Dance department welcomes alternative styles of dance

Construction on campus is not stopping the dance department from hosting a national dance conference this week.More than 600 students and faculty from 29 schools in the South Central region of the United States are meeting at TCU for the American College Dance Festival Association Conference. The theme is “Under Construction: Dancers at Work.”

The faculty and students have incorporated the construction theme into their wristbands, name tags and even into the merchandise and clothing TCU dance students will sell to the visitors, said Ellen Shelton, chair of the ballet and modern dance department.

“If you can’t hide it, you might as well use it,” Shelton said.

The theme ties into the creative process of dancers, said Susan Douglas Roberts, associate professor of modern dance.

“When you create a dance, it’s like it’s under construction,” Roberts said. “It’s a good metaphor for what we do.”

Since the university had not hosted the conference since 1996, the dance department made a proposal seven years ago to host the conference in the near future, Shelton said. Its turn came, and the dance department hoped that the renovations and all the things they had been dreaming about would be completed, Shelton said.

“But, we’re not there yet, so we decided just to bite the bullet and go ahead and do it,” Shelton said.

The conference will begin Feb. 21 for four days of master classes, panel discussions, workshops and dance concerts.

“It’s a good experience taking classes from other people and getting to take other styles of dance that we normally don’t get to, like jazz or hip hop,” said Allie Stevens, a senior modern dance major.

During the conference, five concerts will be evaluated by three adjudicators, professional dancers invited to come and evaluate the dances, Shelton said.

The adjudicators evaluate each dance blindly, and will not know what school it is from or who the choreographer or performers are. After each concert, they will have a feedback session in which they talk about each dance and give the dancers some pointers, Shelton said.

“The whole mission of the conference is to support creative activity both as choreographers and performers,” Shelton said. “The intention is to support everyone, not just to rank.”

The adjudicators will choose about nine or 10 dances from the works they have seen to be performed in the Gala Concert, open to the public, on Saturday night, Shelton said.

“The conference will bring recognition to our department and to our university,” Roberts said. “It allows us to make a connection with the community at large.”

Though the campus construction is making preparations a bit more difficult than normal, it’s worth it, said Krista Jennings, a junior ballet and modern dance and English major.

“It’s a little unfortunate, but you’ve got to go with the flow,” Jennings said. “We’ve made a way for it to work for us.