Dance students take top honors at ACDFA Central Region conference

A group of 18 student dancers from the Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences has taken top honors at the Central Region conference of the American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA).

The conference was held March 4-9 at Friends University in Wichita, Kan. The students were recognized for their performance of “Grid,” an original work choreographed by Cecil Slaughter, senior lecturer in dance. “Grid” was one of only eight pieces selected — from a field of 26 contenders — for a gala concert that concluded the conference.

Students performed Cecil Slaughter's
Students performed Cecil Slaughter’s “Grid,” last fall at a Washington University Dance Theatre concert. In June, they’ll reprise the piece at the National College Dance Festival in New York.

In addition, “Grid” was one of only two works selected from the Central Region — which includes Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska — for presentation at the ACDFA’s biennial National College Dance Festival, which will take place June 4-6 at Barnard College in New York.

“It’s been said that the ACDFA festivals are to college dance what the NCAA Tournament is to college basketball, but this competition focuses on creativity in choreography and performance,” said Mary-Jean Cowell, Ph.D., associate professor of dance and coordinator of the PAD’s Dance Program. “It is a great achievement for any dance program to present work at the National Festival,” she said, noting that the University was last represented there in 1996.

Launched in 1981, the National Festival brings together hundreds of student and faculty dancers from across the United States. The event features a wide variety of master classes and lecture/demonstrations as well as three evening-length concerts showcasing the very best in contemporary college dance.

This year’s performances will include a total of 30 works drawn from the 429 dances adjudicated at 10 regional conferences.

Slaughter, a 14-year veteran of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, joined the PAD in 1999 and also directs Washington University Dance Theatre (WUDT), an annual showcase of professionally choreographed works performed by student dancers.

“Grid” premiered last fall as part of “rEvolutions,” the 2007 WUDT concert. Performers include Jimmy Brooks, Sandy Chen, Elissa Eggers, Leah Flamm, Alex Gordon, Joshua Hasam, Eliotte Henderson, Lauren Keldie, Christine Koh, Jen Machlin, Angela McDaniel, Jeff Mitchell, A.J. Singletary, Jessica Spraos, Abby Turner, Jonathan White, Kristin Yancy and Fan Yang.

In addition, several students recently joined Slaughter’s company, The Slaughter Project, for a staging of “Grid” at the Center of Contemporary Art in University City.

“This work is about constructing and deconstructing boundaries such as racial, gender-specific and territorial through the exchange of energy,” Slaughter said of the piece, which is set to music by Layo and Bushwacka! as well as the Shukar Collective. “It’s based on different patterns — patterns of thought, patterns of behavior, patterns of reaction — and what happens when they intersect.”

Slaughter previously choreographed “Spirituals,” which was performed at the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C., as part of the ACDFA’s 1998 National Festival. In 2000, his dance “Surrender” was selected for adjudication at the Central Region conference.

Launched in 1973, the ACDFA includes 347 member institutions representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The group is dedicated to raising standards of excellence in college and university dance programs; to providing opportunities for college dancers to have their works adjudicated and critiqued by established professionals; and to provide regional and national visibility for college-trained choreographers and performers.

Tickets for the National College Dance Festival go on sale Sunday, April 20.

For more information or online registration, visit