M U H L E N B E R G    M A G A Z I N E S U M M E R    2 0 0 2

Dancin' in the Streets:

College hosts regional dance festival and dances its way onto the national stage
B Y   J E N N I F E R   M O N T E M U R R O

Muhlenberg College certainly put its best foot forward this spring when Karen Dearborn, associate professor of dance, and her students hosted the American College Dance Festival Association's Northeast Regional Festival at Muhlenberg. The high point of the four-day event, attended by 475 performers from 30 colleges, came when a group of Muhlenberg dancers was selected to perform at the Kennedy Center as part of the National Festival in May. (See page 27)
The American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA) sponsors nine regional dance festivals across the country each year and on alternating years holds a national festival comprising the finest work selected from each region.
According to the ACDFA, the festivals, which date back to the early 1970s, were created to enable student dancers and choreographers to participate in workshops, lectures, demonstrations and master classes taught by instructors from around the region and country. They were also designed to provide both student and faculty performers with an opportunity to have their dance works adjudicated by a panel of nationally recognized dance professionals in an open and constructive forum.
Dearborn, Photo of Muhlenberg College dancers.who first got involved with the ACDFA as an undergraduate, says she believes these festivals to be an important educational opportunity. "My personal involvement with the festival spans 20 years," she says. "I have participated as a student, performer, choreographer and teacher at many festivals in several regions. I think the festival is a wonderful opportunity for students to present, study and see dance. The amount of learning that goes on during the festival is incomparable to any other experience."
And, since Dearborn feels so strongly about the value of the festival to her students, she volunteered Muhlenberg as this year's host. "The Muhlenberg College dance program is young, currently in its ninth year, so we are just beginning to be known within college dance circles as an institution with an excellent dance program," she says. "By hosting the festival we established ourselves nationally and participants were able to see our tremendous facilities for the first time."
" It is also a way for us to support the efforts and goals of the American College Dance Festival Association. The festival has been such a tremendously positive force in my life and the life of my students that I consider it an honor and a duty to host the festival," she says.
Beyond the national exposure, Dearborn says one of the added benefits of holding the festival at Muhlenberg is that it allowed many more Muhlenberg students to get involved. "Our students were elated to act as hosts for the festival," she says. "Due to the expense of attending a festival, I am normally restricted to taking only 22 students to a festival. Because we were hosting, more than 60 Muhlenberg College students were able to participate this year. They each volunteered 20 hours of work during the festival in exchange for their registration fees."Photo of dancers
Highlights of the festival included an opening concert by 2001-02 Baker-Artist-In-Residence Danny Buraczeski, four adjudicated concerts and two informal concerts (one performed by students; the other by faculty). The festival concluded with a closing gala concert showcasing the best festival works; 13 of the 44 pieces performed during the festival were selected for the gala by a panel of three nationally noted artists via a blind adjudication process.
In addition to the numerous concerts, 90 classes were taught by 50 distinguished professional teachers, including Buraczeski and his company members, the adjudicators and 10 Muhlenberg dance faculty. Ten professional musicians accompanied classes during the festival.
" I have never seen a spring break on the Muhlenberg College campus as lively," says Dearborn. "The weather was beautiful and 475 dancers ran, jumped and twisted their way through the Life Sports Center, Brown Dance Studio, the Baker Center for the Arts, the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance
and across the college green. It was inspiring to have the campus filled with dance artists."
The festival received rave reviews from participants who repeatedly expressed their appreciation for the facilities, superb organization, and friendly, helpful students. Dearborn says, "It was a tremendous undertaking well worth the effort. The students and I are filled with pride in our department, faculty and staff, and Muhlenberg College."

Photo:
TOP: Muhlenberg College dancers perform "Black Raspberry," which was selected by adjudicators for presentation at the Kennedy Center in May 2002.
BOTTOM: Dancers perform choreographer Bradley Parquette's piece titled "Once..."

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