[singlepic id=46 w=320 h=240 float=right]
On Wednesday, March 9, the Redfern Arts Center hosted the opening dance performance for the American College Dance Festival Association’s conference to welcome dancers from all over New England to Keene State College. The dance performance was performed by Monica Bill Barnes and Company, a professional dance company from New York.
This is the first time KSC has hosted the conference since 1989. Professor William Seigh is the main organizer for the event, which included the opening concert, and received plenty of help from other departments of KSC including the help of several student organizations.
Professor Seigh said “In four days, starting March 9, Wednesday through Saturday in spring break, four hundred participants will be here (KSC),” he said. “Dancers, students, and faculty from thirty-one different colleges will be here for the four days. In the four days we are going to have eight different performances and seventy-five different classes.” The ACDFA is a nationwide organization designed to help with college dancers and to help colleges with dance programs.
“The ACDFA is a national organization that does about ten of these conferences a year and the mission of the organization is really to serve and support college dance and, in my mind, to celebrate the best in college dance,” Seigh said. The conference at KSC will open and close with multiple dance concerts. Professor Marcia Murdock commented on the concerts. She said, “Well we are opened and closed by professionals (dance companies) and then there are four adjudication concerts that are adjudicated by professionals.”
The adjudication concerts are concerts put on by students that are judged by professionals in the field of dance. During opening night, students arriving for the conference registered for the event and were given informational pamphlets along with ACDFA t-shirts.
KSC sorority Delta Phi Epsilon sold baked goods for charity at the event’s reception.
At 7:30 p.m., the doors opened for the first dance concert for the conference.
As soon as people were settled in to their seats, director of the Redfern Arts Center William Meneze and president of KSC Dr. Helen Giles-Gee welcomed the attendees of the concert and of the conference.
In her opening speech, Dr. Giles-Gee highlighted KSC’s commitment to dance and to the arts and the creative expression of human spirit. The president said, “It’s extraordinary; I am so pleased that it is here. I think the faculty and students have done a wonderful job organizing it and I think it shows.”
After the speech, the first dance titled “Mostly Fanfare” began. The lights dimmed and the first three dancers arrived wearing feathered head bands.
The three dancers performed several feats of strength, concentration, and overall professionalism in different situations.
The dancers preformed feats such as balancing chairs with their mouths and stacking boxes as they fell from the catwalks above the stage.
In the end, the auditorium was transformed into a crystalline night with one dancer looking towards the staged heavens in a “Thinker’s” position. KSC student Greg Hulse commented on the piece saying, “It seemed funny and inviting while at the same time serious to a certain extent, but always constantly elegant.”
After the audience gave their applause, the second dance titled “Here We Are” began.
There was only one dancer dressed in a 1920’s red and brown sweater outfit. During her dance, she stacked towers of boxes twice as high as herself and never received a break from stacking them.
The dancer displayed more drama than what was presented in the first act and gave the audience a sense of reality.
Attendee Alex Davis said, “The second act I appreciated more than I think the average person would. It was a less successful piece than the first piece was,” he said.
“I think the first piece threw you in, took you in, and then placed you down gently. And this piece, I feel like as an audience member, you had to work a little bit more to really get into it,” he said.
After a brief intermission the third act began with the booming music of James Brown.
The piece titled “Another Parade” engaged the audience with powerful classic rock and roll and a comedic dance which involved the “shock and awe” of bare shoulders and abdomens.
The dance featured all four of Monica Bill Barnes’ dancers. The main movement in the act was “hips-shaking,” which the audience recognized as one of the central dance moves.
Near the end, the dancers chose four audience members to come up onto stage and swing their hips to close the show in a cavalcade of applause and laughter.
Biki was one of the audience members whom the dancers chose to interact with. A dancer sat next her like an old friend during the show.
“I kind of felt it coming a little bit. I mean I’ve seen a lot of dances where the dancers come off stage and either invite you on stage or mess around with the audience, I guess I was surprised,” she said.
After the show, Monica Bill Barnes commented on the performance saying, “My intent is to put people on stage that you feel you identify with and I think in all the different works tonight that there’s an effort to create performances that feel like you can emphasize with and get on board with and go through the experience with us,” the choreographer said.
“So I think the different acts have different music and obviously different costuming, but a lot of the intent is to present something sort of sincere and to ask people to become interested in what is going on on-stage,” she said.
In addition, “I mean obviously in the last piece, ‘Another parade’, we literally go into the audience and bring audience members on stage and give them a part of our costume and have them do our jobs,” Barnes said.
“So there’s a moment where we actually turn the tables, and literally have people feel what it’s like to do what we are doing which is kind of the intent in some ways in every piece.”
Ryan Loredo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org