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Freestyle improv dance student represents ASU at national conference

A dancer performs on a dark stage

Richard "Tom" Bullard performs on stage at ASU. Photo by Tim Trumble

May 26, 2023

Richard “Tom” Bullard, a third-year dance major in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University, has been selected to perform at the American College Dance Association’s (ACDA) National College Dance Festival in Long Beach, California, this month. 

The festival is the culminating celebration of the association's 50th anniversary. The ACDA is the largest organization serving dance in higher education in the United States. Performances for the national conference were chosen for their artistic excellence by a panel of adjudicators at regional conferences held around the country. ASU hosted the western regional ACDA conference in March. 

Bullard said he is honored to be selected. His love of dance started in middle school while watching YouTube videos of the late Stephen “Twitch” Boss and Fik-Shun.

“I'd watch battle videos and performances, and that's how I started dancing,” he said.

Bullard is a freestyle improv dancer who specializes in street forms like popping, locking and tutting. He came to ASU because he was looking for a school with a strong hip-hop program, and a friend shared what a great experience they had with ASU dance. 

His solo “Emotion in Movement” is a freestyle piece that investigates the emotions people feel when they move and whether they can change their emotion but move in the same way. He said he’s excited to travel to California for the first time, but not too nervous to perform.  

“When I get on stage I just go out there and have a good vibe,” he said. “I just picture I'm by myself.”

Bullard has been preparing for the performance by developing concepts and working on movement pathways. 

“When I freestyle, I just completely tap into every element I possibly can to make a connection,” Bullard said. 

His advice for other dancers?

“Just move the way you move. Tap into your inner self,” he said. “Be yourself because trying to be someone else makes it harder.”

The ACDA Conference is held May 26–28 at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, California. Bullard shared more below.

Question: What do you hope people take away from your performance?

Answer: I hope people take away new ideas — that you can basically dance hip-hop to anything, to any genre of music. It doesn't matter. Hip-hop is very emotion based, even though people don't understand that. It takes a lot of emotion to dance hip-hop. So, I'm trying to dance to everything I listen to, and I listen to everything. 

Q: What have you learned about yourself as an artist during your time at ASU?

A: One thing I've learned is I would love to travel. I also never thought I would want to teach, but I think I want to teach now. The more I collaborate with people, and the more they ask me questions, it's basically them teaching me and I'm teaching them. Talking to people about what I do has become a big thing for me.

Q: What role does social media play in your dancing?

A: It plays a pretty big role, because people always say you need to watch yourself, and I record myself like seven times a day. I post on TikTok most of the time. I've been posting on there for about two years, and I've gained a pretty decent following, so I just started to post on everything else. Now it's just an outlet for me. I post whatever I feel. I post because you have to grow at some point. People are going to see your growth. You have to put it out there and get people's opinions, even if they don't like it or if they do.

Q: What other goals do you have for the future?

A: I'm really heavy into battling, so I want to battle in the future. There's a few battles I want to travel and go see, especially Red Bull Dance Your Style. I want to travel and battle in that. It was a good experience (in the competition at the ASU Tempe campus in March). I just wish I would have gotten out of my head. I took it to another level. I was like, "It’s Red Bull; I have to do this, I have to do that.” But in reality I should just go out there and have a good time and not put too much pressure on myself.

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