Hope College was among only 11 colleges and universities to have work chosen for the Gala Performance that closed the East Central Conference of the American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA) on Saturday, March 19, at the University of Akron in Ohio.

The adjudicated concert included "Yucuninu," choreographed by Hope faculty member Alicia Diaz.  The solo piece was performed by Hope junior Michael Parmelee of Lansing, who is a dance performance-choreographer major.

"Yucuninu" is a ritualized, physical expression of pleading for strength and hope in a time of adversity.  West Michigan audiences had an opportunity to experience the work during dANCEpROjECt's Oct. 28-30 fall concerts at the college's Knickerbocker Theatre, which featured a different interpretation each night: a female solo, a female trio and a male trio.

The Hope participants dedicated the March 19 performance of "Yucuninu," which the adjudicators described as a prayer and a lullaby, to Dr. Jennifer Young Tait of the college's English faculty, who had died earlier in the day after suffering complications from premature childbirth, and her newborn son, Solomon.

A total of six Hope students and three faculty members participated in the regional conference, which ran Wednesday-Saturday, March 16-19, and featured adjudicated performances and master classes.  Also during the four-day conference, sophomore Nickolas Muckleroy, a dance performance-choreography major from Houston, Texas, presented his solo work "The Snow Abides" during an informal concert.

Diaz is an assistant professor of dance at Hope, where she has been a member of the faculty since 2009.

With husband Matthew Thornton, who is also a member of the college's dance faculty, she is a co-founder of Agua Dulce Dance Theater, which has performed and given workshops in colleges, high schools and festivals, traveling to Mexico, Puerto Rico and across the U.S.  Among other appearances, in February she and Thornton performed through the "Professional Artist Series" of OaklandUniversity in Rochester, and in December they performed in a work choreographed by faculty colleague Steven Iannacone presented during the "Nikolais Centennial Alumni Concerts" at HunterCollege in New York City.

Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Diaz holds a M.A. in Dance and Choreography from the Gallatin School of Individualized Studies at NYU and a B.A. in Art, Culture and Society from EugeneLangCollege of the NewSchool for Social Research. She has danced nationally and internationally with companies such as Complexions: A Concept in Dance, Donald Byrd/The Group (Harlem Nutcracker), Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theater. Her choreography has been presented in New York, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, Kansas, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, and Spain.

More than 300 colleges and universities nationwide are institutional members of the ACDFA, which was established in the early 1970s and exists to support and affirm the role of dance in higher education.  Through its annual regional festivals and a biennial national festival, the ACDFA is the national professional organization through which dance students, master teachers and performers from a wide range of colleges and universities can gather to share knowledge and showcase their creative work.  The East Central region is one of 10 ACDFA regions, and includes institutions in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.