York community key in new target to achieve net-zero emissions a decade early 

Net Zero 2040 Sustainability Announcement York University

Faculty, staff and students at York University will be part of a progressive next step to build a more sustainable future for all as outlined by a new aspirational target for the University to reach net-zero emissions a decade earlier than originally planned. 

Shared on Nov. 23 by President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton during a special event, the announcement highlights one of the most ambitious net-zero targets in the Canadian post-secondary sector.   

With bold ambition to become one of the most sustainable institutions in Canada, York University is accelerating its timeline and aiming to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040 – a decade sooner than its previous commitment.  

The new aspirational target is part of York’s renewed sustainability policy, which includes a commitment to develop and implement a process to track, measure, evaluate and report progress toward net-zero emissions. 

To support this ambition, York recently released its own comprehensive emissions data and ecological footprint assessment from the Ecological Footprint Initiative – a group of York’s scholars, students, researchers and collaborating organizations working together to advance the measurement of ecological footprint and biocapacity – making it the first Canadian institution to do so. This new report provides York with information to identify opportunities to reduce its emissions and develop innovative solutions to support a more sustainable future. 

“The United Nations has stated that climate change is the defining issue of our time, and the world is at a pivotal moment requiring urgent action,” says Lenton. “As an internationally recognized leader in sustainability, York University has a responsibility to act on global challenges facing humanity, including ecological degradation, climate change and growing socio-economic inequality. The bold actions we are taking on our campuses, and in our local and global communities, will build on the strong foundation we have created and move us closer to our goal of becoming one of the most sustainable institutions in Canada.”

York’s ability to strive toward ambitious sustainable change is due in part to the expertise, experience and forward thinking that takes place across its campuses. The University draws on the strengths of its diverse community to approach sustainability through a holistic lens of collaboration, innovation and knowledge mobilization.  

As a core value of the institution, York has embedded sustainability in every aspect of University life – teaching, learning, research and operations. An example of this expertise in action can be found in projects supported through York’s Sustainability Innovation Fund, including a green career fair, a campus composting centre and more. 

To further advance the cutting-edge sustainability research done by the York community, the University announced a new $1-million allocation to the fund, which is currently accepting applications for projects that advance the University’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as contribute to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13 (Climate Action).  

The power of community engagement to create positive change has long been part of York’s legacy in becoming a more sustainable university. Activities conducted through the Office of Sustainability and sustainability-focused student groups empower York students, faculty and staff to take part in events such as campus clean-ups, film screenings, learning opportunities and tree plantings. In the past two years, community members have planted over 1,000 trees on the Glendon and Keele campuses.  

The York community is also being engaged though consultations that are currently underway to update the Sustainability Strategy, with an aim of completion for spring 2024. York students, faculty, instructors and staff can provide their input in person or virtually to shape York’s sustainability priorities and help create a more sustainable future. 

“Sustainability starts with our own actions,” said Mike Layton, York’s chief sustainability officer. “We also have a responsibility to our communities – locally and beyond – to ensure we are all contributing to advancing environmental and social sustainability across society. This new announcement demonstrates York’s commitment to sustainability and I look forward to the many ways we will work with the community in service of our new target.” 

The Nov. 23 event included a panel about how York is using data and innovative solutions to shrink its footprint. Insights were also shared by York experts, including: Eric Miller, director of the Ecological Footprint Initiative in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change; Pirathayini Srikantha, associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Reliable and Secure Power Grid Systems at York’s Lassonde School of Engineering; Usman Khan, associate professor at Lassonde; and Steve Prince, director, Energy Management, Facilities Services at York. 

The announcement also featured a short play with students from York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design; a short video about sustainable travel by Burkard Eberlein, former provostial Fellow and professor from York’s Schulich School of Business; and samples of Las Nubes coffee for attendees to take home. After nearly a decade, Las Nubes coffee has made its way back to Canada and is available in select locations on York’s campuses, including Central Square and Glendon Marché. Part of the proceeds from the coffee sales will go toward supporting York’s Las Nubes Research and Conservation Program.

For more on the event, visit News@York.

Meet York U’s 2023 Royal Society of Canada Fellows 

Joshua Fogel, Sara Horowitz, Ali Kazimi and Debra Pepler

Four York University faculty members are part of this year’s new list of Fellows named to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), one of the country’s highest honours in the arts, social sciences and sciences.  

The 2023 Fellows will be inducted at RSC’s Celebration of Excellence & Engagement from Nov. 15 to 18 at the University of Waterloo.  

In the videos below, the four York Fellows – Joshua Fogel, Sara Horowitz, Ali Kazimi and Debra Pepler – talk about their impactful research, their motivations and why their work is important to Canadians. 

York historian Joshua Fogel elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada 2023

Joshua Fogel, a professor in the Department of History in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, is a leading scholar in Asian studies. Fogel’s research focuses on the cultural, political and economic interactions between China and Japan, the importance of Japan in China’s modern development and the changing attitudes both countries have towards one another from the 14th to 19th centuries.

York literary scholar Sara Horowitz elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada 2023

Sara Horowitz, a professor in the Department of Humanities and the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, is one of the world’s foremost experts in Jewish studies. Horowitz’s research and published works focus on Holocaust literature, women survivors, Jewish American fiction and Israeli cinema.

York filmmaker Ali Kazimi elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada 2023

Ali Kazimi, a professor in the Department of Cinema & Media Arts in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, is among Canada’s most acclaimed artists. His work explores issues of race, social justice, migration, history and memory, including documentaries that explore the diasporic South Asian relationship with indigeneity.

York psychologist Debra Pepler elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada 2023

Debra Pepler, a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Health, has received international attention for her influential research on bullying, aggression and other forms of violence, particularly among marginalized youth. She is the co-founder of PREVNet, a national research and knowledge mobilization hub focused on youth interpersonal violence prevention.

York U Motion Media Studio a hub for future creative talent

YUMMS green screen studio

By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile

The York U Motion Media Studio (YUMMS), supported by Cinespace Studios, continues to see growth as it offers courses, workshops, talks and critical hands-on experiential education for those in the York University community looking to become the next generation of content creators across creative industries.

Originally gifted to York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) and York University in 2016 by the Mirkopoulos Family, the York U Motion Media Studio was branded and relaunched in its current iteration post-pandemic in February 2021. Located within Cinespace’s expansive content production complex in Toronto, YUMMS’ interdisciplinary studio space features a student lounge, two studios, a standing set, a green screen stage and state-of-the-art equipment provided by MBS Equipment Co. Its offerings are geared towards providing opportunities to receive hands-on experience with industry tools.

Students enrolled in AMPD courses have access to the space, and various courses – including production design, cinematography, virtual production, motion capture, creative producing and film production – integrate the space into the curriculum.

Ingrid Veninger
Ingrid Veninger

“We’re really on the ground with experiential education,” says Ingrid Veninger, director of YUMMS and associate professor in the Department of Cinema & Media Arts.

Beyond developing hands-on familiarity and mastering of filmmaking equipment, YUMMS intends to help students build up a resume of experiential accomplishments that will assist them with their future content creation careers. “The first thing they’re going to be asking you when you sit across an interview table will be, ‘What is your experience? What have you done? What sets have you worked on?’ ” says Veninger.

YUMMS empowers them with answers. It also aims to assist students navigating the industry by connecting them with creative professionals through the facility.

One way is through being located within the Cinespace complex – a hub of international filmmaking activity. “Our students and folks in the greater York U community can just open the door and look down the hall and see the world of productions swirling,” says Veninger. “They’re just one step away from the creative industries they want to be a part of.”

Another way is through workshops, masterclasses and programming like the YUMMS Industry Talks Series, a monthly career development and networking event, hosted in partnership with Cinespace’s CineCares program and OYA Black Arts Coalition, creating further opportunities to learn and form industry relationships. “We’re trying to help facilitate that extra step to foster meaningful connections, so that AMPD students can gain greater access, insight and opportunity to engage with our ever-growing on-screen industries.”

York U Motion Media Studio Industry Talk event
Ingrid Veninger moderating a session of the YUMMS Industry Talks series.

Veninger stresses that YUMMS isn’t solely meant for undergraduate students, however. “It’s a teaching, learning and research space for undergrad and graduate students, alumni and faculty researchers to utilize this invaluable resource for courses, labs, workshops, master classes and production,” she says. “The space is multifaceted. Media arts research faculty are building a three-panel installation on-site, graduate students are shooting thesis projects, AMPD alumni are returning to workshop feature film screenplays with actors, award-winning cinema and media arts instructors are launching new interdisciplinary courses like Shooting the Set, and more. We are continually receptive to new initiatives, which help us maximize the opportunity of this gift, originally from the Mirkopoulos family and now with TPG Real Estate Partners.”

Still relatively new, the use and awareness of the studio’s multiple offerings requires outreach through a variety of channels. In addition to social media, building excitement happens with students. “I’m sometimes surprised when I go into first- and second-year classes. And I’ll ask if they know about the Motion Media Studio and there will be crickets,” she says. “But as soon as I mention we are located at Cinespace, where award-winning features and shows have been produced – like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ ‘The Umbrella Academy,’ Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water ­– their eyes light up.”

Awareness of YUMMS is changing quickly. As the University heads into the winter term, YUMMS currently has 13 student film productions booked back-to-back. “The space has never been more active. Our calendar is packed, which is a great problem to have,” says Veninger.

An ongoing $3.12-million investment of support, from 2022 by the Cinespace Film Studios, will continue to allow YUMMS to pursue its goals and build up momentum, not just to benefit those who use the studio but the industry as well.

“Our students are the next generation of original content creators. They’re the forward-thinking innovators,” says Veninger. “The industry wants to discover new talent? Well, here you go. Let us introduce you to the next wave of bold, new, fresh, original visionaries ready to ignite our creative industries across Canada and around the world.”

For more information about the York University Motion Media Studio, visit yorkumotionmediastudio.ca.

Passings: David Rotenberg

A field of flowers at sunset

David Rotenberg, an award-winning author, former theatre professor and director of York University’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Acting and Directing program, passed away on Nov. 9.

David Rotenberg
David Rotenberg

Over the course of his career, Rotenberg has been counted among Canada’s foremost acting teachers and coaches, whose former students include Tatiana Maslany, Rachel McAdams, Scott Speedman and Sarah Gadon.

After staging Broadway shows in New York City, Rotenberg began his career at York University in 1987, teaching MFA and bachelor of fine arts (BFA) acting and directing, going on to become director of the MFA program and then frequently supervising other MFA directors until his retirement from York in 2008.

“David had a profound impact on how acting was taught at York, and his approach to acting, recently documented in his book on the subject Act: The Modern Actor’s Handbook (ECW Press, 2021), influenced his students and many acting teachers who were graduates of our program,” says Eric Armstrong, professor and Chair of the Department of Theatre & Performance.

During his time at York, Rotenberg also directed several productions, including Threepenny Opera, The Idiots Karamazov and his own adaptation of The Great Gatsby. He also founded, as the artistic director in 2003, the Professional Actors Lab in Toronto, and has taught at a range of institutions, including the National Theatre School of Canada and Princeton University.

In 1994, Rotenberg travelled to Shanghai to teach at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, where he directed the first Canadian play produced in the People’s Republic of China. That experience inspired his career as a novelist, setting him on a path to writing a successful mystery series – known as the Zhong Fong mysteries – which are set in modern Shanghai, as well as a historical fiction novel titled Shanghai. He also has written several speculative thrillers set in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto, as well as a science fiction series.

Many people were struck by Rotenberg’s warmth, sympathy and genuine spirit. He had a way of adding light to any place he entered, his grin brightening even the darkest of days. Rotenberg leaves behind a legacy of generosity, connection and partnership.

He is survived by his wife, Susan Santiago, and his two children, Joe and Beth.

Annual event spotlights student choreographers, dancers

Figures dancing on stage in silhouette against sunset-coloured background

Dance Innovations 2023: Infinite Corners, running Nov. 22 to 24 at the McLean Performance Studio, will feature 25 new choreographic works by York University fourth-year bachelor of fine arts students addressing various social issues and personal experiences.

Performed by students in all years of York’s undergraduate programs in dance, this series engages with a range of human emotions. Each piece presents a unique concept, created in collaboration between the choreographer and the dancers. With the support of the faculty to turn their creativity into a full production, the student choreographers also collaborate with lighting designers, stage crew and technicians.

The underlying motif throughout the show is an exploration of the spectrum of feelings that humans experience through the successes and hardships in life. It considers themes like climate change, feminism, emotional development and gender theory.

“As we find ourselves in a time of recuperation following the pandemic, these creators are asking: what does it mean to move forward now?” says Infinite Corners Artistic Director Tracey Norman. “How are we coming alive in our collaborative work differently? If infinite corners lead to circles and cycles, the goal of this production is to enliven the ideas, processes and narratives that are important to this group of emerging artists.”

to move through dancers

Presented in two series – Continuous and Unbounded – the show also features a new work by Professor Susan Lee for the department’s third-year performance class.

One piece that will address difficult emotions is to move through by Gabriella Noonan, which examines the grieving process and how to grow throughout it. Dancers Megan Bagusoski, Isabella Castro, Autumn Ivan, Olivia Pereira and Colleen Wiebe will portray a depiction of grief after losing a loved one. As the dancers weave a narration of regret, nostalgia and hope, they demonstrate the possibilities of moving forward after a heartbreaking event. “With those still here around us we must find how we can move forward in a world that is missing a piece,” says Noonan.

perennial dancers

Another piece that will highlight resilience in the face of hardship is Jemima CummingsPerennial. Using the metaphor of perennial flowers, Cummings’ work will demonstrate the human ability to overcome obstacles. Noting how flowers always grow back after a long and cold winter, she uses her choreography to suggest that people can also find joy after difficult moments. Performed by Isabella Castro, Alessia Di Palma, Autumn Ivan, Travis Keith, Eva Rodriguez Castro and Olivia Williams, the work encourages audiences to pursue happiness after challenging circumstances, rather than settle for mere survival. “Never stagnate in moments of utter desperation and sadness. Pick yourself back up and bloom towards the sun,” says Cummings.

undivulged dancers

Undivulged by Emma Tate will bring light to the challenges experienced by women in a patriarchal society. One of her choreographic goals is to break the stigma around problems that women face, as she and the dancers expose the less glamorous parts of being a woman. Performers Liz Cairns, Sabrina Doughty, Madelyn Moneypenny, Emily Morton, Sonya Singh, Grace Sokolow and Tehillah James use their movement to support each other through externalization of their hidden obstacles. Throughout the piece, Tate asks, “How do we move forward in a world that diminishes the female voice and body?”

artificially authentic dancers

Christiano DiDomenico’s Artificially Authentic questions how to find authenticity despite the influence of others. This solo work, performed in alternance by Katherine Colley and Maya Erwin, engages with the idea of personality and how one’s personality is affected or altered by the people around them. In the creation process, DiDomenico explored “social chameleon” tendencies, which he describes as the habit of changing one’s outward personality based on the expectations of others. To highlight this research, as the soloists perform the work, they are surrounded by a 15-person ensemble. The presence of the supporting dancers sets the stage for a display of self-discovery.

Déjà Vécu dancers

Déjà Vécu by Rosie Halpin also explores beliefs about human nature. In contrast to the other works, Halpin’s choreography uses a mystical lens to approach the notion of already having lived through a situation. She directed her questioning of past events toward an exploration of life after death. This piece, danced by Regan Baird, Clara Chemtov, Kerry Halpin, Annie Spence, Hanna Thakore and Andie Weir, examines the idea of reconnecting with previous iterations of oneself from an undetermined afterlife. In her process, Halpin muses, “Maybe we are all just warped versions of past selves, like a cracked mirror that distorts a reflection.”

Series A: Continuous will run from Nov. 22 to 24 at 7 p.m. Series B: Unbounded runs on the same days at 8:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15 in advance (until Nov. 19) and $22 at the door. They can be purchased through the box office at 416-736-5888 or online at ampd.yorku.ca/boxoffice.

PhD candidate receives fellowship to bring Indigenous lens to STEM

woman engineer STEM

Andrew McConnell, a PhD candidate at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, has been awarded an Indigenous and Black Engineering and Technology (IBET) Fellowship to transform the future of technical science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for Indigenous students.

The IBET program, which works in partnership with more than a dozen higher education institutions across Canada, was created to help reduce systemic barriers that exist for Indigenous and Black scholars pursuing doctoral degrees in STEM by providing financial support and academic mentorship. As part of the IBET program, Lassonde aims to increase representation in STEM, while uplifting decolonization, equity, diversity and inclusion.

andrew mcdonnell
Andrew McConnell

McConnell is the first Indigenous student to receive the IBET Fellowship at Lassonde and is grateful for the four-year, $30,000-per-year financial support provided. “For the first time in my life, I have the freedom to solely focus on my passion instead of working multiple jobs to help pay for schooling,” he says.

With that passion, his intentions are to pursue the overcoming of challenges faced by the Indigenous community in STEM fields. “We need to start talking about the barriers that lead Indigenous people away from professional career paths like engineering; we need to build a system that truly supports us,” says McConnell.

He will do so by drawing on experiences, which includes working at the York Region District School Board in various roles such as teacher and department head for technological education, as well as teaching advisor, co-ordinator and board lead for First Nations, Métis and Inuit education.

“Working as a consultant for Indigenous education, I built a sense of community and belonging, but I also noticed the ways the education system was not serving Indigenous people,” he says. “The barriers start as early as kindergarten. Young students who are great at fixing things and love to tinker are moved into trades, as if they are not good enough to be scientists or engineers. This makes us limited in what we can contribute to the needs of our communities and causes us to be reliant on non-Indigenous people. I want to uplift Indigenous ways of problem solving to introduce students to technical subjects in STEM, encourage them to ask questions and build a practical foundation for their natural engineering minds.”

Supervised by Professor Melanie Baljko in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, McConnell will apply his extensive educational and professional background in English, education, digital media and technology to explore, develop and inform new approaches to Indigenous education in STEM. McConnell is also enrolled in the school’s Digital Media program, which operates jointly with York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, allowing learners to do specialized hybrid research, uniquely combining computational science and artistic practices.

In addition to his research, McConnell will extend his expertise to York’s Waaban Indigenous Teacher Education program. Through teachings from Indigenous elders, educators and community leaders, the program aims to prepare the next generation of teachers, who will address the needs of First Nation, Métis and Inuit students, families and communities – putting Indigenous futures in Indigenous hands.

AMPD showcases facilities through new virtual tour

students on AMPD soundstage

To engage prospective students, York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) has launched a virtual tour resource to showcase its 300,000-square-feet worth of facilities, share student stories and highlight experiential education opportunities.

The AMPD Virtual Tour offers visitors the ability to view state-of-the-art facilities associated with different departments and programs within AMPD, including cinema and media arts, dance, design, digital media, music, theatre, visual art and art history, as well the integrative arts. A total of eight tours are available, with different “scenes” contained in each tour that students can interact with in a similar way that they would at an open house.

Each viewable location gives virtual visitors the chance to step into these dynamic spaces through 360-degree photos of AMPD facilities that include hot spots focused on noteworthy features and videos of student profiles. Furthermore, the images showcase students in action to highlight the various hands-on, industry and experiential education opportunities available. For example, a virtual tour of the Cinema & Media Arts program facilities shows AMPD students shooting large-scale scenes in a soundproof studio.

The AMPD Virtual Tour was built with Circuit Virtual Tours, a leading technology company based in Toronto that enables the creation of immersive digital experiences for higher education institutions and other physical spaces. From start to finish, the project took four months, from plotting out scenes and crafting the script to organizing photo shoots and curating media assets.

Through the virtual tour and embedded calls-to-action throughout it, AMPD aims to increase student interest in arts, culture and design programs – particularly from international students who cannot physically attend events, tours, showcases and performances. The new virtual experience puts the learning opportunities available at AMPD on stage 24-7 for students around the world.

Experience the AMPD Virtual Tour today at virtualtour.ampd.yorku.ca.

York’s world-leading vision research program looks towards the future 

Doug Crawford with members of VISTA team

By Corey Allen, senior manager, research communications

VISTA: Vision Science to Applications, York University’s first large-scale research program to receive support from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), will enter a new phase in 2024 after marking its seven-year milestone.     

The novel program was first awarded $33.4 million from CFREF, the country’s top federal research grant, back in 2016. Since then, the VISTA program has established itself as an international leader in vision research across a wide range of real-world applications – from basic visual function to 3D imaging to computer vision and object recognition – and played a significant role in growing York University’s standout reputation in the field of vision science.

Doug Crawford speaking at VISTA event
Doug Crawford speaking at the VISTA celebration.

“VISTA has been a labour of love and it’s taken vision research at York to the next level,” said Doug Crawford, the program’s inaugural scientific director, who now heads up York’s second CFREF program, Connected Minds. “I believe that over these last seven years, VISTA has become the best vision research program in the world.”  

With over 500 international co-authored publications, over 100 research awards, dozens of patent filings and invention disclosures, several startups, among other achievements, the VISTA program has experienced great success.  

VISTA funded 18 new faculty hires and 148 postgraduate trainees, working across five Faculties, including the Lassonde School of Engineering, the Faculty of Health, the Faculty of Science, the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.  

The program’s partnership and affiliate programs resulted in more than 300 external collaborations across multiple sectors, leading to new applications in law enforcement, clinical diagnosis, art exhibits and space research.  

James Elder with his research demo
James Elder, VISTA member and York Research Chair in Human and Computer Vision, demonstrates his research on an attentive robot.

Altogether, the program’s distinguished membership, including 16 Canada Research Chairs, brought in more than $89 million of external research income, including research grants and partner contributions.  

Now that the CFREF grant is coming to the end of its seven-year term, VISTA will continue to operate as part of the Centre for Vision Research (CVR) at York, where an interdisciplinary team gathers to advance fundamental research that merges techniques in human psychophysics, visual neuroscience, computer vision and computational theory. 

In addition to the historic CFREF grant, contributions from the University and other external partners, the VISTA program received more than $120 million in total funding over its first seven years. 

Guests at the VISTA celebration trying a research demo
Guests at the VISTA celebration event test out some of the research program’s technology applications.

“VISTA forged strong and sustained links between vision science at York and industry partners, nationally and internationally,” said Laurie Wilcox, an esteemed vision researcher and VISTA’s new scientific director. “The program has fostered close collaborations, invested in state-of-the-art equipment and laid the foundation for a continued focus on applied vision with the Centre for Vision Research. I am excited to work with the CVR to establish this new phase of the VISTA program.”

To mark the program’s milestone seventh year and its transition, the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation hosted a celebration event earlier this month.  

“With many of the world’s top experts conducting cutting-edge research and innovation, training highly qualified personnel, and offering academic programs in the field of biological and computer vision right here at York, the VISTA program is a crowning achievement of their research excellence, and an incredible source of pride for the entire University community,” said Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation, speaking at the event.

Film screening highlights Department of Dance residency

New production of Pina Bausch’s 'Rite of Spring’ features a cast of 37 dancers from 14 African countries. Florent Nikiema featured centre. Photo credit: Maarten Vanden Abeele

On Nov. 1, the Department of Dance and the Harriet Tubman Institute will host a screening of the biographical documentary MABOUNGOU: Being in the World as part of dancer and choreographer Florent Nikiéma’s guest artist residency at York University.

Florent Nikiéma
Florent Nikiéma

As part of the residency – which began Oct. 14 and will end Nov. 3 – Nikiéma has been working with the students of the York Dance Ensemble, the Department of Dance’s pre-professional performance company for third- and fourth-year dance majors, on the creation of a new piece. Alongside this process, Nikiéma is also guest teaching each of the dance program’s undergraduate modern dance classes, including Traditional and Current Dances of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Department of Music’s West African Drum Ensemble course, as well as two courses in the Drama and Creative Arts program at Glendon.

“We are so fortunate to have an artist of Florent’s international standing working with our undergraduates,” says Susan Lee, assistant professor in dance and the artistic director of the York Dance Ensemble. “Exposing our students to different working processes and to new creative ideas is an invaluable experience for them.”

Nikiéma will also be collaborating with Associate Professor Ian Garrett in the Department of Theatre on the lighting and projections design for the new piece that will premiere in February 2024.

A practitioner of contemporary African dance and music, Nikiéma studied under Senegalese artist and African modern dance pioneer Germaine Acogny at the École des Sables before his engagement with Tanztheater Wuppertal in Germany. In November 2022, Nikiéma toured in Toronto as part of the groundbreaking remount of Pina Bausch’s iconic 1975 work Rite of Spring with an all-African cast. During his time in Toronto, Nikiéma came to York University to give a contemporary African dance workshop. His class was so well-received that Associate Professor Bridget Cauthery applied for a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council Knowledge Mobilization grant to bring Nikiéma back to York for a longer period.

Nikiéma’s creative work is informed by his deep knowledge of traditional West African dance forms, Acogny technique and by concepts from Western European concert dance. His choreography prioritizes ecological attunement to landscapes and to the non-human. Stating that “human beings have lost the true meaning of the term cohabitation with nature and its components,” Nikiéma’s new work for the York Dance Ensemble will respond to his concerns for environmental disaster.

In addition to the screening, there will be an artist discussion panel featuring four artists all originally from Africa, now living in the diaspora: Governor General’s Performing Arts Award-winner Zab Maboungou; Executive Director of the African Dance Ensemble Isaac Akrong; dancer Pulga Muchochoma; and Nikiéma. The event is sponsored by PUBLIC, the journal of arts, culture and ideas.

“This Department of Dance and Special Tubman Talk event presents an opportunity for African-based choreographers to define their approaches to creating, teaching and performance that cannot be reduced to normative definitions of traditional or contemporary dance,” says artist/scholar Collette “Coco” Murray, who will be moderating the discussion panel. “I look forward to having this important and far-reaching conversation with my colleagues.”

For more information and to register for this free event, follow this link: events.yorku.ca/events/maboungou-being-in-the-world-film-screening-artist-panel.

AMPD hosts event for budding art scholars

paint brushes

For the second year in a row, York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) has been chosen to host the only Ontario event for National Portfolio Day (NPD), which provides artistic high-school students the chance to meet with art and design schools from around the world, receive feedback on their portfolios and get tips on preparing a successful university application.

On Saturday, Nov. 4, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Centre for Fine Arts, nearly 30 art and design schools will be in attendance from across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. – including York’s Department of Design and the Department of Visual Art & Art History.

During the event, students will be given 10 to 15 minutes of one-on-one, face-to-face time with professional representatives of accredited colleges and universities and will receive valuable feedback ahead of submitting portfolios for enrolment consideration.

The portfolio reviews will not only provide students the opportunity to have up to 15 works reviewed, but will allow schools to inform prospective students of application requirements, as well as answer any questions about the availability of scholarships and financial aid.

The event – and hosting – furthers AMPD efforts to demonstrate its reputation as a leader in education in the arts, promote its programs and experiences to the community and prospective students, prepare youth for meaningful careers and long-term success, as well as recruit the next generation of AMPD students and artists who will create positive change through their work.

Hosting globally recognized organizations like NPD demonstrates AMPD’s reputation as a leader in arts, culture and design education, attracting and preparing top students for creative industry, research and professional opportunities in Canada, the U.S. and around the world.

To find out more about AMPD hosting National Portfolio Day, visit ampd.yorku.ca/npd.