Bates dancers get ready to perform at ACDA. SOFI ELBADAWI/COURTESY PHOTO

As only a sophomore, I’ve been lucky enough to experience a plethora of opportunities the Bates Theater and Dance Department has thrown my way. Every student at this school is guaranteed to get on stage if they so desire, and anyone can sign up for theater and dance classes. People like me have unlimited artistic freedom when it comes to making dance pieces, just to name a few highlights of the department. One of the most beneficial opportunities, and one of my personal favorite events, is the annual ACDA (American College Dance Association) conference held every winter. This year, fourteen of us traveled to Springfield College from February 11 to 14 to represent Bates.

ACDA is a national organization that emphasizes the importance of dance performance and creation in higher education. During these three day-long sessions, students from colleges all over the country bring pieces to be performed, adjudicated and critiqued in hopes of acquiring new skills and ideas through the feedback process. As Stefon from SNL would say, “this place has everything.” Classes in contemporary and modern technique, tap, Afro-modern, choreography and many more are available to take at all hours of the day.

The organization divides into twelve regional conferences throughout the months of February and March. Bates dancers participated in the New England conference where almost 40 other schools were represented, including five other NESCACs.

For a lot of us, this was the first time performing in the adjudicated concert. We presented a piece choreographed by Carol Dilley, Chair of Theater and Dance, which was originally put together in October during the Dance Repertory class and performed in the Fall Dance Concert. Titled “They Repeat the First Part but with More Urgency,” this piece follows the progression of multiple duets on stage. The duets were inspired by a set of instructions involving the arbitrary characters Qui and Qua. The adjudicators found the individuality and solitude of the duets as they intermingled within each other’s worlds to be engaging, purposeful, and well-performed, and they considered it to be just the right amount of effort and expression.

Mary Anne Bodnar ’16 also performed her senior Dance thesis solo, “Sparkle,” where she manipulates stand up comedy bits by Amy Schumer, Aziz Ansari and Marina Franklin to reveal the underlying sadness and desperation in their words. She matches her movement to their rhythmic verses, accenting certain words she wants the audience to recognize and absorb. As audience members, it was clear to us Batesies who are already familiar with her piece that it won the popular vote by a landslide. The crowd was roaring in laughter and it got the loudest applause of the entire show.

As five of us were traveling home Saturday night to return to campus for 90’s Dance, we got surprising news…

Dilley’s piece was chosen for the Gala performance, a compilation of the adjudicator’s favorite pieces from the entire conference. They chose 10 pieces to be performed in this extra performance out of the total 40 pieces that performed over the course of the session. This is the first time Bates has been chosen for Gala in decades. While having the opportunity to represent Bates in this performance was an undeniable opportunity, it meant driving back to Springfield Sunday morning. But no matter, performing this piece again totally beat driving 15 hours in three days.

All in all, the classes we took were educational (especially tap, the only time of the year some of us get to dust off our tap shoes and struggle to do a shuffle step) and the performances of other schools gave us some new perspectives on composition.