Catch a rising star’s original choreography at ‘York Dances 2022: coordinates’

Counterforce by Blythe Russell Dancers Rayn Cook-Thomas and Jessica Saftu FEATURED image for YFile

The Department of Dance in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design presents York Dances 2022: coordinates – series x & y – April 6, 7 and 8 in the McLean Performance Studio, Accolade Centre East on the Keele Campus.

Restless by Kiara Sinclair Dancer Dana Brown
Restless by Kiara Sinclair. The dancer is Dana Brown

York Dances 2022: coordinates presents new choreographic works by 31 third-year BFA majors performed by students engaged in all levels of York’s programs in dance. This will be the department’s first live performance in more than two years and the dancers and choreographers are excited to share their works with an in-person audience. “coordinates explores how we navigate our spaces, relationships, identities and communities,” says York Dances Artistic Director Tracey Norman. “These emerging artists have responded to their shared and disparate senses of time and place in a number of innovative and poignant ways.”

“Restless” by Kiara Sinclair, showcases performers Dana Brown, Christiano DiDomenico, Mackenzie Grantham, Julianna Greco, Melissa Harve and Hannah Raymond and how each wrestles with the myriad of thoughts that keep them up at night.This work was a collaborative process inspired by the dancers,” explains Sinclair. “We used improvisation scores inspired by life’s worries and the accumulation of too many sleepless nights.”

In a similar vein, “Oscillate,” choreographed by Kelsey Bonvie to an original score by Liam Ferguson, addresses the ways in which humans tend to repress and internalize difficult emotions. Ranting, Bonvie suggests, is one way to relieve the pressure that builds up from keeping those feelings bottled up. More harmless bluster than full-blown rage, in “Oscillate,” Bonvie proposes that avoiding conflict and finding resolutions are oftentimes beyond one’s control.

Continuing with the theme of emotional release, choreographer Talia Cooper likewise deals with unexpressed emotions in her duet “Cathartic Reminiscence. Working with Bonvie and Travis Keith, Cooper explores how the sense of impending catharsis can consume our bodies and minds, driving out all other thoughts.

Home is Where the Heart is by Erin McKenzie. Image features dancers Christiano DiDomenico (left) and Sahara Shwed
Home is Where the Heart is by Erin McKenzie. Image features dancers Christiano DiDomenico (left) and Sahara Shwed

In “Choices,“ Erin McKenzie collaborates with dancers Jaelyn Jones, Victoria Kuronen, Sara Lopez-Videla and Christian Sears, to explore the sense of interconnectedness between people and the invisible yet visceral bonds that develop. “There is a beauty in the pull we have on each other,” says McKenzie. “But where do the boundaries of our connectedness lie? How do our choices affect those around us? And what is the impact of choosing to do nothing?”

McKenzie’s questions are echoed in Emily Weaver’s “Home is where the heart is.” Created as a queer celebration of resilience and resistance, Weaver confronts the ways in which gender identity and gender expression can unexpectedly dissolve close connections. Choreographed in collaboration with dancers Christiano DiDomenico, Ysabel Garcia, Danika Geen, Sahara Shwed and Amy Williams, Weaver addresses what happens when LGBTQIA+ individuals are forced out of long-standing relationships to search for new communities of support. A collaboration with musician James Weaver, created using improvisational prompts, guided journaling exercises, and found movement, “Home is where the heart is, serves as a call for tolerance and a vision for a better world.

Likewise looking for equilibrium, in “Counterforce, choreographer Blythe Russell investigates the surprising commonalities shared by opposing forces. Working with dancers Rayn Cook-Thomas and Jessica Saftu, Russell began by exploring opposing ideas such as frailty and strength, movement and stillness, and structure and chaos. As the creation process progressed, the piece became less about opposites and how they contrast with one another, and more about how they coexist simultaneously. “We looked to understand how frailty co-exists in strength, how movement is hidden in stillness, and how structure occurs in chaos,” says Russell. “I found myself leaning into the ambiguity of this piece, accepting that there is never one answer, and seeing the beauty that exists in the absence of polarity.”

Counterforce 2 by Blythe Russell. Dancers Rayn Cook-Thomas (left) and Jessica Saftu
Counterforce 2 by Blythe Russell. Dancers Rayn Cook-Thomas (left) and Jessica Saftu

As the pandemic wanes and new threats and instabilities emerge, creative inquiry and expression are ever more critical to sense-making in the world. “As communities continue to experience a sense of collective disorientation, this program of 31 world premieres provides an artistic compass, pointing us to what is most imperative in this moment,” states Norman. “Bringing dance to a live audience can only serve to unite and revitalize us.”

York Dances 2022: coordinates is presented in two series – series x and series y – April 6, 7 and 8, at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., in the McLean Performance Studio, Accolade Centre East (ACE), Keele Campus. For tickets visit