Five SUNY Potsdam Students Headed to American Dance Festival

SUNY Potsdam Dance Students Take the Stage at Prestigious American Dance Festival

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From left, SUNY Potsdam dance students Stephon Williams, Alonicha Triana, Laura Kelly, Emma Starace and Creszenz Bergmeier pose outside the Performing Arts Center.

POTSDAM, NY (06/14/2017) (readMedia)-- For modern dance students, there's really no better place to be this summer than the American Dance Festival, held from June 15 to July 29 at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

What's particularly special this year is that five SUNY Potsdam students went through the audition process and were accepted to attend the prestigious dance school at the American Dance Festival. That's the highest number of SUNY Potsdam dance students who have ever been accepted to attend.

The students include Stephon Williams of the Bronx, N.Y., Alonicha Triana of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Laura Kelly of Buffalo, Wyo.; Emma Starace of Staten Island, N.Y., and Creszenz Bergmeier of South Glens Falls, N.Y.

The six-and-a-half-week American Dance Festival attracts students from around the world. Dancers take courses in modern dance technique, Gaga, improvisation, composition, ballet, partnering and hip hop. The SUNY Potsdam students will join more than 500 other dancers and artists from around the world to create dances with their peers, attend masterclasses and witness performances by 30 different companies and choreographers.

Donald Borsh, chair of SUNY Potsdam's Department of Theatre and Dance, is particularly excited for the five students headed to the intensive dance school.

"Attending a summer dance intensive back in the '70s was the catalyst that launched me into the richly rewarding experiences I've had over 40 years as a dancer. I know for our students this experience will be pivotal in their growth as dancers. That all five have received substantial support from the festival says a great deal about their talents and abilities, and about training and support that the theatre and dance department has been able to offer," Borsh said.

SUNY Potsdam senior Alonicha Triana '18, a double major in dance and history, is making her third appearance at the festival, this time receiving a full scholarship and attending the event as a staff assistant. She said that SUNY Potsdam has not only trained her from a technical standpoint, but has caused her to look at herself differently as a performer. She said that the festival offers "so many different techniques and ways of doing things, that if I didn't come to Potsdam, I wouldn't have been prepared for."

Triana also views the festival as a great networking tool. Being from Brooklyn, N.Y., she said she's often surrounded by like-minded people from the city, but the festival gives her the opportunity to work with people from around the globe. In fact, she continues to stay in touch with friends she made from Taiwan there. She's also thrilled that her classmates will be able to experience the festival for the first time. "I told them that it's going to change their life," Triana said.

SUNY Potsdam junior Stephon Williams '19 is one of those students heading to the festival for the first time. He said that he's looking forward to being exposed to new styles of dance and interacting with people from around the world.

"I'm just excited for the experience. ... I already know that it's something that I want to do when I graduate from college, so I just want to learn as much as I can before I go out into the real world," Williams said.

With three classes a day, each lasting between 2 ½ and 3 hours, students are fully immersed in the dance experience at the festival. SUNY Potsdam senior Creszenz Bergmeier '18 loved the intensity of the festival last year.

"It gets to the point where you just want to move every day, even if you're in pain," she said. "It was hard work. We rehearsed several hours a day."

The American Dance Festival has been educating and serving the needs of dancers, choreographers and professionals in dance-related fields since it started in 1934. The New York Times calls it "one of the nation's most important institutions," and the New York Post refers to it as "the world's greatest dance festival." For more information about the festival, visit

From directing, choreographing, acting and dancing, to designing and technical work, theatre and dance are highly collaborative art forms at SUNY Potsdam. Students and professionals engage in creative problem solving, requiring the setting and meeting of long-term goals, and the analysis and understanding of movement and dramatic literature. For more information about SUNY Potsdam's Department of Theatre and Dance, visit

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of only three arts campuses in the entire SUNY system. SUNY Potsdam's arts curriculum offers the full palette: music, theatre, dance, fine arts and creative writing. No matter the discipline, people from all backgrounds can find their creative compass at Potsdam, with myriad arts immersion experiences available for both campus and community.