Recognized as ‘one of the foremost dance artists in the country’ (The Dance Current), Julia Sasso is an established choreographer, performer, master teacher and artistic mentor. Sasso began dancing in 1960 in Detroit where she trained with Cecchetti ballet master, Rose Marie Floyd. In her teens she was a scholarship student at the Joffrey Ballet School and an apprentice with the Harkness Ballet both, in New York City. Her artistry has since been shaped by curiosity, inquiry, experimentation and investment in a variety of practices including the Skinner Releasing Technique™, improvisation, theatre, voice, Pilates, ballet and contemporary movement techniques.
Sasso performed internationally with Toronto’s Dancemakers (1984-2000) and was the company’s Assistant Artistic Director and principal teacher for a dozen years. With Dancemakers she was a featured performer in original works and repertoire by Carol Anderson, Serge Bennathan, Anna Blewchamp, Christopher House, James Kudelka, Bill James, Lar Lubovitch, Jean-Pierre Perreault and Doug Varone among others. She has appeared as a guest artist with the companies of Toronto Dance Theatre and Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers and in the work of many notable independent choreographers including Sarah Chase, Murray Darroch, Sasha Ivanochko and Claudia Moore. ‘one of perhaps a dozen contemporary modern dancers in Canada who is simply breathtaking in motion.’ (The Ottawa Citizen), Sasso continues to perform her own works and in those of others.
Sasso choreographs extensively for the concert stage as well as for feature film, theatre and television. Her choreography has been commissioned and presented throughout Canada, in the United States and abroad by Harbourfront Centre, the Canada Dance Festival, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada, Toronto Dance Theatre, Dancemakers, Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, DanceWorks, Dancing on the Edge, Workshop Foundation and Monika Laszlo (Hungary), Gearshifting Performance Works, Crooked Figure Dances, Four Chambers Dance Projects, HOWDARESHE productions, Contemporary Civic Ballet, du Maurier World Stage, Tarragon Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, Theatre Centre, Factory Theatre, Dancers for Life, Peterborough New Dance and Edward Day Gallery among others. Her contribution to theatre and dancemaking in Toronto has been acknowledged with eight Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations. Sasso has created choreography for all of Canada’s professional contemporary dance conservatories and since 1995 has created numerous pieces for The School of Toronto Dance Theatre’s Professional Training Program.
SPORTING LIFE (1996) was supported by a CanDance Network Creation Fund commission and presented in Ottawa and Toronto. MAA (1998), an international co-production between Canada, Mexico and the United States was commissioned by the PanAmerican New Creation Series. Co-commissioned by Harbourfront Centre, the Canada Dance Festival and Nightswimming in 2002, Beauty was Harbourfront Centre’s first dance commission in more than a decade. Sasso has collaborated on a number of projects with the developmental theatre company Nightswimming including Brian Quirt’s stage adaptation of Jane Urquhart’s, The Whirlpool (2000), Beauty (2003), Andrew Massingham’s award winning solo show Rough House (2005) and the betrayal project (2006). She created choreography for the Volcano/Art of Time Ensemble’s award winning production of Mauricio Kaegel’s,Variété (2004). In 2005 she trained and coached the company and created movement for Peter Hinton’s acclaimed production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada. In 2009 Sasso choreographed and directed the international co-production (Hungary, Slovakia, Canada and Czech Republic)Túl a folyón (Beyond the River) which was presented at Hungary’s National Dance Theatre (Budapest) and in Bratislava, Slovakia. Sasso created choreography for the feature films, Boy Meets Girl (1998) and The Life Before This (1999). Film treatments of her pieces SPORTING LIFE, DUST, SCHMERZEN (IN THE HOTHOUSE) and It was like this have been screened on television and at film festivals world wide. She created choreography for the hit HBO television series, Queer as Folk.
Launched in 2000, Julia Sasso dances is a vehicle for Sasso’s striking ensemble creations. Celebrated by audiences and critics alike for the virtuosity of both the choreography and its execution, outstanding full-length company productions include Beauty (2003), the betrayal project (2006) and Túl a folyón/Beyond the River (2009).
Highly regarded as a teacher of contemporary dance techniques, Sasso teaches at distinguished learning centres worldwide. She is a faculty member of The School of Toronto Dance Theatre’s Professional Training Program and York University’s Department of Dance where she has designed and delivered courses in Composition, Choreography, Improvisation, Repertory and Contemporary Dance Techniques at both the Graduate and Undergraduate levels. Sasso is an internationally Certified Teacher of the Skinner Releasing Technique™ and one of Canada’s few active certified facilitators. Sasso regularly and increasingly acts as an artistic mentor, dramaturge and rehearsal director supporting myriad movement related projects.
Sasso’s work has been recognized and honoured with awards, grants, scholarships and bursaries from among others, the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, CanDance Network, Chalmers Foundation, Laidlaw Foundation, Canadian Women’s Foundation, Metcalf Foundation, John McKellar Foundation, Dancers Transition Resource Centre (DTRC), Skinner Releasing Institute, York University, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Royal Winnipeg Ballet Professional Program, Joffrey Ballet School, Harkness Ballet and The Cecchetti Council of America. Her biography is included in Who’s Who of Canadian Women (University of Toronto Press Inc.).
An advocate and activist for the advancement of the art form locally, nationally and internationally, Sasso is a member of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists (CADA), Canadian Dance Assembly (CDA), DTRC, Dance Ontario, Toronto Arts Coalition and Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS). She served as co-chair of the Dancers for Life Organizing Committee, has served on numerous boards, juries and advisory panels and lends mentorship and support to countless dance related initiatives.