Dance students reflect on their experience presenting original work at ACDA Conference  

Headshots of Zoe Garnett, Rae Zimmerli, Libby Steckmesser
L to R: Zoe Garnett, Rae Zimmerli, Libby Steckmesser | Submitted photos

Three Peck School of the Arts students had the opportunity to showcase their senior projects at the North-Central American College Dance Association Conference in Minnesota this spring. Dance BFA students Zoe Garnett, Rae Zimmerli, Libby Steckmesser all presented original work.

The ACDA Conference is a multi-day event that visits various regions of the United States, inviting students to present original choreography in adjudicated and informal presentations. Throughout the event, students can also partake in a wide variety of classes and lectures that help them expand their knowledge of dance.  

Rae Zimmerli ’24

Senior dance student Rae Zimmerli was selected for the adjudicated section of the conference. 

Zimmerli presented her work “She Who Knows the Way,” a contemporary piece about misogyny and Christianity, drawing from symbolism in Catholic art. This piece was also her senior project at PSOA. 

Zimmerli was appreciative of the feedback the judges gave her and her dances, saying it helped reaffirm her confidence that the themes were clear to audiences. 

“I really appreciated just being seen,” said Zimmerli. “I felt like by [the judges] saying back to me exactly what my piece was, [they] confirmed to me that I was doing a good job in the first place. That I was making legible art.” 

In addition to showing her work, Zimmerli got to watch original choreography from many other students.  

“I am only usually working with the tools that are in front of me, the stuff that I see,” she said. “Seeing people work outside of the box is really enlightening.” 

Students utilize the event as an opportunity to further refine their choreography, getting feedback that will prove useful as they continue to improve their pieces.  

Zoe Garnett ’24

Such was the case for PSOA senior Zoe Garnett, who hopes to utilize judges’ comments to expand her work “Rat in a Maze.” 

“Maze,” shown during the adjudication portion of the ACDA conference, is a visual representation of the different phases one goes through when struggling with addiction, including the impact it has on other’s relationships. 

For Garnett, presenting her senior project and receiving insightful feedback from the judges was the highlight of her time at ACDA. 

“The feedback from the judges was really beneficial to me,” said Garnett. “It was encouraging, motivating, and validating for all the work that I put in. They definitely saw certain things that I was trying to work towards.” 

In addition to presenting her choreography, Garnett treated the conference as an opportunity to network with fellow students and industry professionals. 

“It was helpful when I went up and talked to teachers after classes,” said Garnett. “They were really quite responsive which was exciting because it can be so nerve-racking to do that.” 

Libby Steckmesser ’24

PSOA dance student Libby Steckmesser also presented her senior project during ACDA. Her piece “Volition” explores how our thoughts impact us by shaping our perceptions of reality.  

She also took classes in styles such as traditional Indian and German-Czech-Folk dance, which were not only educational but also introduced her to a variety of dance artists. 

“You’re taking class with so many different kinds of people but you all have the same interest:; dance at a collegiate level,” said Steckmesser.

“It was really inspiring working with all these different people. These are people who are going to be your colleagues for the rest of your life. So, it was really cool to make these connections.”  

Story by Jason McCullum ’26