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Emory Dance Program presents milestone performance at 2023 American College Dance Association National Festival
Student Ilo E. and Madison Lee performing on stage

The selection of professor Julio Medina’s work “tlalli” for the festival’s gala performance represents a first for the Emory Dance Program and a significant opportunity for student performers, including students Ilo Elder and Madison Lee, pictured (foreground).

— Photos by Shannel Resto, SJR Photography

A work choreographed by Emory Dance Program faculty member Julio Medina has been selected for the 2023 American College Dance Association (ACDA) National Festival, a first for the Emory Dance Program. The work, entitled “tlalli,” was selected from hundreds of pieces presented at regional conferences. It is one of 34 works that will be presented at the national level.

Not only a milestone for the Emory Dance Program, this honor also represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Emory Dance students performing the work on May 28. 

“It is an immense honor to have Julio’s choreographic work selected for the National ACDA conference,” says Sally Radell, founding director of the Emory Dance Program. “This is a huge first for us and truly gives us great visibility as a significant national dance program of excellence. It is also tremendously exciting for our students to be able to take classes for three days and perform alongside dancers from the top-tier dance departments and programs in the country.”

“I am so excited that Emory Dance will be attending the national festival,” says Medina. “Not only is it the 50th anniversary of the conference, but it’s the first time Emory Dance will participate in the National Gala performances. The conference will be at my old stomping grounds, California State University Long Beach (CSULB), which is particularly exciting. Plus, my parents and in-laws will be able to see ‘tlalli,’ one of the works I’m most proud of creating.”

Tlalli is a Nahuatl word, the language indigenous to the Mexica culture (often referred to as Aztec), meaning earth, soil and the planet. In Medina’s work, the dancers explore their relationship to the earth, employing techniques of both contemporary floorwork and cumbia, a musical rhythm and traditional folk dance. They explore themes of rebirth, death, labor, collectivity and connection to the ground. 

Medina found inspiration in the story of the feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl and the Five Suns, as well as Gloria Anzaldua's theoretical frameworks on feminism and mestizaje. Adjudicators at the Southeast ACDA Conference described the work as, “A rollicking ensemble, celebrating individuals within the community. Effervescent, playful, and unexpected."

The performance will take place at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center on the CSULB campus on May 28 at 6 p.m. PST. Tickets can be purchased online. More information on the gala performances and the festival can be found on the ACDA National Festival website

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