This Arts Council-funded Project is entitled American College Dance Association Conference (ACDA). The project was proposed by Kim Brooks Mata, Head and Artistic Director of the Dance Program at UVA.
The central aim of this 4-day annual event is to increase the prominence of dance in higher education by exposing students to a wide variety of master classes, workshops, scholarly research presentations and opportunities for student and faculty exchanges in and out of the studio. Additionally this conference provides a well-attended venue to celebrate the creative potential and artistic excellence of students in the areas of choreography and performance through adjudication, informal concerts and feedback sessions. Conferences also provide students with the opportunity to attend a professional performance and to take master classes with the professional adjudicators, experts from the field.
With the Arts Council’s support, the costs of registration, adjudication fees, travel, and room-and-board are significantly decreased, thereby ensuring the maximum participation of our students.
Each year, depending upon resources and the location of the conference, we take between 10- 16 students ranging from 1st-4th years to ACDA. The conference allows our students to explore a multitude of classes, workshops, discussion panels and lectures with guest artists and faculty from institutions within our region and beyond. Students and faculty also get the opportunity to attend multiple performances, providing exposure to the choreographic work of peers, colleagues and professional choreographers. By bringing original student and faculty creative work from UVA to the conference for adjudication, students and faculty receive critical review of their choreography and performance by a panel of 3 highly respected dance professionals. In the feedback sessions, students learn not only from the comments on the pieces that we bring from UVA for adjudication, but also from the comments made regarding other institution’s work. The adjudicators model how to provide critical, analytical, and generous feedback which helps our students continue to develop their choreographic sensibilities and their ability to discuss work.
The dance students at UVA generally have very limited opportunities to see live (professional) 19 dance performances at the level of those performed at ACDA. This conference introduces them to new ways of thinking about dancemaking and the creative practice that will inevitably influence the work that they perform in and make for dance program concerts. Once exposed to the performances by students from other institutions, our students are able to contextualize their own creative and performative work and discover the high caliber of the dance minor program of which they are a part. Finally, this conference has served a vital role in our small dance community’s growth and development. Numerous students have shared after ACDA that their attendance and participation in this off-grounds event has further strengthened their connection to the program and its members. Spending hours of time in the vans on the drive to and from the conference provides us all with time to interact with one another outside of the classroom and to discuss dance and other matters in a more relaxed atmosphere. Staying in the same hotel, attending classes and performances, and sharing meals with peers and faculty members increases the strength of our program and its close-knit nature by permitting our students to get more familiar with each other while also seeing the faculty together and in a different light. This has led past students to declare the minor, or finally reach the point of putting forth a choreographic proposal for one of our programmatic concerts.
Student involvement in the American College Dance Association conference helps to hone and expand upon their choreographic and performance skills. This growth is visible to our audiences in the performance of our bi-annual dance concerts. Choreographic innovation and increased technical proficiency of our dancers will enhance viewer experience and hopefully increase accessibility to dance as an art form in our university and local communities.
UVA faculty teach classes at the conference, exposing students from other institutions to our pedagogy and program. As a result of our faculty classes, we have been approached by multiple students who have begun to seek out our classes after having heard about or participated in them in previous years. This impacts the visibility of the dance program at UVA and not only continues to build upon its growing reputation within the region, but highlights the caliber of our faculty amongst our own students, as well as peer institutions.
Through our participation in the adjudicated and informal concerts, as well as the various classes offered, the technical and artistic level of our faculty and student dancers is evident to those attending the conference from within the region and from other parts of the country. This past year, the piece we took for adjudication was selected for performance in the closing evening Gala Concert. This kind of recognition, in addition to the continually positive feedback that we receive from the adjudicators during feedback sessions over the years helps to elevate and increase visibility of our program amongst our peers. Participation in ACDA contributes to the continued growth and advancement of UVA’s Dance Minor Program by strengthening the technique and artistry of its student participants, and by increasing its visibility to students and colleagues from peer institutions from within and outside of our region.
One of the goals of this event is to expand our students’ experiences in and exposure to dance and choreography from various genres and creative practices/perspectives. Students also get the opportunity to perform and receive feedback from professionals in the field. Another goal is to strengthen our students’ sense of community and increase their confidence levels. After the conference is completed, it is planned to ask the students for a brief write-up/assessment of their experiences at the conference in classes, performances and feedback sessions. This evaluation will help understand how they feel this experience has impacted their technical proficiency, their understanding of performance and choreography and how this newly gained knowledge might transfer into their experiences in our dance program. Excerpts from these responses will be provided to the Arts Council to gain a sense of the impact this event has on our students.
The Arts Council provides advocacy, advice, and support in the Arts at the University of Virginia. It strives to develop and strengthen the bonds of interest and participation among the Arts Departments, their associated programs, and their alumni and friends; to advocate on their behalf; to advise and assist with communications; and to help raise funds in support of academic programs, facilities, and special events. Among its multitude of arts advocacy efforts, the Council awards annual Arts Council Grants. These grants have, and continue to play an instrumental role in a number of residencies, workshops, project and research-based endeavors proposed across Arts Grounds annually. This series of articles will highlight each funded project and serve to inform the UVA community of their unique timelines, progress and outcome reports.See all 2018-2019 Arts Council Grants Awarded