For the first time, Gonzaga Theatre and Dance will be hosting the American College Dance Association (ACDA) 2020 Northwest Conference. It will be welcoming Mark Morris Dance Group to perform March 11-14 on campus.
Through the theme “Dance as Service,” Gonzaga Theatre and Dance hopes to share how dance and social justice can intertwine to spark thought and discussion.
The ACDA is a national convention in support of university and collegiate dance. Universities and colleges from the region and across the nation join to share their work and receive professional feedback from the ACDA adjudication process.
Suzanne Ostersmith, assistant professor of theatre and dance and dance director, said the adjudication process aims to strengthen choreography and performance through education.
“We say adjudicated because it's judged with the goal of education … not with the goal of a trophy," Ostersmith said. "That’s what confuses a lot of people because they know about dance competitions that studios do, and then it’s how high does your leg kick up and tricks. … That’s not what this is because we are academically studying the field of dance.”
Five hundred fifty people are coming from over 31 universities.
"Student participants will be dancing all over campus, from Cataldo to the John J. Hemmingson Center," Ostersmith said.
Ostersmith said planning ACDA has been almost a four-year process.
“It’s like a dream come true. It’s just crazy that our dance program is thriving the way it is," Ostersmith said. "We have so much going on and we have that beautiful performing arts facility, that we’re going to be able to take over this campus for dance."
Members of Gonzaga Theatre and Dance are thrilled to be sharing what GU has to offer through the 2020 ACDA theme of “Dance as Service.” Through the program’s volunteer effort with Dance for Parkinson’s and ZagDance, members of Gonzaga Theatre and Dance hope to share how Jesuit philosophy influences GU.
The theme reaches beyond the realm of service as a way of helping other people. Helen Schantz, “Dance as Service” coordinator, choreographed a piece entitled “Collapse” to emphasize the importance of recognizing colony collapse disorder. Schantz said her piece was inspired by the abstract nature of bees and and insects.
“It starts with that original representation of the hive and all the unique things that bees do in the animal kingdom and then it moves into a representation of that epidemic on stage," Schantz said. "So, I did research about bees and to try to figure out how I could represent it accurately.”
Mark Morris Dance Group, the selected opening performance, created the Dance for Parkinson’s teaching method practiced by Gonzaga Theatre and Dance.
"The Mark Morris Dance Group emphasizes the theme 'Dance as Service' and what GU stands for," Ostersmith said.
Audrey Parks, ACDA work study, was one of Ostersmith’s biggest aids in the planning process. From paperwork to scheduling logistics, Ostersmith said Parks was her colleague without even teaching her.
Parks said her favorite part of the planning process has been the challenge of creating the perfect schedule for conference participants.
In addition to Park’s work, ACDA wouldn’t be a reality without the time commitment and volunteer service of 40 selected ACDA ambassadors.
"Ambassadors reach out to local restaurants, package outgoing mail, organize lanyards and partake in all the nitty-gritty involved in planning a big event," said Kalleigh Wagner, ACDA ambassador.
During the event, ambassadors will help with participant check-in, answer any questions and make sure participants are where they should be for their selected classes.
Wagner said bringing ACDA to campus places the thought of pursuing dance at GU on the map for future students. Having visited University of Utah last year and experiencing the size of its dance program, Gonzaga Theatre and Dance is ready to display all that its capable of.
If interested in participating in the ACDA 2020 Northwest Conference, register online at https://www.gonzaga.edu/american-college-dance-association-conference/registration.
Patron passes are available for community members to view up to six conference concerts, Mark Morris Dance group, four adjudicated concerts and the Final Gala Concert.