Mackenzie Strom '16 takes GV to Kennedy Center
The GVSU Dance Company was recently selected from a pool of more than 500 collegiate dance ensembles to perform in Washington D.C. at the 2016 National College Dance Festival.
This honor marks the first time Grand Valley has had a work selected to attend the national festival.
Taking place at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts June 9-11, the festival highlighted outstanding choreography and performances being produced at colleges and universities nationwide. It also provided participants opportunities to attend classes and workshops facilitated by faculty from across the U.S.
Carrie Brueck Morris, GVSU Dance Company director and assistant professor of modern dance, said the festival is "the Rose Bowl of the college dance world."
"Performing at the Kennedy Center is a big deal, and there is pressure associated with that, so our students have to rise to that challenge," Brueck Morris said. "This festival really does provide a snapshot of the work being created across the U.S., and highlights the best of the best."
The GVSU Dance Company was selected to perform at the Kennedy Center following a performance at the East-Central Regional American College Dance Association Conference in March, which included dance programs from Ohio, Michigan, and portions of Pennsylvania and New York.
From the more than 40 performances at the conference, a panel of judges chose three ensembles to perform at the national festival. Morris said only three works from each of the 12 regional conferences held in the U.S. are selected to perform on the national stage.
"Performing at the national festival recognizes the high caliber work and performances happening at GVSU and provides an opportunity for us to share that with our peers," Morris said. "This experience helps students broaden their perspective of what is happening in the dance world on a national level."
The GVSU Dance Company's performance piece was a work entitled, "The swing of things that no longer swing," choreographed by Mackenzie Strom, who graduated in April 2016 with a bachelor's degree in dance, and is currently finishing her health and fitness exercise science degree.
Strom said the piece was inspired by the 2014 film "Fury," which features a battle-hardened Army sergeant leading a Sherman tank and a five-man crew through a deadly mission behind enemy lines during WWII.
"I was baffled by the mental strength it took for the soldiers to be able to get through the war and to survive, not only the enemy, but themselves," said Strom, from Commerce Township. "It brought up so many questions that I felt I owed it to myself and the past, present and future members of the American military to further investigate this subject."
Not only was the Kennedy Center performance the first time Strom had performed at the prestigious venue, but it was also the first time she actually performed her own choreography.
"My professor informed me of how important disconnecting myself from the choreographer roll would be in order to excel as a performer," Strom said. "The experience of being around such brilliant and talented artists was one that was so incredible and beneficial to furthering my performance and choreography careers."
Strom said it is still a struggle to wrap her mind around the positive experience of performing at the National College Dance Festival.
"Being the first student choreographer in GVSU history to have such an incredible honor still stops me in my tracks," Strom said. "I began with little expectations and a passion for this art, and it turned into a nationally recognized achievement. There is no telling where I would be without GVSU."