policy & Management, asked YDE members to describe their hopes and fears for future environmental crises and social uprisings. A third-year student in dance performance, Rayn Cook-Thomas, said: “If there is an environmental apocalypse, I worry about where the stories will go. Do they go into the plants and earth? Will we be walking on our ancestors’ stories?” In researching and framing these ideas, da Silveira Gorman turned to the 16th-century Jewish myth that tells of a rabbi who creates a being out of mud, asking it to protect the community. The piece performs the shared responsibility of environmental collapse and response and the increasing urgency of the call to action.
“The Art of Time” is the culmination of choreographer Sundaram’s research into the attitudes presented by South Asian classical musicians and dancers in relation to the concept of time. “I wanted to nuance the dominant, Eurocentric beliefs about mathematical science and the flow of time,” said Sundaram. “The choreography was developed through my access and knowledge of ‘taala,’ a specialized and embodied method for dividing time in Carnatic music. Taala encapsulates the time dimension of music; it is cyclical and repeats its form consistently through the composition.” Through the movements of the work’s eight dancers, Sundaram seeks to convey the idea of time as the flow of water in a stream. In invoking taala, she seeks to re-empower the body and regain sources of embodied knowledge found in Indigenous cultural practices.
“In Medias Res,” choreographer Stuart explores the relationship between virtual and live bodies. Stuart was inspired by the “authenticity of the virtual self to one’s true self. If we are what we are perceived to be, then what are we when that perception is altered?” Transcending restrictions of continuity and matter, “In Medias Res” explores the limitations of the physical body, the capabilities of the virtual image, and how these may exist in both planes. Stuart’s three dancers, Sydney Cobham, Bethany McMorine and Zuri Skeete, collaborated with Stuart to respond to their deepest creative impulses to explore the ways that existence functions in a fabricated environment.
Rounding out the program is Ugai’s “New Nostalgia.” Ugai was inspired by the movement vocabularies and aesthetics of the Japanese dance Fuji Musume (Wisteria Maiden). The piece explores how to incorporate elements of classical Japanese dance into contemporary dance works and the synergies that emerge. Ugai devised the work as “a conversation about seeking home and how embodied memories are part of my own corporeal being as a Japanese Canadian.”
Lee, along with “outside eyes” Susan Cash and Don Sinclair, have worked to encourage and support the choreographers in the creation of a suite of uniquely beautiful, kinaesthetically charged dance works. Filmed at the Faire Fecan Theatre for live stream, these works showcase the York Dance Ensemble’s exceptional dancers as they challenge limits and expectations.
“Intersections” runs March 12 and 13 at 7 p.m. Admission is on a sliding scale of $5 to $25. For more, call the box office at 416-736-5888 or visit ampd.yorku.ca/boxoffice.
The artistic director and course director for the York Dance Ensemble is Susan Lee. Outside eyes are Susan Cash and Don Sinclair. The show’s director of design and production manager is Jennifer Jimenez.