by Aaron Johnson & Jillian Bauer
After nearly a life-long commitment to dance, Village Home alumna and former instructor Elizabeth Abel has been accepted into the Boston Conservatory at Berklee BFA dance program.
Their contemporary dance program is currently the top-rated in the country, accepting a mere twenty-five undergrad dancers per year, and most years, it out-ranks The Juilliard School.
In August, Elizabeth attended the Boston Conservatory at Berklee Summer Dance Intensive. She was originally going to attend in-person, but due to COVID-19-related lockdowns and safety concerns, it was transformed into a “virtual intensive.”
Dance class via Zoom is not exactly ideal, Elizabeth said, but it was still “…the best intensive I’ve ever attended. Even online, I grew more than I have in any other intensive.”
Elizabeth was able to apply and complete her audition for the BFA program during the intensive. She explained that she felt horrible about her audition. “There were so many excellent dancers in the intensive and it was my first audition. I didn’t know what to expect or what they were looking for. I thought I had zero chance of getting in.”
“Because of the pandemic, I couldn’t use a studio. So, I was dancing in my living room which doesn’t have much space. I had to restage my solo so it would fit in the space and I had to take some things out because there just wasn’t room for them.”
When she received her acceptance email, Elizabeth was in her French class at Portland Community College. “I was in a breakout room with other students and we had finished going over our exercises, so we were just sitting there and I got the email notification and looked at it. I texted my mother and asked her if I had really gotten in. I didn’t believe it was real. Then my parents came into my room and we’re all excited but I had to focus on French. I’m still sort of in shock.”
Elizabeth has been dancing since she was just 3 years old. Her passion for dance has led to performing in a sold-out concert in Los Angeles and even an appearance on the television show “America’s Got Talent.”
Elizabeth has participated in many performances and is a member of the LA-based tap company, Sole Talk. She has danced in the DC Tap Fest All-Star Concert multiple times. She was a guest soloist in the Skylark Tappers annual concert two different times— once this last year and once when she was only 6— and she’s made an appearance on “Portland Today” in a feature on the Portland Tap Festival.
Along with another teen tap dancer, Elizabeth started NW Tap Gathering; a monthly tap jam for local dancers. Elizabeth explained that “Tap dancers are musicians and traditionally tap dancers performed with musicians. In a dance studio, tap loses that. You mostly get more Broadway type tap in a studio. But improv, riffing with musicians, trading— that’s the foundation of tap dance.” She also said that they “wanted a safe, supportive space for dancers to practice and get used to improvising and trading and working with musicians.” They vary the type of music in order to give dancers more exposure to different styles.
For the past four years, Elizabeth has helped bring the history of tap dance to life for public school students in the greater Portland community as a dancer in an assembly on the history of tap dance. Her tap teacher, Karida Griffith, created the assembly for Young Audiences. In the program, Elizabeth demonstrates historical and contemporary tap routines as well as related dance forms like the Lindy Hop.
Before graduating last year, Elizabeth was a Village Home learner for eight years. She danced in the yearly Bloom Homegrown Variety Show a few times and, knowing that Elizabeth was a serious tap dancer, Lori Walker, Village Home’s founder and Executive Director, asked her if she would be willing to teach a tap class. Elizabeth agreed and taught 5-to-11-year-olds for 3 years.
Looking ahead, Elizabeth said, “I’m excited to be surrounded by other artists who are as passionate as I am. I want to be challenged and take my dancing to the next level.” After college, Elizabeth hopes to join a contemporary dance company and eventually launch her own company integrating different styles of dance.