Local dancers picked for WNY Choreographers’ Initiative

Messenger Post Media
Monroe County Post

Two Rochester choreographers were selected for the Western New York Choreographers’ Initiative 2021, a funding opportunity administered by the New York State DanceForce in partnership with the New York State Council on the Arts.

Zachary Frazee and Ruben Ornelas will receive 24 hours of creative time, access to professional dancers, guidance of a mentor of their choice and a $2,500 stipend. 

The WNY Choreographers’ Initiative is designed to help resident choreographers develop their skills by providing resources to advance their creative practice. The 2021 Selection Committee members were Caren Calder, Ananya Chatterjea, Margarita Espada, Remi Harris and Toni Smith.

Frazee received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from the College at Brockport. He/They is owner and artistic director of Frazee Feet Dance, a contemporary dance company dedicated to creating and performing original works throughout the Rochester area and beyond. Frazee also is a photographer and recently started his own photography business, ZJFrazee Photography.

Frazee performs with companies such as the New York State Ballet, BIODANCE, electricGrit Dance, Saratoga City Ballet, Project 44 and Bill Evans Dance. He/They created over 40 original works over the past several years as a choreographer. 

Frazee enjoys creating work that draws upon his classical ballet and modern dance backgrounds, creating an aesthetic that is fluid, virtuosic and musically driven. He/They is passionate about creating work that breaks down gender roles with the intention of creating dances that are gender inclusive, equitable and accessible to dancers and audience members.

Zachary Frazee.

Ornelas’ choreography springs from the intersection of contemporary dance, theater and Latinx culture. As a dance maker, he is interested in exploring the relationship between choreography, improvisation and text. Ornelas created dances to the poems of Chicano poets Joaquin Zihuatanejo, Eduardo Corral, Luis Alberto Urrea and José Olivarez. He recently choreographed a dance to the music of the Mexican American composer Carlos Sanchez Gutierrez.  

Ornelas holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from the Juilliard School in New York City and a Master of Fine Arts in dance from the University of Michigan. He taught dance at K-12 public schools, community colleges, universities and professional schools in the Americas, Europe and East Africa. He was a Fulbright specialist to Mexico and Guatemala, an artist-in-residence at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in New Mexico and is co-coordinator of the annual Dances at MuCCC Festival in Rochester.

Ruben Ornelas.

Visit danceforce.org for information.