MISSOULA – The University of Montana Dance Program cemented its reputation as one of the best schools in the nation following an unprecedented showing at last week’s American College Dance Association Northwest Regional Conference in Eugene, Oregon.
The UM Dance Program performed two pieces and was the only university to have both of its submissions selected for the event’s Gala Concert.
The conference, which attracts more than 500 students, artists and educators from throughout the West, offers programs a chance to showcase original work and receive constructive feedback from nationally and internationally renowned adjudicators. UM’s earned recognition while competing with much larger institutions such as the University of Utah, University of Oregon, University of Colorado in Boulder and Brigham Young University.
Beginning in 2007, UM pieces have been annually selected for the regional conference’s Gala Concert; however, it is a distinguishable and rare honor to have both submissions make the cut. The conference featured 44 works in four adjudicated concerts, and UM was the only school to secure two performance slots in the final Gala Concert in which nine additional schools were featured.
Describing the UM’s choreography and performance, adjudicator and ballet master of New York Ballet Theatre Jim Sutton applauded the fierce “engagement of the performers” and their ability to fully commit to their craft.
Adjudicator Holly Johnston furthered her accolades of UM’s Dance Program, noting that the students and faculty are “doing very strong, very extraordinary and incredibly important work that continues to push the art form forward.”
The entire adjudicator panel noted UM’s contributions to this conference “as truly exceptional,” particularly for the size and location of the school.
The UM Dance Program’s two pieces were performed by 12 students. “Peach & Pit,” choreographed by sophomore Logan Prichard, features seven students performing a high-energy, dark and empowering commentary on what one might find simultaneously grotesque and beautiful. The adjudicators praised the students for their ability to “go eagerly and without shame into the belly of the work” and “disrupt our notions of normalcy.”
UM’s second piece, “Probable Fall,” was choreographed by guest artist Rachael Lincoln. The Seattle choreographer visited campus during fall semester to set the piece on six students over one week of intensive rehearsals. With intricate partnering and high-tension catches and falls, the adjudicators again noted the UM students’ commitment to the material.
“I appreciated the guts of the work, and congratulate the performers on their trust in the midst of work where there appeared to be real danger,” said adjudicator Ananya Chatterjea, a choreographer, dancer and leading voice in contemporary Indian dance from the University of Minnesota.
Both works will be considered for one additional performance Aug. 24 at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Center in Massachusetts for the center’s Inside/Out Performance Series: American College Dance Association Highlights. A curator panel will consider the UM works to perform along additional national selections; the formal announcement of selected pieces will be made later this spring.
“The University of Montana dance students are committed to the practice of making meaningful, relevant, inspiring and empowering works of art,” said UM Professor Nicole Bradley Browning, who is head of the UM Dance Program. “With each of their dances, our students bring promise for a hopeful future fueled by a thriving and dynamic dance culture. These students are making important work: They are asking significant questions and helping us to feel alive and with agency through their performances.”
The UM Dance Program is one of the few programs in the Northwest offering bachelor of fine arts and bachelor of arts degrees specializing in choreography, performance and dance education. The program also offers two dance minors, as well as a diverse array of dance classes open to students of all abilities, backgrounds and levels of curiosity.
For more information on the conference visit https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1862442&. For more information on UM’s School of Theatre & Dance visit http://www.umt.edu/umarts/theatredance/.