Genius Born of Necessity: Unique Team-Up Earns Dance Acclaim

Creative thinking and collaboration were the answers to an unfortunate overlap in scheduling between this year’s Dance 44 concert and the American College Dance Association’s East-Central regional conference. The conflicting circumstance caused senior dancers Emily Mejicano-Gormley and Nia Stringfellow to combine their previously performed solo works, “Memory” by Mejicano-Gormley and “The Will” by Stringfellow, into a duet. The result was breathtaking and award-winning.

Relying on their imagination to meld individual pieces that deal with similar themes of pain and resolve, Mejicano-Gormley and Stringfellow put their works together and aptly named the result “The Will/Memory.” With some coaching and choreography help from Professors Matt Farmer ’04 and Linda Graham, the two practiced the new original for three months this spring. They debuted it at a place and time both were available to perform together: at the University of Illinois for the ACDA Central regional conference in mid-March, after Dance 44 was complete.

“Since Dance 44 was at the same time as our regional ACDA conference [Hope is a member of the East-Central region], we had to go outside of our region to enter works for adjudication by the ACDA,” explained Graham, the Dorothy Wiley DeLong Professor of Dance. “We had hoped to get both solos in the Central conference but when schools go outside their region, they have to see what is left over after in-region schools take their slots. Consequently, by the time registration opened for the Central region, all but one adjudication slot had been taken by in-region schools. So I literally filled out the form and sat there, at my computer, watching the clock, and the moment the outside registration opened, I hit ‘enter.’ I had to snag it fast.”

With only one slot available and two worthy solos to offer, a decision had to be made. Mejicano-Gormley and Stringfellow were asked to work together. “Personally, I thought the solos would work incredibly well juxtaposed with some crafty fusion,” Graham said.

Work well together they did. “The Will/Memory” was chosen as one of 11 pieces (out of 44) to be performed during the ACDA Central region’s Gala Concert. The piece was also named an alternate for June’s national ACDA National College Dance Festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Each region selects two finalists and two alternates for the national festival.

What makes each unconventional step toward ACDA acclaim even more impressive is that Mejicano-Gormley and Stringfellow represented one of only two private liberal arts colleges at the conference. The other 25 schools present were all universities with professional choreographers.

“To have these students’ works accepted to both the gala concert and as an alternate to the national performance at the Kennedy Center is a true testament to both the training in the dance department and the students’ artistic talent and hard work,” said Farmer, associate professor of dance and chair of the department. “To have a dance piece created by two students placed on the same level as works of professional choreographers is both outstanding and an honor.”

By Eva Dean Folkert ’83