The discipline of dance requires strenuous work involving the mind, body and soul. For members of the Keene State College dance department, this work does not go unnoticed. On March 22 through 26, 12 dancers traveled to The State University of New York (SUNY) Potsdam to perform at the American College Dance Association (ACDA).
Each year, the dance department chooses two student-choreographed and performed pieces to bring to ACDA. The dances then receive feedback from prestigious dancers and choreographers in order to improve. When the dances are performed, the adjudicators are unaware if the piece is student or faculty-choreographed in an attempt to keep feedback unbiased.
One of the dances chosen entitled, “Boiled Frogs,” was choreographed by KSC senior Makayla Ferrick. “All semester, we’re working on these pieces, developing them and casting dancers,” Ferrick said.
“The main purpose [of going to ACDA] is further exploration. There’s three people who will give us feedback on our work based on choreography, performance, hair, makeup and costumes, and then we use that information to practice because we have a show, ‘Evening of Dance,’ where the pieces will be shown again.” Ferrick has performed at ACDA for three years now, and the past two years her choreography has been chosen.
“When I first went, I didn’t have a full understanding of what it was. I was used to high school competitions and so when I first went, I was all nervous, but it really is just a way for other people to see your work,” Ferrick said.
Even though Ferrick has been to ACDA before, she said she still gets a lot out of the experience. “For me, going to ACDA helps me with my own dancing and my own movement. There are a lot of master classes there that pushed me to try different types of things outside of the box that we don’t get at Keene,” Ferrick said.
The other piece chosen, entitled “ab origine,” was choreographed by KSC junior Bethany Peterson. Ferrick said both pieces were rehearsed twice a week for a total of four hours all semester and more rehearsals would be added if she or Peterson saw fit. Ferrick’s piece was an octet, while Peterson’s was a trio. Choosing the works to go to ACDA is discussed by faculty. Among those is KSC contract lecturer Cynthia McLaughlin.
“It involves choosing students that will have the most to gain from being a part of the conference and there is some seniority if it is their last chance to go,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin was responsible for the “nitty gritty,” of the trip, such as travel expenses. However, she said ACDA is important for dance students and she said she was more than happy to plan it this year.
“They had exposure to a lot of philosophies, approaches and genres of dance and also get to perform in front of their peers. There are 40 works presented, so they are able to see 38 other works,” McLaughlin said.
“Afterwards, there is really fruitful feedback sessions and the adjudicators were able to enter right into the environment of the work and discuss it and pick it apart and find ways for you to rethink the work, both for the choreographers and the performers. By the end of every day, they are incredibly exhausted, but it’s well worth it.”
The student choreographers benefit from the feedback in order to rethink the work, but the dancers in the piece benefit as well. KSC sophomore Jordan Pierce danced in both works and she said watching other works helped her own performance.
“When you come to Keene, it’s mostly modern, ballet and jazz, so it is a really good opportunity for the dance department to go and experience things that they can’t experience here,” Pierce said.
The two student works, among many others, will be performed April 12-15 during “An Evening of Dance,” in the Redfern Arts Center Main Theatre.
Olivia Belanger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org