by Emma Elsmo for The Dance Journal | photo courtesy of Xiaomeng Ma
The American College Dance Association or ACDA held its Mid-Atlantic North Festival at Seton Hill University from March 6th through the 9th. Sixteen institutions were represented, presenting work from undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty, and guest artists. Throughout the four days, a total of thirty-five dances were performed in a combination of informal and formal concerts. Of the twenty-three works presented anonymously at the three adjudicated concerts, only seven pieces made it to the final Gala Performance.
The show opened with Towson University’s Hope Landscape, an excerpt from a larger work entitled Occupy Suite, choreographed by faculty member Vincent Thomas. The work itself was harmonious and angelic in nature as the dancers wore all white and moved through detailed, balletic choreography to string music. It was clear Thomas understood his individual dancers and was able to showcase everyone in a triumphantly successful manner. This large group work was followed by a self-choreographed solo entitled A Mind, A Mess created by Slippery Rock University’s undergraduate Kaitlin Kulasa. The grotesque nature of Kulasa’s movement was utterly captivating and the focused intent behind her every move made me wise the piece would never end.
University of Maryland’s High Violet (a Chroma Poem) choreographed by guest artist Kendra Porter continued the show with contemplative energy. Echoing the day-to-day patterns, we are all so familiar with, the group of dancers executed a powerful string of overexaggerated gestural movements. NONFICTION, created by Old Dominion University’s faculty member James Morrow, was a powerful tribute to anti-police brutality. Stylized hip-hop movements melded with strong formation shifts and vibrant costuming. The large group of dancers performed with palpable fervor as they paid tribute to several prematurely lost African American souls.
When Eve and Eve Bite the Apple, choreographed by undergrad Teresa Whittemnore, from University of Maryland Baltimore County, provided a glimpse at how poised movement can make a political and religious statement. With guiding voiceovers, the duo of dancers was succinct and articulate while maintaining the emotional drive behind the phrase-work. Slippery Rock University students performed a re-staging of Martha Graham’s Celebration that originally premiered in 1934. The students delivered on the traditional contractions and hard cupped hands, that those who worship Graham are so familiar with.
To close the show, Temple University presented Entangle, choreographed by graduate student Xiaomeng Ma. Ma and partner, Wangbo Zhu, danced their way effortlessly through clouds of dirt and dust as they executed intricate lifts, turns, and floorwork. The duo had visible connectivity and moved with each other as though they were one body split in two.
The show overall was a carefully crafted selection of pieces that flowed from one dance to the next effortlessly. While there were a number of honorable works that didn’t make the Gala, the handful that did, earned their spots fair and square.