University of Montana Dance Students Excel At Regional Conference
The University of Montana School of Theatre and Dance bolstered its standing as one of the nation's most decorated institutions with another extraordinary showing at the recent American College Dance Association Northwest Regional Conference in Spokane, Washington.
A highlight was second-year Master of Fine Arts acting candidate Elijah Fisher's stunning solo "TIRED | T1RED," which was selected to represent the entire region at the esteemed National College Dance Festival in May. (That event has since been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.)
The regional conference, which attracted students, artists and educators from throughout the Northwest, offered dance programs the opportunity to showcase original works and receive constructive feedback from nationally and internationally renowned adjudicators.
Fisher's solo received raves from the adjudicators, who wrote "'TIRED | T1RED' is an outstanding, fierce, musical and nuanced performance that combines virtuosic physicality, haunting laughter and silent screams to channel the pathologizing of the Black male. The work has a powerful message that needs to be heard."
UM's Dance Program is no stranger to performing at ACDA's national festival. The national conference is a biennial event, and in 2018, "Every^Man (Alright)," an original solo by MFA acting graduating student Tsiambwom Akuchu, was celebrated on the national platform.
In 2012, "MEAT," an original work by Icelandic choreographer Steinunn Ketilsdóttir and UM Dance alumnus and Missoula native Brian Gerke, featured 11 dancers who were enthusiastically received at the Kennedy Center that May. In 2010, the National College Dance Festival featured UM's performance of "Prey," a piece created by internationally acclaimed choreographer Bebe Miller.
This year's adjudicators also recognized another UM dance piece, "Void," which was choreographed by Visiting Assistant Professor Brooklyn Draper. The ensemble of 12 student dancers was described as "striking, captivating, breathtaking ... visually compelling. While the choreographer expertly organizes bodies in space, there is a strong use of timing, energy and dynamics to provide a beautiful scaffolding for the epic work."
"Our dance students are committed to the practice of making meaningful, relevant and empowering works of art," said Nicole Bradley Browning, a UM dance professor currently on professional leave and the ACDA northwest regional director. "ACDA affords students an unmatched opportunity to discover how their choreography and performance translates to diverse audiences. We stand affirmed, knowing that our dance program continues to cultivate a space for our students to create important and valued work."
The UM School of Theatre and Dance is one of the few programs in the Northwest, and the only in Montana, to offer Bachelor of Fine Art and Bachelor degrees specializing in choreography, performance and dance education. The program also offers a dance minor, as well as a diverse array of dance classes open to students of all abilities, backgrounds and levels of curiosity.