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Who’s Sitting Next to You? Adventure and Ushers

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of a series featuring our audience! Do you know someone who should be featured? Email suggestions to or feel free to snap a photo and ask a question and send it to us.

During our 2013-2014 season, as part of our focus on dance, we ran an Adventure Card challenge, which encourage participants to explore not only dance performances but related educational & community engagement events, as well as opportunities to participate online. Donna Ellinghausen-Scheys was the winner of our challenge.

Donna EllinghausenUMS: You participated in many activities focusing on dance during our 2013-2014 season, so much so that you’ve won our adventure card challenge? Are you an avid dance lover? If not, which performances do you enjoy attending?

Donna: I can’t say that I’m an advid dance lover, but I love to move to music, dance, see how others interpret the music into moment in both free form and choreographed. I absolutely love to go orchestral performances. It’s amazing to feel the music.

UMS: Could you tell us a little about yourself? Do you live in Ann Arbor? What do you do when you are not winning adventure card challenges?

Donna: I live in Ann Arbor I love going to various concerts, lectures and performances in and near Ann Arbor. I like to kayak, swim and go walking. I’m an RN and retired from UM’s neonatal intensive care unit in 2012. I currently am working as a contingent RN with Arbor Hospice.

UMS: What’s the most memorable live arts experience you’ve attended? What’s special about attending performances for you?

Donna: My most memorable live arts experience was at Interlochen Arts Camp where my mother had arranged for us to tour and was also able to get us tickets to see Van Cliburn perform there. It was truly awesome!

Someone else you might find in the seat next to you is Bluebird Sherry Harper. She hails from Tecumseh. She has returned to Michigan after living and teaching Spanish in the South and is a fourth-year usher. 

Bluebird Sherry HarperUMS: What inspires you to be an excellent usher?

Bluebird: As a young teen I was fortunate to be invited to be part of the Michigan Youth Symphony and perform at Hill Auditorium. This was a thrill and honor that gave me the further opportunity to attend Interlochen Arts Camp on scholarship during the summers. The mission statement of Interlochen, “Dedicated to the Promotion of World Friendship Through the Universal Language of the Arts,” has guided and inspired me my entire life. I bring this love, passion, and respect for the arts to my ushering voluntarism, always delighted to share with the patrons who arrive excited to enjoy the varied and wonderful UMS performances. My cheerful countenance and friendly nature are assets that hopefully enhance the experience for others. Serving as an usher has allowed me to enjoy a broad base of fabulous artists and events with the added fun of occasionally being able to speak Spanish or Portuguese with our guests!

Do you know someone who should be featured on “Who’s Sitting Next to You”? Are you sitting next to someone at a performance right now? Send us a recommendation, or a quick Q&A with a photo to

UMS Night School: Bodies in Motion – Session 2 Recap

Editor’s note: This post is a part of a series of by U-M student Sarah Squillante, who’s covering our free UMS Night School: Bodies in Motion series. Learn along side with them. 

What is dance? A rhythmic movement? Deliberately choreographed steps? Expression through time and space? What makes someone a good dancer?

This week’s UMS Night School session, held on Monday night, attempted to answer these tough questions and sparked a litany of others. It also welcomed its first guest speaker: U-M associate professor of Movement Science in the School of Kinesiology, Melissa Gross. Gross spoke about her research regarding the relationship between emotion and movement. Her area of study has focuses on mostly pedestrian movements, which have been found to correlate strongly with emotion. “Your emotions impact your body movement and your body movement can impact your emotions, too,” Gross said.

Attendees were invited to conceptualize movement a bit more scientifically, but this invitation quickly inspired questions that carried over to the dance world: How do we account for cultural differences in movement? Are certain people more in tune to others’ emotions (as expressed through movement) than others?

UMS Night School host, Clare Croft (assistant professor of dance at U-M), reminded everyone that this notion can be found everywhere in dance – Martha Graham’s work, for instance, was focused on the idea of translating emotion through motion in a universally accessible way.

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Rebecca Rebhuhn (photo left), a U-M Graduate Student in mathematics, was a newcomer: “There aren’t many dance events in Ann Arbor, so I go to all that I can. I used to study dance academically and figured this could be interesting,” she said. Others were back for their second week.

Attendees Susan and Geoff Smereck (photo right) have seen numerous UMS dance performances together. They describe themselves as being “exuberant about dance. “Focusing on movement like we have allows me to not focus so much on the lack of a story line,” said Susan. “[Night School is] prying my brain open and giving me ways of thinking about movement.” Geoff wasn’t surprised by the thought-provoking nature of the evening’s discussions. “This is so U of M,” he said. “I’m looking for the vocabulary to conceptualize the dance performances that I see.”

PhD student Payam Mirghams and U-M graduate Sasha Kapshai share what inspired them to come to Night School.

The session, which was held the day after the Super Bowl, ended with a fitting video of former U-M quarterback Denard Robinson in action. Attendees were asked to describe the movement of football, and then to consider what we could learn from a culture or an idea through this movement.

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Night School host Clare Croft demonstrates differences in movement.

Next week’s Night School, “Technique, Virtuosity, and Monsters,” will include a discussion of Moving Pictures, the upcoming U-M Department of Dance performance, and an introduction into hip-hop – just in time for Compagnie Käfig’s Correria Agwa on February 14 and 15. Special guests will include Reighan Gillam, a Postdoctoral research fellow in the U-M department of Afroamerican and African studies, and several U-M Dance Graduate Students. It will once again be held at the U-M Alumni Center at 200 Fletcher Street.

Session 2 Resources for Download
Session 3 prep reading on Capoeira  – “Headspin” by Barbara Browning
Session 2 Powepoint Presentation by U-M Assistant Professor of Dance Clare Croft

Interested in even more dance engagement? Pick up an adventure card to learn all about the dance activities we’re offering this year and for a chance to win a backstage meet and greet.

For a complete list of 2013-2014 dance performances, visit Share questions, comments, or suggestions in the comments below.