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
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.
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
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."
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
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."
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