Gustavus Dance Senior Abbie Doran and Faculty Jill Patterson Awarded National Honors Posted on May 24th, 2023 by

Photo credit: Dan Norman

This Memorial weekend, Dance Professor Jill Patterson and senior Abbie Doran will travel to Long Beach, California to present their dance piece, Veneer, at the American College Dance Association (ACDA) National Dance Festival. As one of only thirty pieces chosen to be performed at ACDA’s bi-annual gala, this is one of the highest honors in college dance.

Jill Patterson originally choreographed Veneer in 2018 as a filmed duet on screen with a live soloist on stage,  based on paintings by Stephanie Slade. Patterson reworked the piece for Abbie Doran, a senior Mathematics and Computer Science double major, to perform at the regional ACDA dance festival.

Doran began dancing at a young age, but really found her place in the art when she joined the Gustavus Dance program.

“I’ve never been so respected for my abilities and my big movement,” Doran explained. “Where before I was told to take my movements back a step, making them smaller, here I learned to embrace my body as it is. With this opportunity to work one-on-one with Jill on Veneer, I just couldn’t say no. It’s a very great honor for me.”

For Patterson, Doran’s ability to move makes her an ideal soloist for Veneer. Patterson explains that Doran’s movement will hopefully inspire the audience to feel moved * after the performance.

“I hope they leave having felt something. I don’t know what that is, I try not to put expectations on what that is,” Patterson says. “But I know how I feel watching Abbie dance. It kind of captures my breath, and then it’s released watching her. She’s so intuitive. So grounded. So intricate and powerful. I just hope people leave having felt what I feel when I watch Abbie, which is incredibly moved.”

While Patterson and Doran share these takeaways they hope all audiences walk away with, they especially look forward to presenting the piece at the ACDA National Dance Festival. The ACDA hosts 11 Regional Dance Festivals throughout the year, judging two pieces each from over 300 schools. Of these, only 30 pieces are chosen for the National Dance Festival. Having been chosen for this high honor, Patterson and Doran look forward to meeting and learning from the other groups performing at the Festival.

“I am very excited to perform, but honestly these performances were chosen by these professionals in the dance world who all have different stylistic interests. They bring pieces they want people to see, so I’m very excited to see the pieces they’ve selected to come,” Doran explains. “In watching these pieces, you’re able to expand your understanding of dance in a way you can’t do within your own institution.”

Echoing Doran’s sentiments, the National Dance Festival webpage highlights how Veneer fits within the styles chosen for the Festival.

“This considered work takes it time to thoughtfully unfold with subtlety and precision,” the webpage states. “This performance, its relationship to light and shadow, and dedicated performance leaves a deep resonance on stage.”

While originally choreographed for the 2018 Gustavus Spring Dance Concert, the piece was reworked for Doran to perform at the 2023 ACDA Regional Dance Festivals. Doran, an involved Math and Computer Science major who participates in multiple extracurriculars, is a great example of the many different opportunities that a Gustavus liberal arts education provides. Providing her final thoughts, Patterson mentions the significance of a liberal arts school like  Gustavus earning a spot at this coveted Festival.

“Gustavus has been chosen for the National Dance Festival one other time. It is a big deal because a lot of these schools are major institutions with huge student bodies to pull from. We are a small liberal arts college, and students spend time in multiple majors and activities,” Patterson explains. “I’m very proud of our school.”

Patterson and Doran would like to thank Katha and John Chamberlain for their generous support of their travel to the Festival, as well as the Provost Office’s support during this process. To learn more about the Gustavus Dance Program see their website here, and to view the ACDA National Dance Festival see their webpage here.


Comments are closed.