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Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Barbara Sellers-Young receives international award

Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Barbara Sellers-Young receives international award

There are many awards for personal achievement, ranging from the most valuable player in an amateur sports team to the Nobel Prize. Such achievements, big or small, rarely happen without the encouragement and assistance of a myriad of people behind the scenes.

Researcher, author, educator and academic administrator Barbara Sellers-Young (right) , dean of York's Faculty of Fine Arts, was invited into the spotlight Nov. 18 to accept the Dixie Durr Award for Outstanding Service to Dance Research, given by the international Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) at a special reception during CORD’s 2011 annual conference, Moving Music/Sounding Dance, a joint presentation with the Society for Ethnomusicology, held in Philadelphia, PA.

Named after a long-serving member of the CORD board, the Dixie Durr Award acknowledges the “superlative labour” and “indispensable aid” rendered by the honouree in the field of dance studies. It recognizes the recipient’s exceptional contributions to research infrastructure and support, which may take many forms such as facilitating the operational efficiency of professional organizations or access to archives and collections, or advancing grantsmanship or publication processes. 

Sellers-Young’s nominator, University of Washington Dance Professor Juliet McMains, introduced her at the reception. “One of the only dance scholars to have reached the rank of dean, Barbara [Sellers-Young] serves the field of dance studies by representing us brilliantly in the upper ranks of university administration,” said McMains. “Beyond raising awareness of and respect for dance scholarship through her high-profile leadership positions, she advances the field through her forward-thinking interdisciplinary efforts.

“Barbara is deserving of this award for service to dance scholarship not only because of her work in key organizations, but also because she mentors and inspires others who serve the field. In so doing, she is of highest service as a key force in nurturing the next generation of dance scholars and leaders.”

Sellers-Young herself is a past president of CORD, with a decade of service as a member of the board of directors. "When I attended my fist CORD meeting in 1982, it was the only dance organization of its kind,” she said. “Thanks in part to CORD, the field of dance studies has since grown a great deal, and many other associations have been established to support its advancement. But throughout all this, CORD has maintained its international importance.”

Above: From left, Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Barbara Sellers-Young, University of California Professor Anthony Shay, York Professors Patrick Alcedo and Danielle Robinson, and University of Washington Dance Professor Juliet McMains

During her tenure on CORD’s board, she had the pleasure of serving alongside Dixie Durr (1940-2007), a renowned scholar and pioneer in dance education. “Dixie was truly a remarkable human being,” said Sellers-Young. “She deeply believed in the importance of dance research and what it offers to society at large. She had openness to new ideas as well as a respect for the past which gave her an uncommon understanding of where dance research has gone and where it is going. Dixie’s openness and expansiveness of mind contributed to CORD and to the field on an international scale, through her own research and the lengths she would go to facilitate the work of others.

“I cannot think of a greater honour than to be given an award in her name,” said Sellers-Young.

While Sellers-Young has completed her service on the board of CORD, her colleagues in York’s Department of Dance have been following in her footsteps. Professor Patrick Alcedo served as co-chair of CORD’s awards committee this year, and Professor Danielle Robinson chaired the 2011 conference.

A number of York scholars were featured presenters at Moving Music/Sounding Dance, which took place Nov. 17 to 20. Sellers-Young spoke on “Being an Arts Dean in Today's University” as part of the plenary panel. Alcedo delivered a paper on his ongoing research into the Filipino Ati-Atihan Festival (see YFile, Jan. 8, 2010). Dance Professor Mary Fogarty spoke on urban dance practices, faculty members Brigitte Cauthery and Shawn Newman discussed interdisciplinary creator Meredith Monk and sexuality in jazz dance, respectively. Graduate dance students Evadne Kelly, Cheryl la France and Shae Neuman presented their own research. 

Professor Louise Wrazen, chair of York’s Department of Music, discussed music through the Canadian immigrant experience in a talk titled “The Displaced Voice: Assertions of Selfhood and Belonging Amidst Change”. Other contributors from York’s music department were faculty members Judith Cohen, who spoke on gender roles in rural Portuguese play-party dances, and Kim Chow-Morris, who shared her research on Chinese musical practice in the Canadian diaspora. Graduate students Mike Anklewicz, Jesse Feyen, Rachel Muehrer and Vivia Keiswetter also presented papers at the conference.

More about the international Congress on Research in Dance

Founded in 1964, CORD fosters an international community of current and future dance leaders through mentorship, advocacy and outreach. It is dedicated to providing opportunities for dance professionals from a broad range of specialties to exchange ideas, resources and methodologies through publications, workshops, and regional and international conferences.

CORD publishes the biannual Dance Research Journal, widely considered the leading publication in its field. The quality of the journal and the organization’s international reach were what drew Sellers-Young to participate.

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