Artistic Director & Founder
Marilyn York’s involvement in dance includes over 30 years of experience in all aspects of her field: performing, teaching, directing and choreography. She studied with the Washington School of Ballet, Capital Ballet Company, and was a dance major at Butler University. She studied jazz with Wally Saunders, Nilo Toledo, Bob Thoma, Luigi and Gus Giordano – and has developed her own unique style. She has performance experience with numerous Washington DC area theaters, dance companies, night clubs and festivals.
Marilyn currently teaches jazz and ballet at the Metropolitan School of the Arts in Alexandria/Kingstowne, The Center for Ballet Arts in Fairfax, Russell School of Ballet in Chantilly and The McLean Community Center. She is the inspiration behind, and the producer of the annual Jazz and Tap Dance Festival, coordinating the talents of several ensembles in the area into a fun and lively evening of superb jazz and tap dance entertainment. Her choreography has been selected three times for presentation at the Giordano Jazz Dance World Congress, as well as for several regional dance projects.
Marilyn York is committed to presenting the full range of what jazz and Broadway dance encompasses today. Her innovative choreography has something for everyone, ranging from the lighthearted “Who’s Got the Pain?” from Damn Yankees to the intense tribal work “Drum.” Her pieces are as timeless as they are as accessible to “your average person on the street.” She believes that jazz dance should be entertaining for its audiences and fulfilling for its performers. And the one thing Marilyn York is sure of is jazz dance is here to stay.
Who is Marilyn York? How did she get started?**
As the artistic director of Dancin’ Unlimited, Marilyn York has been bringing first class jazz dance to the Washington Metropolitan Area for over thirty years. Her experiences as an artistic director, performer, instructor and choreographer attest to her unwavering resolve. With her keen attention to detail and no-nonsense management style, York devotes herself to improving the quality and visibility of jazz dance.
Like many aspiring performers, York’s interest in dance was first sparked by the charm of classic Gene Kelly films. She began taking dance classes at age eleven in a satellite studio of the Washington Ballet. York studied ballet for nearly six years, until pure chance introduced her to the dance style that would become her passion. When York was seventeen, the Washington Ballet’s main studio offered a jazz master class taught by choreographer Wally Saunders, a Baltimore native. York took the class on a whim, and found that the movement came naturally.
After that first fateful class, York jumped at every opportunity to further her jazz dance education. In addition to Saunders, York trained with Nilo Toledo in Georgetown, as well as jazz icons Gus Giordano, Luigi, Frank Hatchett, and Phil Cole. She even attended the first Jazz Dance World Congress in 1990, where she was able to fully immerse herself in the unique form that she had quickly grown to love.
In the mid-1970s, York started doing guest performances for a local nonprofit group called the Dance Theatre Company of Northern Virginia. When director Robert Thoma left the company in 1976, he offered York the chance to take over his position. York accepted the directorship and changed the name to Virginia Jazz Theatre and later Dancin’ Unlimited. In the process, she took on a challenging trifecta of responsibilities: directing, choreographing and performing in her own company.
** These are sections of a recent article published by Fairfax Woman magazine, “Northern Virginia’s Jazz Dance Treasure,” January/February 2011, by Sarah Anne Sillers.
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