Mason School of Dance hosts national conference

This year's theme for the dance conference is 'Imagine,' which inspired the theme for the panel on March 9 (photo courtesy of Christy Parrish).
This year's theme for the dance conference is 'Imagine,' which inspired the theme for the panel on March 9 (photo courtesy of Christy Parrish).

On March 8-11, George Mason University’s School of Dance will host the annual mid-Atlantic regional conference of the American College Dance Festival Association.

Students and faculty of the School of Dance will welcome over 500 participants from 20 different schools from all over the mid-Atlantic region.

This will be the second conference in ten years George Mason's School of Dance has hosted. (photo courtesy of School of Dance).

Susan Shields, the director of the School of Dance, said that accepting to host the event will help the School of Dance reach their goal which is “[to make] sure that our very own campus knows that we are here and that at GMU we are one of the top dance schools in the country.”

Mason’s dance program is nationally recognized. As Shield said, “It is top notch, we have students from all over the country who audition [for our] selective program. We are competing with the likes of the major conservatories at this point.”

Shields explained that having Mason host this event gives the School of Dance an opportunity to shine.

“We are doing this because we have some of the best spaces in the country,” Shields said,
“We want to share them, and we want our very own D.C. metro community to know we are doing world class work here at George Mason.”

During the festival, not only will participating students take a variety of dance classes in Mason’s studios throughout the day, but each school will also perform two dances in front of distinguished judges, who will provide the dancers with feedback.

The festival culminates in the Gala Concert, where only the top 10 dances will be selected by the judges to perform.

Choreographic works by Mason dance students Candace Perry and Celine Berthaud will be performed in hopes of securing a spot in the Gala Concert. Two of the pieces in this concert will be selected for a performance at the Kennedy Center in June as a part of the National College Dance Festival.

Shields encourages students who have never been to a dance performance to attend the Gala Concert due to the variety of dance that will be displayed, as well as the spirited atmosphere that will come from the audience of at least 500 dancers and faculty. Shields urges students to “come feel the energy!”

Shields said the School of Dance currently teaches about 1,300 general education students each semester, but that she and other faculty and students “want more people dancing on this campus.”

Education, according to Shields, is not just about improving the mind but should also be about connecting the mind to the body, and students should have the opportunity to do that. “We want them in here, we want them to be a part of this… We really want everyone on this campus dancing. Not just dancing because it’s fun, [but because] it’s an essential part of our experience.”

In the effort to make this a memorable conference, Shields explained, “We have put together an amazing set of extra things. The most exciting extra we’ve done is a panel called ‘Imagine…A Life in Dance.’”

The panel, held on March 9 and open to the public, will include a collection of esteemed dancers, choreographers and dance critics who will discuss their experiences of living a life involved with dance.

According to Shields, everyone can learn something from attending the panel. She said, “It doesn’t matter what your field is, excellence recognizes excellence. It is important as a college student to expand your mind to understand all the different kinds of people and experience that you can have in the world.”

Whether it is through the performances and events happening due to the dance conference, through general education dances classes, or both, Shields said, “I would love for the campus to have a deeper understanding of dance.”

The festival opens with a performance by world-renowned dance company, the Joffrey Ballet on March 7 and 8. Tickets for the performance are available to the public and are free for students with a Mason ID. For the panel and the gala, tickets are offered at a discounted student rate. 

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