Yorke Dance Project presents UK Premiere of California Connections

Yorke Dance Project presents UK Premiere of California Connections

Yorke Dance Project, the contemporary ballet company run by Yolande Yorke-Edgell, will give the world premiere of a new mixed bill, California ConnectionsThree Pioneering Women, at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds on Thursday 23 November before a UK tour in autumn 2023 and spring 2024.

California Connections: Three Pioneering Women pays tribute to three extraordinary female choreographers from the US: Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham and Bella Lewitzky. Yorke Dance Project was itself founded in Los Angeles, a city seen by many as the birthplace of American modern dance.

Kenneth MacMillan’s three-act ballet Isadora, created for The Royal Ballet in 1981, captured the life of San Francisco native Isadora Duncan. Now Yorke Dance Project, Yolande Yorke-Edgell and Lady Deborah MacMillan have distilled the original into a new one-act chamber work which explores the conflict between Isadora’s search for love and her mission to revolutionise the art of dance.

Martha Graham spent her formative years in Santa Barbara, California where she was first introduced to dance. Her 1947 masterpiece Errand into the Maze is a duet based on the legends of Ariadne, Theseus and the Minotaur. Influenced by the theories of the psychologist Carl Jung and set to a score by Gian Carlo Menotti, it confronts human fear and explores sexual power struggles. Laurel Dalley Smith, a former member of Yorke Dance Project and now dancing with the Martha Graham Dance Company, will make a guest appearance in the work at its Leeds premiere.

In Bella Lewitzky’s boldly sculptural and physically demanding Meta 4, four dancers perform four movements to an original score for string quartet by Robert Xavier Rodriguez. The solo from Lewitzky’s Suite Satie, set to Eik Satie’s Gymnopédie No 1, is another perfect example of Lewitzky’s sculptural style of movement. Yolande Yorke-Edgell danced with Bella Lewitzky from 1994 to 1998 when Lewitzky retired and disbanded her company.

The Yorke Dance Project dancers are Luke Ahmet, Abigail Attard Montalto, Eric Caterer, Ellie Ferguson, Jenny Hayes, Dane Hurst (in 2024) Edd Mitton, Pierre Tappon, Amy Thake, Harry Wilson and, for the Leeds premiere, guest artist Laurel Dalley Smith.

These performances of Errand into the Maze, which is being seen in the UK for the first time in 20 years, are part of a three-year centennial celebration of Martha Graham Dance Company which turns 100 in 2026.

In autumn 2023 Yorke Dance Project will also be presenting screenings of the company’s film of Kenneth MacMillan’s Sea of Troubles and performing excerpts from California Connections as part of Ballet Nights, compered evenings of classical ballet, neo-classical and contemporary dance.

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