For college dance students, one of the biggest events of the year is the American College Dance Festival. In 12 regional conferences, students and teachers take part in master classes, workshops, panels and performances over the course of four days. The top performances of the conference are selected for a gala concert. And every two years, the stakes get a little higher: Each conference sends two or three works to be performed in a national festival, held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. These works can be choreographed by students or faculty, but only students are eligible for the Dance Magazine/ACDFA awards for outstanding choreography and performance.
This June, three panelists—choreographer Daniel Singh, arts consultant Suzanne Callahan and Dance Magazine editor in chief Jennifer Stahl—selected Alexis Renee DeVance, of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, for outstanding student choreography, and the entire cast of the University of Texas–Pan American’s Nuevo León for outstanding student performance. DeVance’s piece, Salt.Rose.Witness., was cited for its “bravery and commitment”; the panelists loved the way Nuevo León’s cast “brought humor and high energy” and “felt real and authentic.”
Panelists were informed ahead of time whether a piece was created by a student or faculty member, but Stahl says there was rarely a question. “Students can take a risk in a way that a guest artist or faculty member can’t,” she says, and cites this year’s program as an example. “One piece started in silence, with a dancer screaming and crying–I think it was inspired by the story of Trayvon Martin. It’s hard to take that kind of risk if you’re a guest artists brought in by the college and worried about getting asked back. If you’re a student, though, this is your time to experiment.”
Check out the list of honorable mentions here.
Photos from top: by Lindsey Vait; by Jeff Swenson, both courtesy of ACDFA