Dance student Lainie Pennington selected for special recognition at national festival

dancer Lainie Pennington

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by Chris Casquilho

Western Washington University Dance student Lainie Pennington’s choreographed work “All the Old Familiar Places” was selected for the prestigious Gala concert at the American College Dance Association (“ACDA”) Festival in Salt Lake City. The Gala concert featured the top eleven dances from the Northwest region out of around 50 entries. Lainie's piece was also one of the only undergraduate student pieces chosen for the concert, which otherwise featured graduate students, faculty and guest artists. This is a remarkable accomplishment, considering the high standards for choreography and performance quality required for selection.

Pieces are adjudicated on choreographic prowess and performance quality. To stand out among a large and diverse group of talented dancers and choreographers is a testament to her exceptional abilities as a choreographer, as well as her artistic vision. “Being adjudicated was so nerve wracking, but it was very affirming as an artist to hear that all of these talented people were resonating with my work,” she says of the honor at the festival.

Every year the WWU Dance takes a group of students to ACDA. The four-day event brings together college dance programs from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Utah where students and faculty attend dance classes, research presentations, film screenings, informal concerts, feedback sessions, and a culminating gala concert. The students have an active fundraising page to help defray the expense of travel to the festival.

Following the conclusion of the festival in Salt Lake City, three pieces from the gala performance were selected for the national festival in Long Beach, CA this May. Lainie’s piece was chosen as an alternate selection for the national festival. If one of the pieces selected is not able to attend, her piece may go in its place.

Lainie is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance at Western Washington University. The BFA degree track is a rigorous, conservatory-style program that focuses on developing the technical, creative, and analytical skills required to excel as a professional dancer and choreographer.

The summer before she began choreographing, her father was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. She felt compelled to process his condition and their changing relationship through movement.

“All the Old Familiar Places” premiered during the Winter Dances concert at Western in 2022. The performance was delayed, and then limited to a single night due to the COVID Omicron surge. An extremely personal and emotional piece, Lainie says it was amazing to see it performed again on such a grand scale at the ACDA Gala concert. “It’s pretty cool to see something that came from inside of me, from my heart and mind and body and soul, come to life onstage in a way better than I ever could have dreamed.”

“I wanted to explore the idea of distance both visually and conceptually. I was inspired by my long-distance relationship and how I could feel so close to someone while being physically distant. And then on the other side, I wanted to explore how you could be standing right in front of someone and feel like they’re miles away from you.”

Lainie grew up dancing at Oregon Ballet Theatre and NW Dance Project. She has performed and choreographed for multiple shows and worked with guest artists such as Liz Gerring. She’s participated in the Bellingham Repertory Dance's 7-Day Dance Festival, creating a duet with friend and collaborator Courtney Holleman in just seven days. Additionally, she teaches dance to students of all ages at Opus Performing Arts in Bellingham – sharing her love and knowledge of dance with others.

“I still can’t quite believe that my work is being honored in this way. It would not have been possible without the support of my amazing cast of dancers: Courtney Holleman, Karen Kao, Ainsley De Guzman, and Sadie Robinson; as well as my mentors and professors Susan Haines and Pam Kuntz.”

Authored on

Mar 20, 2023 2:27pm