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Leading the Dance

Montclair State dancers to perform at Kennedy Center in June

Posted in: Arts

Photo of group of dancers in costume performing on stage.

Dance aficionados attending the June American College Dance Association (ACDA) National College Dance Festival in Washington, D.C., will be treated to a performance of the modern dance masterpiece To Have and To Hold by six students from Montclair State’s BFA in Dance program.

The student dancers were selected in March to represent the Northeast Region at the June 7-9 biennial festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and will perform on June 8. This is the 10th time that University dancers have been selected to perform at the prestigious National Festival.

To Have and To Hold – with hauntingly beautiful music by Scott Kylian – was one of the earliest works choreographed by Joanie Smith and Danial Shapiro as a husband and wife choreography team,” says Director of Dance Lorraine Katterhenry. “Our students are being presented with the opportunity to perform in a very unique and special choreography that they are inhabiting in every possible way.”

According to Katterhenry, the dance is informally referred to as “The Bench Piece” because it uses six benches to represent different aspects of defining life relationships – from youthful flirtation to letting go of loved ones.

Chosen to Perform

In March, the University’s Department of Theatre and Dance hosted 600 students and faculty from 32 colleges and universities for the 2018 ACDA Northeast Regional Conference. The four-day immersive dance experience included more than 90 classes, workshops, lectures and dance-on-film events, and culminated in an adjudicating panel’s selection of To Have and To Hold as one of three dances that will represent the region at the National Festival.

For Katterhenry, the conference was like being just outside the eye of a hurricane. “It was a maelstrom of youth, passion and incredible talent.”

Student performer Marsha Pierre recalls, “The most rewarding part about having ACDA on campus was being able to have support from my friends, colleagues and faculty as we performed.”

Pierre is looking forward to performing at the Kennedy Center. “It’s an honor,” she says. “Not many students get a chance to even perform at the regional conference. So to get the opportunity to do this beautiful piece in Washington, D.C., is something I will always be grateful for.”

Senior and fellow dancer Tevin Johnson agrees. “Since I was a freshman and I experienced ACDA, I’ve wanted the chance to perform at the Kennedy Center,” he says. “Being selected during my last year here has honestly been so rewarding.”

Growing a National Reputation in the Arts

Montclair State’s Theatre and Dance department is nationally renowned. While the BFA Dance program has been ranked fifth in the nation by the OnStage Top 10 Dance Programs list, its Theatre program has also garnered its share of awards.

In February, five students attended the 2018 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, where they competed in Design, Technical, Management – and brought home six awards.

College of the Arts Dean Daniel Gurskis takes the department’s recent successes in stride. “The fact that we’ve been selected to perform at the Kennedy Center is exciting but hardly surprising,” he says. “Our programs in dance and theater have emerged as among the best in the nation. Students like those who’ll be performing in Washington and those who received awards at the American College Theater Festival gain recognition as undergraduates on their way to success at dance companies and theaters around the country – and increasingly, around the world.”