UM-Flint Dance Students Attend 2015 ACDA Regional Festival

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Nataniel Morales, Brooke Olney, Emma Davis, Ashlynn Feige, Ashinique Soney-Wesaw pose outside Ohio University’s Dance Department, 2015 host school for the ACDA East-Central Region.

Members of the UM-Flint Dance Program recently attended the American College Dance Association (ACDA) East-Central Regional Conference at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. The regional conferences and national festival presented by the ACDA provide a “venue for students and faculty to engage in three days of performances, workshops, panels, and master classes taught by instructors from around the region and country. The conferences also provide the unique opportunity for students and faculty to have their dance works adjudicated by a panel of nationally recognized dance professionals in an open and constructive forum.”

Faculty member and Dance Instructor Emma Davis brought with her Ashlynn Feige, Dance major; Brooke Olney, Molecular Biology major and Dance minor; Nataniel Morales, Dance major; and Ashinique Soney-Wesaw, Fine Arts major (concentrations in Drawing and Painting) and Dance minor.

When asked about her experience at the conference, Wesaw-Soney said, “This trip [ACDA] was absolutely amazing and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be able to go and represent UM-Flint! Having the chance to take so many different classes that I would have never dreamed of taking in my life (Dance Fusion Martial Arts, Kontemp Ballet, etc.) with other students from schools across the region that came to this conference made this trip so exciting and memorable.”

At the conference, all four UM-Flint students danced a performance of “The Lottery” as choreographed by Davis. Morales and Feige also performed an original work titled “Non-Existent Limits.”


UM-Flint Dance students, wearing costumes designed by Shelby Newport, performed “The Lottery,” choreographed by UM-Flint faculty Emma Davis, in the ACDA Adjudicated Concert #3.

UM-Flint’s version of “The Lottery” is a contemporary interpretation of the 1948 short story by Shirley Jackson. In the original story, a yearly lottery is held among the residents of a small village. The chosen “winner” faces stoning by the rest of the townspeople. In Davis’ version, which uses both ballet and hip-hop elements, she explores the role of gender in traditional dance, the value of styles, and the ideas of conformity versus individualism. The ballet choreography was original to Davis; she worked with Morales and provided guidance as he developed freestyle hip-hop moves for his portion of the performance.

“The Lottery” was presented to a panel of three adjudicators on the main stage of the conference. Feedback on all main stage presentations was given at a session later in the day, with the adjudicators commenting on the dance performances and the choreographic choices as well as the costumes, lighting, and other elements. The adjudicators were unaware of whether students or faculty members were responsible for each portion of the dance performance. Davis said their feedback this year was positive, with some expressing surprise at her choice of an ending and variations on the traditional ballet. Although “The Lottery” was not one of ten performances selected for the conference’s closing gala concert, Davis expressed great pride in her students and thought they did very well for it only being UM-Flint’s fourth visit to the event.

“Non-Existent Limits, ” choreographed by Nataniel Morales and performed with his fellow-student Ashlynn Feige, was presented in an informal concert at the conference.  The informal concerts are conducted on a smaller scale and without the panel of adjudicators.

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Nataniel Morales and Ashlynn Feige practice for the ACDA informal concert #1, where they performed “Non-Existent Limits,” choreographed by Morales.

The trip to the ACDA conference is just one example of the ways in which UM-Flint Dance students take what they’ve learned outside of the studio. Members of the Dance Program will be dancing at schools and adult care facilities at the end of March and in early April to promote their upcoming Spring Dance Concert. When asked about studying Dance at UM-Flint, Ashlynn Feige said, “Studying dance at UM-Flint is a great experience because the instructors challenge you to be the best dancer you can be.  Not only that, but we form strong friendships and connections with the other students.  Dance has a way of bringing people together, and we all support each other which is very important.  It’s a positive environment where anyone can feel comfortable.”

Students, staff, faculty, and all members of the community are invited to see “The Lottery” as it will be performed at the upcoming Spring Dance Concert, April 17th-19th, at the UM-Flint Theatre. For this year’s concert “varying literary works inspire the dances. From the poetry for Rumi and Kalil Gibran to the local authors of Flint, the dances explore the written word.” Tickets are available through the UM-Flint Box Office or via the Theatre & Dance Department website.


Photos provided by the UM-Flint Theatre & Dance Department and Emma Davis.