ACDFA Showcases College Dance in Washington, D.C

Article excerpt

THE TERRACE Theater of Washington D.C.'s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts crackled with excitement as capacity audiences of dance students and teachers watched the American College Dance Festival Association's eleventh biannual choreographic gala unfold in June. Fare from campuses across the country, ranged from forgettable to breathtaking, but the capacity. crowd's exhilaration remained consistent throughout the festival's three evenings of performance. It persisted even after what was anticipated to be the high point: University of Utah student Natosha Washington's eye-popper, House of Timothy, featuring sex, conflict, and music by Daft Punk.

The national festival is held every two years to showcase choreography culled from ten annual regional festivals, each with its own panel of three adjudicators. The 2003-2004 cycle involved 3700 dancers from 250 institutions (one from Taiwan) in 400 entries. Although the thirty-one pieces selected for the Kennedy Center were performed exclusively by students, just fifteen were choreographed by students.

In addition to the performances, the regional and national festivals include classes, workshops, and panel discussions. Educators particularly value the gathering of the clans to show and share.

"It's a super-saturated lesson on how the field is developing," says Erica Helm, dance department chair at Shenandoah University in Virginia. "The Festival offers an opportunity to grow so we don't become limited by our own community's aesthetic as to what is acceptable, beautiful, challenging."

Cathy Davalos, associate professor at St. Mary's College in California who taught during the 2004 festival, pointed to the advantage of hearing from the adjudicators (which this year included choreographers Bill Evans, Joe Goode, and Donald McKayle) after each regional concert. "They are very clear about what they are looking for, whether it's moving art forward or keeping with tradition," said Davalos, who had won a choreographic award in 1994. "For students, the excitement of performing or taking classes all day long would be enough, but good feedback is a benefit."

SOME OF the most impressive performers at the Kennedy Center were men recruited from sports programs to take dance classes. "We all buckled down and did what we had to do," said Erie Chambray, a gymnast-turned-dancer in Central Oklahoma University instructor Tina Kambour's lyrical, five-man Keeping Things Whole. In fact, the Festival's showstopper was Zoom Out, which Long Zhao of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee faculty set on magnificently sculpted athletes, Edwin and Roberto Olvera, who are identical twins. …