young dance collective

young dance collective (YDC) was founded in 2001. Now in it’s second generation, YDC joins cullen+them as the professional dance company in cullen+them’s program for young people. It is a socially-conscious performance group for young people that is entirely devoted to the artistic growth and exploration of its members.

YDC explores the history and future of dance as an art form while discovering what motivates us to create movement. The mission is to foster the growth of balanced individuals who think critically about their lives, their art, and the world around them.

Movement breaks through all kinds of boundaries in a way that other art forms do not. By nature it is collaborative - the young dancers have to cooperate, they get close, they build trust. Beyond this, in YDC they are encouraged toward discussion with one another, and are guided in conversation by an adult who asks them what they think. This pushes them to question and understand how they can express their thoughts through the art of movement. We believe this makes YDC unique.

We have many different ways for young people to engage with cullen+them. For more information and upcoming opportunities, please subscribe to our newsletter or send us an email.

the work.

company members

Liam Mackenzie

Liam Mackenzie has been a member of YDC for five years. He currently is a senior at the Packer Collegiate Institute, and is enrolled as a student at Wesleyan University. He is a dancer, performer, activist, student, activist, and fashion enthusiast. He is signed with IMG Models worldwide, and is interested in pursuing a career in film or fashion with a focus on redefining gender through art. While he has lived in NYC for 7 years, he considers himself bicoastal, as he grew up in Los Angeles until the age of 10.

Mieke Matteson

Mieke Matteson is 17 years old and is happy to be enrolled as a dance major at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High school. Matteson has been dancing for five years now and is excited to continue her training throughout high school. She has been in Young Dance Collective for five years and has learned a lot from her experience. The mindset that YDC fosters has shaped Mieke into the person she is in the studio as well as in everyday life. YDC provides her with the opportunity to get all her artistic ideas out through movement and speech. Overall, Mieke has gained knowledge, creativity and love through the people and experience of Young Dance Collective.

Nyah Raposo

Nyah Raposo was born and raised in Brooklyn. She is 16 years old and is currently in the 11th grade. Nyah has been studying acting at LaGuardia High School for the past three years, and will graduate in 2023. Nyah has had a creative movement practice since she was able to balance. She enjoys reading, spending time at the beach, and cycling. Nyah has a passion for science as well as an appreciation for theater, history, and film. After many years of begging and convincing, she finally was able to adopt a puppy during covid. Thanks to the wave of covid puppy fever, she has now acquired a new best friend. More than anything else, she looks forward to meeting with Young Dance Collective (YDC). Nyah is a founding member of the second generation and has been a part of YDC for 9 years.
       Being a part of YDC for over half of her life, Nyah has had the opportunity to create freely with the support of other young artists who have grown to be her closest of friends. Through creating movement together, Nyah has deepened her understanding of what it means to work collaboratively as a young artist. Her connection to the work continues to strengthen and being professionally guided throughout the process has been an invaluable experience.

Pilot Roberts

Pilot Roberts is a 17 year old junior attending Saint Ann’s School. He has lived in Manhattan all his life and is a natural-born city kid. Pilot has an interest in fashion and styling and has spent a lot of time pursuing this passion. He also has grown a strong interest for visual arts in the form of drawing, photography, and filmmaking. He feels like the most important thing in life is to have fun and be your truest self despite societal pressures to do otherwise.
      The reason Pilot joined YDC is because he feels like the community there is so strong and everyone is so unique and accepting. Being in Young Dance Collective has shown Pilot a different and more creative sense of dance. Pilot did not dance before YDC because he didn’t feel like he wanted to be held to such strict guidelines, but in YDC he feels that there are no borders and that you learn and teach with other artists your age. He feels as if YDC has shaped him into the person he is today. Pilot’s experience with YDC is not only about dance but also about community. Along with composition and choreography, there is also room for play and innovation. YDC is Pilot’s home away from home. He feels like anyone can be who they want to be in the YDC family.

Beatrice White

Beatrice White is currently a junior at Grace Church School. Although she is born and Raised in Brooklyn, she has a passion for the outdoors, in addition to dancing, writing, literature and performing. Outside of school and YDC, Beatrice is signed and works with SYSTEM agency, takes on sewing and art projects, and explores the city. Dance wise, She has been a ballet student for seven years, first at the school of American Ballet, then for five years at American Ballet Theater (ABT).
      She is honored and proud to be a part of the YDC family: a deeply special, supportive and unique environment. YDC is a place where Beatrice can thrive and foster her creativity amongst her company members and best friends. This is her 8th year with the company and she couldn’t be more excited for the final show in May.

the first generation

The first generation YDC members, Founded in 2001 by then artistic director Kim Cullen, created collaborative work over an intensive period that spanned 10 years. The images in this gallery are from a work called “Sunday” which was the final piece of the first generation.

“Our discussions – every Sunday for the past decade – transform into our art. As we dance, we continually react to, and interact with the world around us – all while supporting one another, existing in the moment, sharing a common identity and purpose, and diving into the core of the struggles and pressures we face and the joys we share.”

—1st Generation of YDC, 2012


Hannah Cullen

Hannah Cullen is a New York based choreographer, writer and director. She holds a BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and is the founder of cullen+them. Before attending Tisch, Hannah studied at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and was a founding member of the collaborative, choreographic company Young Dance Collective. In her early career, Hannah worked with choreographers and artists including Pascal Rioult, Johannes Wieland, Larry Keigwin, Gus Solomon’s Jr. and Noémie Lafrance. She wrote and choreographed her first evening length work in 2015, which also marked the formation of cullen+them.

Hannah presides as artistic director of cullen+them, running the adult performing ensemble, the youth performing group Young Dance Collective, as well as the newest collaborative group, Young Them. Hannah has created and directed five evening length live performances with the company, and is in the process of creating cullen+them's first narrative dance film about the impact of technology on interpersonal relationships. Little Boxes is currently in post-production and set to premiere in 2023.

In addition to her work with the company, Hannah works as a director and choreographer for both live performance and for camera. Since 2019 she has collaborated with NYC composer and performance artist Mur, working on live musicals and films. Hannah also creates music and composed the score for young dance collective’s Everything I Was Never Taught as well as their upcoming work, forever for now.

Sophia Orlow

Sophia Orlow enjoys modern dance because she feels it is the most expressive, sophisticated and creative form of movement. By choreographing her own work, she gets the opportunity to give form to and express her ideas. She takes class at The Arts Students League of New York as a big part of her life, besides dancing, is art – especially drawing. She has also been working with dance teacher Ellen Robbins at Dance Theater Workshop for the past five years. Sophia is a founding member of the young dance collective. She (still) really wants a dog. (ca.2012)

Lev Ratnofsky

Lev Ratnofsky is 17 years old and has been with young dance collective since 2004. He dances at the Peridance Capezio Center and has been a member of the Peridance Youth Ensemble since 2008. He has worked with choreographers such as Diego Funes, Sean Curran, Amy Marshall, Max Stone, Hernando Cortes, and Greg Dolbasian. Lev loves the performance opportunities he has been given as a YDC member including Agora with Noemie LaFrance, and Bolero with Keigwin + Company. He is looking to study government in university while continuing to dance and choreograph. (ca.2012)

Isa Reisner

At 17, Isa Reisner has spent the majority of her life exploring self expression through various media, the most consistent of which has been choreography and dance. As a founding member of young dance collective, she’s choreographed and performed in numerous pieces over the years, as well as collaborating with various artists including Noemie Lafrance and Larry Keigwin. Constantly intrigued by the vast possibility for movement and interaction, Isa has found a perfect canvas for creation in YDC.

Isa further studies choreography through a selective program at The Dalton School. Besides YDC and this program, Isa has choreographed high school musicals and teaches dance classes at her school on a regular basis. In addition to dancing, Isa spends much of her free time drawing and watercoloring as well as reading and writing poetry. (ca. 2012)

Kassandra Thatcher

At 17, Kassandra is already a veteran of the dance scene, having spent the last nine years as a part of the young dance collective, where she has performed in solo pieces, in duets, and as part of original pieces with the entire company — often choreographed by the group itself, or by herself or with one of her fellow dancers. In addition, she has been invited to perform in original works by celebrated modern choreographers like Larry Keigwin and Noemie LaFrance.

She is passionate about all forms of dance, and loves the opportunity creative movement gives her “to express who I am… I feel free and happy when I’m dancing.” Her study of jazz and hip hop dance with Julie Garfolo at Broadway Dance Center has helped her refine both her style and technique, and she continues to grow and take risks in her work.

But dance isn’t where Kassandra’s life as an artist ends: currently, she is studying voice and song writing with Cari Cole at Cari Cole Voice Studios, and guitar with Jeff McErlain. She also takes advanced ceramic and studio art courses at her high school.

Finally, Kassandra is pursuing her passion for writing, most recently through participation in the pre-college creative writing program at Columbia University. She sees creative writing as an opportunity to weave together all the threads of her personal expression, from studio art, to music and songwriting, to dance and performance art. (ca. 2012)

Kalei Tooman

Kalei Tooman came to dance through Elizabeth Streb at the STREB Lab for Action Mechanics where he has been a “pop action hero” as a member of the KidSTREB Company for six seasons. He is a member of the dance program at the Beacon School where he is a student. Kalei likes the energy and strength of modern dance and believes that dance helps him express his unique life experience. When he is not dancing, Kalei enjoys creating stop motion videos, playing guitar, playing sports and traveling, especially to Hawaii, where he goes deep-sea fishing with his grandfather. Kalei is fifteen years old and is the newest member of the company. (ca. 2012)

Cosmo Scharf

Cosmo Scharf is the co-founder of VRLA, the world’s largest VR & AR expo. He’s also the co-founder of Mindshow, an app that lets you create animated movies in VR you can share with friends. Cosmo aims to make the world more positive and creative through immersive technology.