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

Fiona Jarvis

Fiona Jarvis has been in Young Dance Collective for 7 years, and is one of the founding members of the second generation. She’s 15 years old and attends Columbia Secondary High School. Fiona is a passionate activist who works closely with the climate justice movement Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion. She also enjoys making art and jewelry. Her time at YDC has allowed her to express powerful messages through physical representation.

Liam Mackenzie

Liam Wilson Mackenzie is an aspiring young artist living in New York City! He’s in his sophomore year of high school at the Packer Collegiate Institute. Liam has been a member of the Young Dance Collective for two and a half years. Throughout this time, he has learned to speak with his body, finessing a sense of his own movement style. Liam has also studied ballet at New York Theatre Ballet’s Young Artists Division. He has trained and performed at The American Dance Festival at Duke University for 2 summers, and has studied and performed with Earl Mosley’s Hearts of Men at Alvin Ailey.

Liam is not only a dancer and performer, but an advocate for human rights and social justice. He expresses his passion towards continuing the conversation of race inequality, gender inequality, and homophobia through dance and writing. In Young Dance Collective’s upcoming show, Everything I Was Never Taught, Liam will dance and speak his own experiences of inequality.

Mieke Matteson

Mieke Matteson is 14 years old and a Freshman at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Mieke loves to be outside and observe things that might give her new ideas for a work of art or even a story. She cares deeply about other people’s feelings and tends to take into account how people might be affected by her actions. She loves to read, write, and tire out her imagination. Mieke joined Young Dance Collective in 2017. Mieke looks forward to YDC rehearsals and spending time with her community there. Her time spent working with YDC provides her with the opportunity to get all her energy out in an artistic and creative way. 

Nyah Raposo

Nyah Raposo was born and raised in Brooklyn. She is 14 years old and is in the 9th grade, and is attending Fiorello LaGuardia high school for Theater. Nyah has had a creative movement practice since she was able to stand and balance. She enjoys walking to Sunset park and watching the beautiful sunset. Nyah loves math, science, reading, the arts, and especially her acting classes and musical theater. 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 7 years.

Being a part of YDC over the past 7 years has given Nyah an opportunity to create freely and at the same time support and be supported by other young artists. 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 15 year old 9th grader attending Saint Ann’s High 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 wishes to pursue styling in the future. He also has grown a strong interest for visual arts in the form of drawings and photography. He feels like the most important thing in life is to have fun and be who you want to be no matter what others think of you.

Pilot joined Young Dance Collective in 2017 and has since gained a different and more creative sense of dance. Before, Pilot didn’t dance because he didn’t want to be placed in strict guidelines, but in YDC he feels that there are no borders and that you can learn and teach with other artists your age. Along with composition and choreography, there is also room for play and innovation. For Pilot, being a member of YDC and cullen+them is not only about dance, but also about community. He joined the company because he felt like the community there was so strong and that everyone was so unique and accepting. YDC is Pilot’s home away from home. He feels like anyone can be who they want to be in the cullen+them/YDC family.

Beatrice White

Beatrice White has been in young dance collective for 5 years. She is a 9th grader at the Grace Church School in Astor place. She has lived in Greenpoint Brooklyn all of her life and enjoys biking around the neighborhood, shopping at the thrift stores and walking down to the east river’s edge. She loves musical theater, writing, playing tennis, and dancing. Beatrice is in the Glee club, on the fencing team and is starting a climate justice team at her school. She cares deeply about the environment and social justice.

Beatrice has been dancing since she was three years old. First she took ballet classes at Peridance, then at the School of American Ballet, and then when she was 9, she started dancing at the American Ballet Theater. Beatrice joined YDC in 2015, and it has been a dream for her to continue the journey.

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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 native New Yorker and lifelong choreographer. She creates work that incorporates movement, writing, and social activism and has a BFA in Dance from NYU/Tisch School of The Arts. Before attending Tisch, Hannah studied at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in the pre-professional program and was a founding member of the collaborative, choreographic company Young Dance Collective. At NYU/Tisch, Hannah performed works by Pamela Pietro, Deborah Jowitt, Cora Bos Kroese, Bill T. Jones, was in the Cunningham Event set by Rashaun Mitchell and showed a number of her own works. Hannah has also performed in works by Pascal Rioult, Johannes Wieland, Larry Keigwin, and Noémie Lafrance.

Hannah’s first evening length work, Us, Me, They, She, tackled gendered inequality as it pertains to both women and men, exploring the ways in which expectations associated with gender influence and affect our individual identity, and how that in turn affects the way we view women in our society. Currently, Hannah is writing and rehearsing a new piece that explores the ways in which fear and memory root inequality in our minds. Hannah’s work focuses on social justice issues, utilizes movement and spoken word as the main mediums, falls somewhere between the highly physical and the highly pedestrian and is meant to connect communities.

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.