by Mackenzie Holmes for the Dance Journal
West Chester University will be hosting the ACDA Northeast region conference from March 11th- 14th, 2015. The American College Dance Association, formally ACDFA (the word ‘festival’ was formally removed in July, 2014), is an organization dedicated to emphasizing the importance of dance in higher education. Over 400 participants from 25 different universities and colleges will be in attendance over the 4-day period. The conference will be filled with a variety of dance classes, workshops, panels, presentations, and a total of eight concerts.
West Chester University dance faculty coordinating the conference includes associate professors, Gretchen Studlien-Webb and Liz Staruch and assistant professor, Maria Urrutia.
According to Liz Staruch, the hosting of ACDA is a significant milestone for the University. “The WCU dance program has gone through considerable changes in the past 5-15 years, moving from dance primarily seen as physical education to concentrating more on dance as an art form. With three full-time dance faculty now, we have broadened our scope of what dance is in theory and practice with our current dance students and we are developing courses that attract students from all majors to engage with dance as an art form. We feel this extends the practice, creates more arts advocates, and forms new found appreciation on a larger context in University life and beyond. Hosting this conference is yet another method we are employing to broaden this scope for all students involved as they could be exposed to many new facets of the dance world that they may not have encountered yet.”
ACDA continually asks schools in its membership to offer their campuses as hosts. When WCU Theatre and Dance moved into a newly renovated space in the Fall of 2012 , discussions began with ACDA, knowing they had the facilities to accommodate a Northeast conference. According to Liz Staruch, “support from administration and the Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, made the rest come together.”
The first ACDA concert, a welcome concert, features professional choreographers and dancers from the greater Philadelphia area. West Chester University conference organizers want to expose students and faculty from the Northeast region to the ever expansive dance scene in Philadelphia.
Nora Gibson, founder of Nora Gibson Contemporary Ballet will present her work titled Simple Restrictions, a great example of her refreshing balletic style. Katherine Kiefer Stark will be presenting Looking for Judy, a work that portrays her personal connection to the uncertainty of reality. Jennifer Yackel, who is currently part of the NADINE Project, will perform her solo work titled One Small Thing. Gina Hoch-Stall will be performing in her work Presenting: You First (with the hope for reciprocation), a duet with Scott McPheeters. Jodi Obeid, a dancer with the Naked Stark Dance Company, will be performing her own work, titled Fishbowl. In addition to performing in the welcome concert, the artists will also be teaching during the conference.
The conference will allow dance students at West Chester University to be involved in every facet of the conference, from coordinating materials and schedules, to acting as ambassadors and presenting and performing in the showcases. Dance alumni are returning to help support this adventure as well, having personally benefitted from attending ACD(F)A conferences while at WCU. Liz Staruch notes, “many of the alumni are working in the dance field and want to show their pride and support for the growing WCU dance program.”
Seven additional concerts will showcase college dancers from each of the participating schools. As part of ACDA’s commitment to dance in higher education, they highlight the value of the adjudication or feedback process. Respected members of the dance community will serve as adjudicators for four of the concerts. This year’s adjudicators will be Lisa Kraus, Ursula Payne, and Michael Williams. The adjudicators will make a final selection of works to present in the gala concert on the last day of the conference.
To learn more about ACDA and the Northeast region conference, please go to www.acda.dance.
*Mackenzie Holmes is a senior at West Chester University pursing a degree in Philosophy and a minor in dance performance.