Dancers travel to North Carolina for the American College Dance Festival

Contributed photo: A group of students traveled with assistant professor Mark Santillano traveled to Elon, N.C.Contributed photo: A group of students traveled with assistant professor Mark Santillano traveled to Elon, N.C.
Each year, a dedicated few Mercyhurst dance students climb into a van and head off to the American College Dance Festival Association’s Regional Conference.

This annual celebration of dance in the academic world began in 1973 as part of an initiative to support and recognize the hard work and influence of collegiate dance programs.

In past years, Mercyhurst students have traveled to locations such as State College and Baltimore to share excellence in dance with other programs from around the nation.

Last year, Mercyhurst hosted the conference using all three of its theaters, the Student Union and other spaces around campus to accommodate approximately 480 dancers who came from 39 universities for the conference. This year, assistant professor Mark Santillano and 10 students drove to Elon University in Elon, N.C.

Santillano has been the organizer of the ACDFA trip for the past 10 years and has served six terms on the association’s board of directors.

“The conference gives students a terrific opportunity to see what their peers and other institutions are doing. It also allows for so much sharing of information through classes, films and guest artists,” said Santillano.

The guest artist for the 2011 conference was Lehrer Dance of Buffalo, N.Y.

As participants in the conference, students are given the opportunity to take classes with esteemed professors and masters from all around the nation, offering a huge learning potential.

“I learned a lot and gained perspective,” said senior dance major Sarah Mastrocola.

In addition to providing another chance for students to take classes with experts, the conference includes four adjudicated performances wherein students and professors can submit works to be performed.

A panel of adjudicators sits at each performance and gives feedback to the dancers and choreographers. The panel also selects pieces to be presented in a final gala performance to close the conference and two dance works are chosen from the gala to perform at the American Dance Festival held during the summer.

This year Mercyhurst took “Grasping at Constructs” choreographed by Mastracola, as well as “Sister Seas” by Santillano.

By allowing the sharing of artistic expression and excellence, the American College Dance Festival and students at Mercyhurst are able to celebrate themselves fully as dancers and as students.