William Yong is currently the artistic director of Zata Omm - Zen And The Actualization Of Modern Movement (www.zataomm.org) - based in Toronto. He has spent the past decade breaking new ground by collaborating with scientists, artists, and engineers in bold and innovative ways to re-imagine dance for our technological age. He has made the dance organization a site for research focussing on the integration of dance, technology and broader culture. A major dance critic hails his work “…It shows Yong going where no Canadian choreographer before him has gone before…so much originality…”. He has created many choreographic works for the company including the latest full-length productions Steer. Critics hailed Steer as “It is spell-binding, disturbing, fascinating, provocative, and profound theatre. (Lighting and Sound America Magazine). “Otherworldly, impossibly beautiful. These are unknown compounds creating a new universe.” (Blue Ceiling Dance).
His first passion was music. When he was young, he was a member of the Hong Kong Children’s Choir and toured numerous festivals and concerts. Then he went on to become the lead-singer and songwriter of a music band Fundamental and a recording artist/group with BMG Asia Pacific Records and Current Records. Fundamental received two prestigious awards: Carlsberg Pop Music Festival band competition 1st runner up and a bronze prize of Hong Kong Commercial Radio’s Best New Artist Award.
He received his dance and drama training at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts while he was a singer. After graduation, he was twice the recipient of the HK Jockey Club Dance Fund scholarships. He gave up his singing career and chose to further his dance study in the U.K. at the London Contemporary Dance School. He was sent alone for placement to study with Netherlands Dance Theatre 1 in the last year of MA study, followed by a scholarship to be a member of the LCDS-4D performance group where he worked with several distinguished British choreographers including Richard Alston, Laurie Booth, Nigel Charnock, and Henri Oguike. He completed his Master’s Degree in dance with distinction validated by and graduated at University of Kent in Canterbury. Past companies he worked for as a dancer include: Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance and Matthew Bourne’s Adventures In Motion Pictures in the U.K.; Toronto Dance Theatre, CORPUS, Peggy Baker Dance Projects, Lina Cruz/Fila 13, Blue Ceiling Dance, Chimera Project in Canada and many other independent choreographers in both countries.
William’s professional dance and theatre career spans more than twenty-five years since starting with Random Dance in 1994. He has performed in 75 cities within 15 countries. He presented his first choreography for paying audiences in a production in Freiburg, Germany in 1993 and now he has created over seventy-nine dance and theatre works world-wide.
William’s choreographic works have been presented by major dance presenters such as Toronto’s DanceWorks, Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage & NextStep and Tiger Princess Dance, and Montreal’s Tangente Laboratoire Mouvements Contemporains and Montréal Arts Interculturels (MAI). His works have been shown at festivals and major event such as ÉCLATS-Vitrine Festival Canasian and Festival Accès Asie in Montreal, CorresponDANSE in Quebec City, Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival, Toronto’s World Stage, Luminato Festival, Fall For Dance North, Winter City Festival, dance:made in canada/fait au canada, CanAsian Dance Festival, Dance Ontario Weekend, Dusk Dances, Old & Young and Reckless Together, fFIDA, etc.
From 2010 to 2013, he directed the Zata Omm Dance and Technology Research Laboratory funded by the George Cedric Metcalf Foundation. These research aimed to explore the artistic climate and seeks profound relationships between the latest technology and movement as a strategic analysis initiative. William conducted seven unique research residencies with technological artists such as Ying Gao (Interactive garment designer) and Asethetec (Interactive technology studio). Because of William’s unique creative vision and ability to produce large-scale technologically intensive works, he was invited to be the guest speaker at Staging Sustainability International Conference, DigiFest’s Future 15 Talk, Canadian Dance Assembly’s ‘Technological Innovation’ workshop, Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, Dancers’ Transition Resource Centre’s ‘On The Move’ conferences, Dance Umbrella of Ontario, Theatre School of Ryerson University, Lululemon Athletica’s Career Talk and Toronto District School Board Seminar.
William has been commissioned to choreograph for other dance companies such as Little Pear Garden Company, CORPUS, Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre, Toronto Dance Theatre (Four at the Winch), Pivotal Motion Dance Theatre and National Ballet of Canada’s gala fundraiser ‘Mad Hot Ballet: Lost in Venice’. In the past, he has worked as a performance coach for Olympian Ice-dancing figure skater Paul Poirier, as a mentor for Robert Abubo at CanAsian Festival, Samyuktha Sharath (Infinite Arts Projects), Gadfly, Jasmyn Fyffe Dance, as a technological consultant for Loretta Faveri, as an artistic consultant to Malar Janagan, and as a rehearsal director for Chimera Project, AKA Dance and Piotr Biernat. As an educator, he choreographed for educational institutes like Ryerson University, George Brown College, School of Toronto Dance Theatre, L’école de danse de Québec, Turning Point Dance Academy, Earl Haig Secondary School and Unionville High School. He also taught master choreographic workshops and gave master technique classes for World Stage, Fall For Dance North, Series 808, York University, McMaster University, National Ballet of Canada’s In Studio, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Lester B. Pearson School for the Arts, Earl Haig Secondary School, GMD, 509 Collective, Theatre Rusticle Gym, Toronto Dance Theatre, Little Pear Garden Collective, Emerging Artists Intensive, Matthew Bourne’s AMP and New Adventures.
William and Zata Omm have created two dance short films Sugar and Snails and To Fly or Fall, both directed by Kathi Prosser which were shown in cities and festivals around the world. William also performed in ten other dance films created by others. William is also an actor represented by Graham Talents Agency and appeared in TV and films such as The Expanse, Nikita, Being Erica, Adventure’s Inc, Beautiful People, Eve, Just Business, etc. William has choreographed for music videos for The Used’s Rise Up Light, The Nexus and Over And Over Again, Mother Mother’s Modern Love, Apocalytica’s Cold Blood and Adaline’s Part Of You.
In live theatre work, he played the lead role of ‘The Wolf’ in Peter and The Wolf and played ‘The Hero’ in Dinner at Seven-Thirty for Theatre Rusticle’s stage productions. He was the director, scenic designer, music and movement director for two plays Comfort and The Monkey Queen by Diana Tso for Red Snow Collective. He also assisting-directed lemonTree creations’ The Blood Cycle and was the music and movement directors for productions Red Snow.
William was profiled in three documentaries as a choreographer. One was an episode of the Bravo channel TV show Freedom, another one was documenting him as resident guest choreographer and the creation of Truce for Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre, and the third one documenting the making of vox:lumen for World Stage 2015.
William and his works received five-time Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations. His latest nomination was for Zata Omm’s vox:lumen. William was also nominated for the Young Centre Performing Arts Multidisciplinary Dance Artists Award 2012 and a three-timed finalist of K.M. Hunter Artists Award in 2013, 2014 and 2015. William was awarded as the winner of 2013 “I love dance/J’aime la danse” Award for Innovation presented by Canadian Dance Assembly. William Yong’s solo Steer and a shared, double-billed production in a programming of ‘Dance: Made in Canada/Fait au Canada’ Festival won the top honour from NOW magazine as Number One in their top five dance shows in 2013 for the year in review by Kathleen Smith: ‘…rigorous, virtuosic solos looking in completely different directions…Stunning.’ For William’s theatre directorial debut Comfort in 2016, he was nominated for MyTheatre Awards’ ‘Outstanding Direction’ by My Entertainment World. This play he directed also earned two more nominations for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actor’ and ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress’ from the same award in addition to another nomination for a Dora Mavor Moore Awards ‘Outstanding Composition’.
His major forthcoming projects include two new full-length productions Eden Planted and SKOW for Zata Omm. In addition, he is invited to assisting directing lemonTree Creations’ The Blood Cycle.