At the end of March, six CSU performing arts students, along with dance faculty member Chung-Fu Chang, traveled to the American College Dance Association 2017 Conference, held at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
CSU’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance was well-represented by dance majors Mohammed York, Katelyn Doyle, Samantha Lewis, Aminta Remisosky, Avery Jones and theatre major David Van Name. Two pieces of original choreography were presented for adjudication, and another work was performed at an informal concert. The three-day conference was rounded out with master classes and lectures, including a presentation by Professor Chang.
According to the American College Dance Association’s website, the “association exists to support and affirm dance in higher education through regional conferences, the adjudication process and national festivals.”
As a component of the conference, two pieces from an institution may be adjudicated by a panel of nationally recognized dance professionals in what the ACDA proudly considers an open and constructive forum. Adjudicated works receive immediate feedback and are eligible for selection in the culminating gala concert.
CSU Dance submitted two works that originally premiered in the Spring 2016 Dance Concert: Riding Cloud Away, choreographed by Chung-Fu Chang and danced by Avery Jones and Samantha Lewis, as well as Mohammed York’s solo dance, Running. The sophomore dance major’s piece was chosen for a reprise presentation at the ACDA Gala Concert based on excellent adjudicator feedback. Out of 45 dance works from 27 universities, York’s was one of 11 to receive the honor.
“Congratulations to Mohammed,” Jane Slusarski-Harris, director of dance at CSU, wrote in an email message to the group. “I am thrilled that you were able to perform your solo in the Gala Concert and share your artistry with so many. It is a powerful and moving piece that you have created!”
Senior dance major Katelyn Doyle’s solo, Exposed, was performed at the conference’s Informal Concert, an opportunity for additional performances without adjudication. “Many students and faculty came to me and mentioned her beautiful performance and choreography,” recounted Chang. “It was a beneficial opportunity to show her work.”
Adjudicated performances are fully produced, so CSU Theatre’s David Van Name accompanied the team in the role of lighting designer and technical director. Light cues are sent ahead for pre-programming, and directors are given 20-minute slots to communicate with the ACDA staff and crew to set the cues and run the piece. It’s a meaningful experience similar to that of a professional touring dance company.
“David’s work as a tech director for this trip [went] above and beyond,” Chang said. It seems Van Name’s expertise extends beyond the stage to navigator, driver and all-around assistant. “He was extremely organized for this trip, he had packed a medical aid kit and sewing kit, and before the adjudication concert, he was sewing and fixing a costume … all duties I have been doing for over 10 years at the conference,” recalls Chang. “I was so glad to have someone to help!” Costume shop manager and designer Maile Speetjens, also contributed to the conference’s success, making new costumes for the whole team.
With a strong educational mission, the association strives to “honor multiple approaches to scholarly and creative research and activity, as well as give presence and value to diversity in dance.” For Doyle, who took many interesting classes during the conference, Pilates and Incorporating Wellness presentations were at the top of her list. “After taking those classes, I have taken with me the idea of how important our bodies are, and that it is important to listen to our bodies and take care of them, physically, mentally and with what we eat.”
The annual conference has many residual effects for students, including a broader understanding of what people their age are doing at colleges and universities across the country, and even internationally. Not only are they exposed to distinct academic ideas and movement styles through workshops, performances and presentations, it’s a chance to meet peers with similar aspirations.
‘Inspired and encouraged’
“You make life-long connections,” Slusarski-Harris said. “You’re inspired and encouraged. You may end up working with some of them in the future.”
“It opens doors and exposes students to new things in the dance community,” she added, citing the association’s role as a service and networking organization.
Doyle agrees: “I got to spend the week not only surrounded by my amazingly talented classmates at CSU, but I also got to meet so many amazing people from so many different universities; I can use it for networking and just to simply have connections with other universities for the future.”
The status of dance programs at the college level is not only significant, but showing tremendous growth, and many ACDA regions and more conferences have been added in the past decade, according to Slusarski-Harris. “What an opportunity to show what the School of Music, Theatre and Dance is doing with our program! It is great for our students to meet others and make connections, but also to measure their educational and artistic progress against other university dance programs.”
Doyle is incredibly grateful for the chance to explore a new state and new ideas, as well as spend time with the tight-knit group. “This is definitely a trip I will remember for a lifetime, and I will take what I learned to help me continue to grow as dancer, as well as the wonderful memories I made,” she said. “We all were so close by the end of the trip, we didn’t want it to end!”