Dancing in the Streets… and the Classroom



For all who are career minded about dance and have long awaited the opportunity to take more dance courses at university, your wait is over! One of the latest additions to the University of Michigan Flint’s 2013 fall lineup is a Bachelor of Arts degree program in Dance. After years of providing only a minor for interested students, the university now offers a Dance Major, and UM-Flint’s Theatre and Dance department is so excited, they’re busting out their moves!

Beth Freiman, Director of Dance at UM-Flint, relates how her program was inhibited because it could only offer students a minor in Dance and Movement. She remembers how for years, “things were getting larger and more involved, but it was still just a minor.” Since UM-Flint was unable to provide a full dance program, they were at a competitive disadvantage with other universities, failing to attract potential students with extraordinary talent. To Freiman, this circumstance, as well as the many student requests, impressed upon her the necessity of filling the educational void. Her plan was to “keep the integrity of the dance minor while expanding on it,” and with the help of Theatre and Dance Chair Lauren Friesen she did just that.

The advent of the Dance Major program this year is made especially notable by the arrival of Adesola Akinleye, a British born professional dancer who will instruct classes. Akinleye grew up in East London, England under less-than-fortunate circumstances. Her father passed away at a young age, leaving her mother to raise her alone in council housing, the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the projects. Adesola’s love of dance would later provide a way for her to study at university, and she sees the potential of the new program at UM-Flint to provide the same opportunity to local underprivileged students. “The arts are a way to open opportunities to those less fortunate. Dance can be a doorway to higher education,” she said.

On the community level, Akinleye and others will continue the Art of Teaching Dance program, which offers university-level instruction to Flint Public School students. She will also begin an intergenerational project called Grandma’s Work, made possible by a grant from Share Art Flint, which aims to bring local youth and their elders together through dance.

Another community dance project is the Flint Dance Collaborative, begun by UM-Flint graduate Emma Davis, who is also a Dance instructor at the university, in 2012. Through FDC, Davis’ goal is “to reach out to areas where dance is missing.” FDC allows dance students at UM-Flint to remain active in their art at a professional level through performances at local venues and events, including Applewood and Art Walk. Davis will have her hands full with campus and community instruction this fall as she instructs Ballet, Hip Hop, Jazz and Tap courses to meet the new demands brought about by the Dance Major program.

All of the abovementioned programs currently provided by UM-Flint’s dance instructors are intended to get students and the community more involved in self-expression through dance. This is a golden opportunity for those in the Flint community who have the urge to dance deep down in their souls but have found little outlet for their longing in the past. Not only is there opportunity in the community, but there are new educational and professional opportunities as well. There’s only one thing left to do: dance!


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