When A’Kalia Willis went to the American College Dance Association’s Baja Region American College Dance Conference last year, her goal was to learn as much as she could from everyone around her.
This year, she went back to dance. Willis was one of 16 students representing Cal State Fullerton at the January conference, which included workshops, performances and feedback sessions. CSUF presented two works at the adjudication concert: “Shedding the Shields,” by student choreographer Alex Caballero and performed by students Chandler Davis, Holly Goodchap and Angelo Martin; and “Scanners,” by alumnus and guest choreographer Mike Esperanza, performed by Willis, Omar Guillen, Dylan Ochoa, Heather Rivera and Edward Salas.
“I’d never felt so tied to and proud to be a dancer from Cal State Fullerton,” says Willis. “That, alongside the tangible and mutual love, respect and passion for the craft that was embodied by each dancer I encountered, provided a familial yet professional dance environment. Performing for an audience of peers who share your same love for the craft was unlike any feeling I’d ever felt before.”
The quintet “Scanners” was chosen for the Baja Regional Concert — one of 10 pieces, out of 36 different works, picked from universities throughout California.
The students were part of the dance repertory course created and taught by theatre and dance professor Debra Noble, who directs the dance program at Cal State Fullerton. Over the past 15 years, CSUF has been chosen to perform at the American College Dance Festival Regional Gala Concerts each time they have entered.
“This record demonstrates the strength, intensity and depth of the dance program and the incredible talent of its students, who continue to shape the future of the dance,” explains Noble.
“This rich exposure to a variety of artists, and their creative languages, helps our students become more versatile and responsive… Through the rehearsal processes and performance opportunities, these students were able to deepen their artistry, their connections to the work and to each other,” adds the dance professor. “They rose to the many challenges of the choreography, performing under the stress of the ACDA adjudication process, and created performances that audiences have found beautiful and moving.”
CSUF dance program students have been invited to perform a dozen times on ACDA’s gala concerts, receiving five honors leading to performances at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
After she graduates, Willis plans to take a year off to audition for companies. Her ultimate goal is to get her master’s degree in dance therapy through movement.
“The goal is to show others the healing and therapeutic effects of dance and movement,” she says. “Too often I hear, ‘Oh, I can’t dance. I’m not a dancer.’ I hope to change that perception. Everything is dance, and each dance has value. There’s no comparison, no story your movement has to tell but your own.”