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York students, faculty contribute artistry to Vancouver Olympics

York students, faculty contribute artistry to Vancouver Olympics

Research at York is broader than books, journal articles, scientific findings or data sets. In the Faculty of Fine Arts, research can result in a dance, piece of music, or animation fit for the world stage.

While the athletes and competitive games are the major focus of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the York fine arts star is also shining brightly in Vancouver. From the opening ceremonies to national broadcasts and more, York artists will be in the spotlight leading up to and during the Olympic Games, which start today and run to Feb. 28.

Graduate dance student Alejandro Ronceria, who choreographed Toronto’s torch ceremony (see YFile, Dec. 7, 2009), was invited to serve as one of the choreographers on the artistic team for the official opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. He was also commissioned by the Council of Yukon First Nations to create a showcase performance, featuring more than 30 Yukon artists, to be presented at several venues during the Games.

Right: Alejandro Ronceria

“The opening ceremonies are beyond top secret,” says Ronceria, who is studying choreography and dance dramaturgy in York's new MFA Program in Dance. “But I can say what a tremendous honour it is to be selected to participate in their creation, and that it’s going to be a fantastic show.

“Working on the Yukon project is equally exhilarating, as it’s my own vision bringing it together,” Ronceria says. “The production will present the best traditional and contemporary arts and artists of the territory. Interweaving music, dance and storytelling against the landscape of the Yukon, it will be a powerful visual and sound experience.”

Lauren O'Neill White, a fourth-year student in York’s undergraduate dance program, is performing in the Olympics’ closing ceremonies. She is one of about a thousand dancers selected from more than 10,000 online applicants. "I'm thrilled for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she says. "It's been a roller-coaster ride."

Left: Lauren O'Neill White

O’Neill White has been in Vancouver for rehearsals since December (with a two-week break for the Christmas holidays). The work is very intensive: rehearsals started with four-hour sessions daily, escalating to full-day rehearsals as the big day gets closer.

With her three-month stint on the West Coast, O’Neill White is completing her final semester by correspondence and an independent study on the Olympic ceremonies. Outside of rehearsal she is keeping very busy with dance classes, her studies and making friends.

“This truly is a unique and phenomenal way to meet people,” O’Neill White says. “Everybody at rehearsal comes from such different backgrounds, and we all merge in this huge space with the one common interest of performing. It's great.”

Participating in the Olympics in a very different creative capacity is alumnus Felix Lau (BDes Spec. Hons. ’09). He was hired by CTV as a junior motion designer shortly after graduation, and has been working on animated graphics for the Olympics since he started on the job in mid-August.

Right: Felix Lau

Lau has moved from strength to strength since last summer, when he picked up two Applied Arts Student Awards in the online animation category as well as the CTV Creative Agency Award for Motion Graphics Design in the Registered Graphic Design Ontario Student Member Awards (see YFile, Sept. 3, 2009).

“So far I’ve worked on two styles of segments [for the Olympics],” says Lau. “The athlete features are 30 seconds in length and use shots of the athletes in action while an announcer reads their accomplishments in a voice-over. The other segments are the mini-opens, which are only 10 seconds in length and use both video and still images to create an interesting visual break between regular programming.”

Like many Olympians, Lau is part of a team in his endeavour. “There are at least 15 people working on the massive Olympics design project at any given time, and more people are allocated when the need arises,” he says.

Some segments Lau has worked on are already being aired, but others won’t be seen until the Olympic Winter Games start.

The Olympics may also feature York music talent. Canadian figure skaters Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier set their short program at the national competition in London, Ontario – which placed second overall and qualified them for the Olympics – to En Malaga, a dramatic and lyrical flamenco score composed and performed by Department of Music faculty member Roger Scannura.

Right: Roger Scannura

“I’m positive they will use the same routine for the Olympics,” says Scannura. “While I didn’t originally compose the song for them, it’s wonderful to see how they are using my music, and where it’s going.”

With six CDs to his credit, Scannura is an internationally recognized flamenco guitarist. This is not the first time his music has been connected to top-level athleticism: Nike used one of his songs for a World Cup commercial in 2006.

Alumna Jennifer Jimenez (BFA Spec. Hons & BEd ’99) is the lighting designer for the Cultural Olympiad remount of the Judith Thompson play Body & Soul, which debuted yesterday and will continue until Feb. 17 at Vancouver's Firehall Arts Centre.

Right: A scene from Body & Soul

An international theatre maker and facilitator, Jimenez has designed lighting for projects with numerous UK companies including Circus Space, the Bath International Puppetry Festival and Arcola Theatre. Her recent Canadian credits include lighting design for The President in the Shaw Festival’s 2008 season and working with Robert Lepage’s company, Ex Machina, on the creation of Le Projet Anderson and The Busker's Opera. She currently works as resident lighting designer for Tottering Biped Theatre.

On the stage and behind the scenes, the Olympics allow more than just athletes to demonstrate their excellence. Follow all the festivities and events on the Vancover2010 Games Web site.

Republished courtesy of YFile – York University’s daily e-bulletin.