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 is one of the oldest founding members of Young Dance Collective! She has been performing and creating with the company for 6 years now and is excited to continue her journey for the upcoming year. She is 14 years old and is a Freshman at Columbia Secondary School. She enjoys making art (drawing), partaking in youth activism, and playing her ukulele. 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 the New York City dream. He’s in his freshman year at the Packer Collegiate Institute. Having been a passionate member of the the Young Dance Collective community and ensemble since eighth grade, he has finessed a sense of his own body and movement style. Liam also studies ballet four days a week at New York Theatre Ballet’s Young Artists Division. This last summer, he trained at The American Dance Festival at Duke University.
     While Liam relishes in the power and beauty of movement and physical activity, his number one priority is to better the lives of those oppressed. Liam participates in Model Congress and is always an active and engaged fighter when it comes to the political structure of our nation. Liam works every Saturday at a neighborhood shop down the street, and has been an avid participant in the Thalia Book Club at Symphony Space for over six years. This young man has been moving, exploring, and working hard since the moment he emerged from his mother’s womb!

Mieke Matteson

Mieke Matteson is 13 years old and is happy to be enrolled in the Institute for Collaborative Education. She loves to read, write, and tire out her imagination. Mieke loves to be outside and observe things that might give her new ideas for a work of art or even a story. Mieke cares deeply about other people’s feelings and always takes into account how people will be affected by her actions. She is a thoughtful and generous person.
     Mieke has been in Young Dance Collective for almost two years now and is enjoying herself greatly. She is energetic and active, always taking chances to intensify her activity. YDC provides her with the opportunity to get all her energy out in an artistic and creative way. YDC makes her excited and she always can’t wait to go to rehearsal!

Nyah Raposo

Nyah Raposo was born and raised in Brooklyn. She is 13 years old and is currently in the 8th grade. Nyah has had a creative movement practice since she was able to stand and balance. She enjoys spending time at Sean Casey, a no-kill shelter in her neighborhood and hopes to own her own dog someday. Nyah loves math, science, reading, the arts, and especially 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 6 years.
     Being a part of YDC over the past 6 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 14 year old 8th grader. attending Blue School’s Middle 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.
     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 in such strict guidelines, but in YDC he feels that there are no borders and that you learn and teach with other artists your age. Pilot feels that 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 a eighth grader at Blue school. She loves writing, reading, singing, acting and dancing. Although she was born and raised in the city, she loves the outdoors. She has been ballet student for seven years, first at the school of American Ballet, then for five years at American Ballet Theater (ABT).

     She is an adventurous, sensitive, passionate girl, who likes nothing more than being onstage. She is honored and proud to be a part of YDC because it is a supportive, special, unique environment where she is most herself. This is her 4th year with the company.

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.