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Public Affairs

Student dancers put MLK's 'Dream' in motion

May 19, 2004

Photo of a part of a performance of Mlay's "With This Faith," featuring three dancers who have sunk to their knees with heads bowedMartin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963, that changed the course of the Civil Rights movement. Inspired by his words, four SF State students will bring the power of King's "I Have a Dream" speech to the stage next month at the National College Dance Festival held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

For the first time, SF State's School of Music and Dance has been selected to perform at this prestigious festival, following regional dance competitions nationwide. In March, 12 schools competed at the American College Dance Festival Association's regional festival held at the University of Colorado, Boulder. SF State, along with University of Colorado, Boulder, and University of Iowa, are the three central region universities to make it to the biennial national festival. This year's festival, held at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, will showcase performances from 31 schools and runs from June 1 to 3.

The SFSU piece, "With This Faith," is choreographed by dance major Serenity Mlay and performed by Kao Vey Saephan-Mien, Rachel Halladay and Kris Schifferlli. Mlay was also named Outstanding Student Choreographer for the central region.

Mlay saw a special television report on King's famous speech and was inspired to choreograph "With This Faith." Set only to the original recording of King's speech, Mlay and her dancers created a piece with a universal message.

Photo of Bill Young, Rachel Halladay, Serenity Mlay, Kao Vey Saephan-Mien, Kris Schifferlli and Brenda Dixon-Gottschild"I believe that we are all connected and we have responsibilities toward each other, regardless of age or race," Mlay said. "The struggles are still the same; it applies to everybody."

Susan Whipp, professor in the School of Music and Dance, said the judges at the regional festival found Mlay's piece to be so thought-provoking that they discussed it into the night.

"Serenity's choreography is quite courageous," Whipp said. "Her dancers did a superb job. We are understandably proud."

The judges at the central region festival spoke highly of Mlay's choreography and the performers.

"Performers have to show me passion; they have to give me blood. That night, they were just bleeding all over the floor," said judge Bill Young, whose dance company has performed internationally.

Mlay said she believes that the judges were looking for honesty, sincerity and passion in movement.

"Dance can go to places where words can't. My job is to create a piece that reflects the images in my head and heart, of my friends and family," Mlay said. "It is an emotionally draining piece. They danced with their whole heart, and it speaks out to the audience."

A first-generation American, Mlay's parents are originally from Tanzania and now live in Fremont. Mlay, a 25 year old with a minor in international relations, wants to be involved in the United Nations, working to help refugees. After graduation, she plans to travel and continue dancing. Mlay teaches at a Fremont dance studio and has formed a dance company, the Serene Dance Collective, with Saephan-Mien, Halladay and Schifferlli.

-- Public Affairs Student Writer Audrey Tang with Matt Itelson


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Last modified July 27, 2004 by University Communications