American College Dance Association

College dancers

Created in 1973, the American College Dance Association (ACDA) is a group of students, dance teachers, artists, and scholars who share a passion for bringing dance to colleges. Formerly known as the American College Dance Festival Association, the American College Dance Association's primary focus is to support and promote the talent and creativity found in college and university dance departments.

Dance Conferences

Perhaps the biggest contribution of the ACDA is the hosting of several regional conferences throughout the year. During the three-day conferences, students and faculty are invited to participate in performances, workshops, panels, and master classes. The dance classes are taught by teachers from around the region and country. The dance conferences allow students and faculty to have their dances adjudicated by a panel of nationally recognized dance professionals in an open and constructive forum.

The conferences allow college and university dance teams to perform outside their own academic settings. They also allow the dancers to be exposed to the national college dance world. ACDA has established 12 regions throughout the country as locations for its annual conferences. Colleges and universities may attend any regional conference and may present one or two dances before judges.

Colleges and university dance teams can benefit greatly from attending one of the regional dance conferences. Benefits include the following:

  • Classes/workshops
  • Research presentations
  • Adjudication Concerts
  • Feedback Sessions
  • Adjudicator Panel
  • Informal Concert
  • Gala Concert at all conferences in National College Dance Festival years 
  • Social events for faculty and students
  • Membership and Regional Planning Meeting
  • Additional events

In addition, both students and teachers can benefit from attending a regional dance conference. Students have the opportunity to attend master classes and workshops, receive feedback from a panel of qualified judges, and meet students from around the country. Teachers have the opportunity to teach classes, participate in meetings, and meet colleagues from around the country.

Conference Hosts

Each year a college or university steps up to host a conference in its region. Schools with a wide range of facilities have hosted conferences over the years. Successful conferences are hosted not only by schools with multiple studio spaces, but also by schools with limited dedicated dance facilities. Classes often are held in gyms, acting studios, ballrooms and other spaces borrowed from different departments on campus. Conference coordinators are equally creative about finding theater spaces, sometimes booking a theater off campus or converting a space.

History of American College Dance Association

The American College Dance Association began when a group of college and university dance teachers tried to create a national organization in 1971 that would sponsor regional dance conferences at the college and university level, along with national dance festivals. The goal of the events was to recognize and encourage excellence in performance and choreography in higher education.

In 1973 the University of Pittsburgh hosted the first regional festival. Three adjudicators, rather than showing up at the conference as they do today, traveled to 25 colleges and universities to select the dances to be performed on two festival concerts. Participating schools were located in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, and teachers from all over the country attended. Over 500 dancers attended to take classes, attend workshops and perform in both adjudicated and informal concerts.

The success of the first festival resulted in the establishment of a non-profit corporation, the American College Dance Festival Association. (This name changed in 2013 to the American College Dance Association.) The Capezio Foundation offered generous support to the organization, allowing additional regions to be developed. The first National College Dance Festival took place in 1981 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. 

As the scope and range of the conferences expanded to reflect the changing field of dance, class and workshop offerings began to include forms such as hip hop, Irish dancing, salsa, Caribbean, West African and stepping, as well as acting for dancers, dance and technology, yoga, and the full range of somatic approaches to movement. Today, attendance at the regional conferences and National Festivals reaches nearly 5,000 with over 300 schools participating annually.


Institutional:  The American College Dance Association is comprised of approximately 450 members, including institutional, individual and lifetime members. Membership in ACDA is open to any institution or individual interested in the purposes of the organization. Any dance unit, group, program, or department within an institution of higher education is eligible for membership. Institutional members must name an individual to act as its authorized voting representative at all General Membership meetings and for Board of Directors elections.

Institutional membership benefits include reduced member registration rates for students, faculty and staff, regional priority registration, eligibility to participate in the adjudication process, and voting privileges. In order to register for a conference or festival with the benefits of Institutional Membership, the participant must be attending under the auspices of the institution holding membership.

Individual:  Individual membership benefits include conference attendance at the reduced member’s registration rate, regional priority registration, and voting privileges. Individual members are not eligible to participate in the adjudication process.

Dance Conference Regions

ACDA designates 12 regions throughout the United States to be used for conferences. Each year a school volunteers to host a conference within its region. ACDA individual and institutional members may attend a conference in any region, based on availability. All conferences have one week of in-region ACDA member priority period during which only those current members in a region may register for that regional conference. In-region member priority registration opens the second Wednesday in October. ACDA members may register for any conference with availability starting on the third Wednesday in October.

National Festival

The National Festival is an event held to showcase selected dances from each regional conferences. The selected dances are chosen based on their outstanding technique and merit. The event is held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC in three gala performances, presenting works from approximately 30 colleges and universities. All dances performed in each regional conference Gala Concert are eligible for selection for the National Festival.

The National College Dance Festival grants two awards sponsored by ACDA and Dance Media: the ACDA/Dance Magazine Award for Outstanding Student Choreographer and the ACDA/Dance Magazine Award for Outstanding Student Performer. A panel of three adjudicators views student choreography and performances at the National Festival and chooses one student to receive each award. Recipients of the awards are announced after the National Festival.

Dance 2050: The Future of Dance in Higher Education

DANCE2050 is a working group seeking to challenge, encourage and enable the dance community in higher education to play an active, focused and leading role in the changing educational environment. This goal is to work with a vision while remaining flexible to ensure an ongoing and active role for dance, addressing the changes in the field, the institution, and the surrounding world. The "Vision Document" was written by 75 faculty members who sifted through three years of information to create a guess at how dance might look by 2050 as it charts pathways for the institution to address ongoing changes of opportunity and challenge.